By Nirmala Kannangara
Despite continuous allegations leveled against the
government for permitting its own party supporters to
get involved in public transactions, startling
revelations have come to the fore from the country’s
main import and export center, the Sri Lanka Ports
Authority (SLPA), where, for the first time in the
country’s trade union history, the ruling party trade
union affiliated to the SLPA has been allowed to
register as a company under the company registration
registration is alleged to permit the new company to be
involved in SLPA ‘businesses’ in future.
However, along with the SLFP trade union at SLPA being
registered as a company, there is also a conflict of
interest, as the General Secretary of the trade union
also functions as an SLPA Working Director.
Working Director Prasanna Kalutarage functions as the
Managing Director of the newly formed company.
The SLPA’s power
SLPA is one of the foremost business entities in the
land, engages with transactions worth millions of rupees
daily and has many affiliated companies. However, the
government’s decision to allow its SLPA trade union
branch to be registered as a company to get them
involved in future SLPA businesses has raised concern
among the 14,600 SLPA employees.
senior manager from the SLPA Legal Division, who wished
to remain anonymous told The Sunday Leader that, since
the SLFP trade union was registered as a company, there
is uncertainty among the employees whether they would be
deprived of the benefits they have enjoyed over the
SLPA could be rated as one of the very few companies in
the country that offered many benefits to its employees
in the past, but later reduced its facilities due to bad
administration,” he said. “Employees’ salary increases
have been stopped and overtime has been reduced over the
last few years due to bad administration policies. The
SLPA is no longer a public institution but has become a
political organisation. Rather than looking after its
employees, the administration is working to a political
agenda and only the SLFP party supporters benefit.”
further said that family fiefdoms reign at the SLPA and
added that since the ruling party trade union was
registered as a company the situation could become worse
in the days to come.
union General Secretary is functioning as the SLPA
Working Director and since the trade union became a
company this same Working Director is functioning as its
Managing Director, which is strictly against the rules
and regulations. According to the company law I do not
know whether this is legally accepted, but it is clear
that the new company would get all future SLPA tenders
with the blessings of this particular director, and, if
so, the present deteriorating situation at the Ports
Authority could lead to a further serious problem,” he
is the first time that a trade union affiliated to an
authority has gotten registered as a company under the
company registration ordinance.
However, Senior Attorney-at-law Upul Jayasuriya, when
contacted by The Sunday Leader to ascertain whether
there is any legal provision for a trade union to
register as a company, said that although there are no
legal objections for a trade union to register as a
company, it is completely unethical.
Greed for money
Meanwhile, Secretary Jathika Sevaka Sangamaya - Ports
Authority Branch (JSSPA), Udeni Kaluthantri told The
Sunday Leader that the sole purpose of the government in
getting its trade union to register as a company is to
make money for themselves, as seen in how the government
members are making money from wherever they can.
were surprised when we learned that the SLPA–SLFP trade
union had gotten themselves registered as a company, but
we expected this to happen from the way the SLFP trade
union members at the Ports Authority were involved in
business transactions from the time this government came
into power,” Kaluthantri said.
According to Kaluthantri, the intention behind the
registration of the new company was not to strengthen
the SLPA work but to gain concessions for the party and
its members in getting involved in its future
a small child would know how much the SLPA earned
through its many transactions,” Kaluthantri said.
“However, since the UPFA came into power, not only the
politicians that meddled with its work but also the
party supporters are making full use of the SLPA funds
for their benefit. Since the SLFP trade union got
registered as a company, they have not only got involved
in SLPA work but would also make bids in enormous
tenders, bypassing tender procedures.”
Questions have also been raised as to why the government
has allowed SLPA Working Director Prasanna Kalutarage to
function as the Managing Director of the newly formed
company as this alone could benefit the company in
securing many SLPA tenders in future.
attempts by The Sunday Leader to contact the SLPA
Chairman to find out why he has allowed Prasanna
Kalutarage to hold the post of Working Director at a
time when he is functioning as the Managing Director of
a SLPA affiliated company were unsuccessful.
However, the JSSPA said that when they raised this issue
with the SLPA management they were told that any person
could hold office at the SLPA, even if they hold office
at SLPA-affiliated companies.
Kalutarage denies charges
Working Director Kalutarage told The Sunday Leader that
there is no problem with him serving in the SLPA board
while holding the post of Managing Director in the
am not drawing a salary as a working director, and if I
am the managing director in a company that would bring
many benefits to the SLFP trade union members, there is
no question over serving in these two boards. Not only
the SLFP trade union members would benefit from the
transactions of this company but all SLPA employees
would benefit,” claimed Kalutarage.
were taken aback when we were told this, as earlier
nobody was allowed to be in the SLPA board if that same
person was a sitting member of yet another board
affiliated to the SLPA,” claimed Kaluthantri.
However, one of the Directors of the newly-formed
company, Susantha Wijetunge told The Sunday Leader that
their company was registered under the company
registration ordinance a few months ago, and added that
the entire procedure was carried out legally and that
now they could bid at any future SLPA tender.
Meanwhile, according to Wijetunge the new company
‘Nidahas Sevaka Varaya (Pvt) Ltd’ has been registered
under PV 63912 and President Mahinda Rajapakse and the
Ports and Aviation Minister have given their approval to
enter in ‘businesses’ at the Ports Authority in future.
get this company registered we got the approval from
both the President and Ports and Aviation Minister who
have given their blessings for us to enter in businesses
at the SLPA in future,” added Wijetunge.
are proud to say that the SLFP Ports Authority Branch
was the first trade union that was registered as a
company under the company registration act and now we
are legally eligible to get involved in future Ports
Authority work,” Wijetunge said.
More lucrative opportunities
Meanwhile, the JSSPA alleged that the new company has
already taken over the maintenance of the
parapet wall that runs from Colombo Fort to
14 as a first step to making money for themselves.
new company has already taken over the maintenance of
the port parapet wall and it is learnt that they are
going to sell the wall to private companies for
advertisements. The estimated revenue from this alone
would be Rs. 600 lakhs, and the contract to supply raw
food items to Asia’s largest kitchen. The Ports
Authority kitchen has also been taken over by the same
company within the last few weeks,” Kaluthantri alleged.
According to Kaluthantri, the SLPA employees will take
legal action against the move to register the SLFP union
as a company and added that out of the 14,610 employees
more than 14,000 would have to suffer as a result of the
arbitrary action taken to give the maximum assistance to
the UPFA supporters.