Exposed: The Godahewa “Merry Go Round”

  • Nalaka Godahewa Asked for a Favour: “Resign to make room for Indian Company” “Deal with me only” – Godahewa

By Faraz Shauketaly

Nalaka Godahewa (Above) Complaint lodged against him to the President

Sensational new information has emerged that Chairman, Sri Lanka Tourism, Dr. Nalaka Godahewa, called on three directors of Lanka Hospitals and asked them to “agree to resign” as a favour to himself! Asoka Pathirane, one of three directors asked to resign, has charged that Nalaka Godahewa has acted without the authority of the Sri Lanka Insurance Board (SLI) in trying to accommodate nominees of Fortis Healthcare.
Asoka Pathirane has taken his complaint directly to President Mahinda Rajapaksa stating that Godahewa has acted outside of his mandate. The President has openly said that it has been the intention of his government to bring the former Apollo Hospital to full government ownership and that to that end the hospital management were looking at having a technical partnership in order that Sri Lankan staff can get further training.
Dr. Godahewa is a member of the Board of Directors at Lanka Hospitals as well as being Chairman, Sri Lanka Tourist Board. The Sunday Leader’s sources in India have revealed that Dr. Godahewa met with representatives of Religare, an Indian company related to the Fortis Healthcare group in connection with their planned investment in Sri Lanka.
Sources at the Treasury said that Dr. Godahewa was entrusted by the government to persevere in the direction of obtaining control of the near 29% Distilleries stake in Lanka Hospitals in favour of a state institution like the Bank of Ceylon – entirely in keeping with the Mahinda Chinthanaya – the official manifesto of the Government of Sri Lanka.
Lanka Hospitals is primarily owned by Sri Lanka Insurance, which in turn is owned by the Treasury Secretary. The Board of Directors of Lanka Hospitals is composed of nominees made by the Board of Sri Lanka Insurance (SLI). The normal procedure would be for the Treasury Secretary as the principal shareholder, to ask the board of SLI to nominate names to serve on the Lanka Hospitals PLC board (LHPLC).
Dr. Godahewa, after meeting with the Religare team at the Cinnamon Lakeside Hotel for breakfast after his workout at the gym downstairs, proceeded to attempt a meeting with the Ministry of Economic Development headed by Basil Rajapaksa for the Indian investors. Basil Rajapaksa displayed Ministerial interest: he asked that the group meet with officials of the BOI as a first step towards their investment in Sri Lanka. Dr. Godahewa has denied any knowledge of this Group, calling these allegations a “farce.”
It is alleged that Dr. Godahewa then proceeded to establish his link with Harry Jayewardena’s Distilleries Company. Harry J’s dislike of Godahewa is known to many going back to the days when Harry employed Godahewa as CEO of Sri Lanka Insurance – prior to a Supreme Court order to return SLI to the Treasury. In the pursuit of a deal however, many a shortcoming is merely set aside. In that spirit, Godahewa established contact with an old friend now heading yet another fairly new Harry J controlled company. Chaminda De Silva, a Director at Continental Insurance Company, confirmed knowing Dr. Godahewa but denied playing the role of “go-between” or being used as a conduit, negotiations started in earnest.
The strategy that Godahewa gave Fortis was simple: buy into Lanka Hospitals through the Distilleries shareholding, thereafter proceed with a negotiation that would enable Fortis to have three seats on the Lanka Hospitals board.  The ultimate carrot being dangled was that Fortis would be able – in time  of course – to obtain a de-facto management contract at the former Apollo Hospital.
Telephoning three directors of the company who he perceived as “easy touch” Godahewa proceeded to ask them to “do him a favour.” “You know what has happened no?” he asked, “Fortis has bought a stake in the company. We need to give them at least three seats.”
All three immediately agreed to give their consent – but queried how odd it was that their appointments were notified by the Treasury and confirmed by SLI directors and yet this “request” to step down was coming from another director – in the same class and rank as themselves.
Not wishing to antagonise those that had voted them in, the three promptly resigned even though one of them told The Sunday Leader, “I did so thinking that the Treasury was happy,” that the Hospital had mostly been turned around in terms of operational profitability.
We asked Asoka Pathirane, a former Director of Lanka Hospitals, why he had abandoned the government in its hour of need. Mr. Paithirane’s connections to the ruling SLFP are impeccable and he worked tirelessly to ensure the return of the SLFP led by Mahinda Rajapaksa in 2005.
“Godahewa called me and asked me to do him a favour, saying that they had to make way for the Indian company. Even though I fully endorse Article 28(D) of the constitution and wished to continue in service to make my own contribution to the progress of this country, I agreed because Godahewa made out that I was in fact doing the country a service. I asked him why Mohan De Alwis, CEO of SLI did not contact me as is the normal practice.
“It was only after I read about the Fortis share deal that I realised that this transaction lacked the backing of the government as the principal shareholder. This prompted me to notice His Excellency the President at what I now consider to be a high handed, singularly ultra-vires action of Nalaka Godahewa. He led me on a super ‘merry-go-round.’”
The actual resignation notification ought to have come from SLI or in the alternative from the Treasury. Sources at SLI confirmed that Godahewa was not authorised by the SLI board to ask directors at LHPLC to resign. That position if legitimate would make Godahewa liable as having acted ‘ultra vires.’ For a man of three different disciplines as well as a seasoned veteran of having served on a number of boards both in the public sector and the private sector for many years, it is difficult to see how he could have acted outside of the mandate entrusted to him as a patriotic officer of the Rajapaksa administration.

Treasury Secretary Incensed

In the backdrop of these current developments, Treasury Secretary Dr. P.B. Jayasundera, summoned Tourism Chief Godahewa and let the Chairman know in no uncertain terms of his displeasure. With various allegations being made Dr. Jayasundera told Godahewa that “nothing is happening at Tourism, except the leaking of misinformation to the press, blaming me for your lack of progress.” An irate Dr. Jayasundera added, “There are options available to you if you can’t perform.” Dr. Godahewa, who came to the Tourism sector without any direct expertise of any involvement in the industry, attempted to shift the focus away but the veteran Treasury Secretary was focused: “I will talk to all mega project investors myself. Go.”
For the Chairman, whose catchphrase, “Deal with me only,” is fast gaining a reputation, the merry-go-round appears to have run into trouble. The question now being asked is exactly when the merry-go-round will slow down allowing Godahewa to jump off or be pushed out.
(faraz@thesundayleader.lk)

Fortis Healthcare Collaborates With Oasis
Fortis Healthcare hot on the heels of their purchase of the 29% Distilleries stake for Rs. 4 Billion, recently also concluded a collaboration agreement with the Oasis Hospital. The agreement to set-up a high-tech cardiac unit cost the Indians no money. Instead Fortis will be in charge of the human resources aspect and drive Indian surgeons to the Oasis Cardiac Unit. This may well result in a conflict of interest position with Fortis getting an insight into Lanka Hospitals’ operations where there too, Fortis is due to invest in training of the various healthcare professionals.
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Godahewa’s Response
I have no clue and I can only think of one thing. That is the sale of the Lanka Hospitals’ minority stake by Distilleries to some other private party. That was direct negotiation between two private companies. Distilleries board should know best. 100% with confidence I have no involvement. This story is an absolutely farce. You can state that I categorically have no involvement on these stupid allegations.

22 Comments for “Exposed: The Godahewa “Merry Go Round””

  1. R.P Perera

    Has Fortis been led up the garden path. What can Fortis do except to sell out at a loss to the government or will business be done in the usual style with cuts thrown in

  2. lakith peanis

    Merry-Go-Rounds are good because they make a lot of money. Untfortunately, they can also stop and turn in the opposite direction. then it is not so Merry.

  3. Dr. Ranjan de Silva

    President MR should consider it a fudiciary duty to ensure Godahewa is kicked out of all posts he is holding. Our country’s tourism is going to the dogs. Its a clear case of “Blind leading the blind”. MR should know that Sri Lanka’s tourism industry is owned by the people of Sri Lanka and not by the government in power Having people like Godahewa only adds to the insecurity of MR and his government. Shape up or ship out, as the clarion call says.

    • LELA

      “MR should consider it a (fiduciary) duty”? By the way Dr. DeSilva, you can’t even seem to spell the word correctly. Was your Doctorate from the same University as Dr. Mervin? In any case, – MR, has bent the country over backwards and is having his way with it. Godahewa has the appropriate skills to be a trainee peon at best.

  4. Dr. Ranjan de Silva

    GOSL should appoint either Prema Cooray or Renton de Alwis as Chairman of Sri Lanka Tourism Authority and give them all powers to recruit a good team to move Sri Lanka’s tourism promotion. There are so many Sri Lankan expats around the world who would come back to accept a good appointment if it is offered. Why is the President picking mediocre people like Godahewa and others to lead vital state agencies? I do not know???

    • Sam Rajadurai

      What about Cornel Perera? Appoint him as Chairman, SLTA and let him pick his team. He knows what promoting Sri Lanka is and Godahewa can be his office boy running errands to the Rajapaksa’s and Alibaba and his 40 Thieves.

      • LELA

        Well the the tyrant has an inferiority complex. So he has to hire people below his level of intelligence and standards, and we all know nature has been very unkind to him when it comes to Intelligence, and we also know there are plenty of sinhala thugs who score even lower than him on IQ, so there is a never ending supply of people for govt positions

    • Gamini

      Well Said. The two people you have mentioned have so much experience it is a pity not to utlize their experience and capability.

      • Magini

        Ha, ha, just you wait Mr Higgins. Wait till they get the taste of money and corruption. Then well see how their experience and capability will matter.

    • Most of the people who have commented here do not know what they are talking about. Especially people like Dr. De Silva who is clueless. If he (Dr. De Silva) was given the position, I’m sure he will fail miserably. It was prudent of H.E. President to appoint Dr. Godahewa as the Chairman of Sri Lanka Tourism. After working many years locally and overseas, I know how hard to work in a government institution. We have to have institutional system in place to allow people to perform as well. Lot of good workers in the government get frustrated since the system will not allow them to work. This government is trying to rectify the issues and correct the system where so many previous governments messed it up. We know what Renton did to the tourism. He is good to write wonderful articles to newspapers, but not more than that. I worked with him for nearly 2 years and he was just a talker and very little came out of him. I think the entire institution should go through an overhaul in order for people like Dr. Godahewa to work. It’s easy to say this, but to put it into action will take time. I want to ask everyone who has posted comments here a question; that is “What do you expect from Sri Lanka Tourism?” After reading my comments someone might think that I’m a stooge of Dr. Godahewa, but views expressed here are my honest opinion.

      • I Hussein

        Whether or no you a pro Godahewa, your question is really good.
        What do you expect from the SL Tourism is simple. Literally we dont have a good image as a tourist destination where our hotels, infrastucture, super structures are concern. Srilanka is a beautiful country naturally and there is plenty to offer for various different people from all parts of the world.
        One of my South African (white) friends, recently visited SL purely to see the wild life at Yala and birds at kumana. Apart from seeing the animals he is highly disappointed with the entire tour (I cannot write the whole story here) starting from the airport transfer itself. He said ‘Bru, I couldnt find a decent road side cafe to take a bite’ (Isnt it true, Mr Senior Management?)
        There is a thing called Tourist Board Classification every year, isnt it? What you guys do? Before the inspectors go to the hotels to do the inspection, your inspectors call the hotels let the cat out of ther bag. So when your inspectors arrive there they get a red carpet welcome (VVIP treatment) all expences on the house and free booze offred by the management or GM every evening and the hotel gets or retain its stars.
        Is this inspections? and will the hotel standards improve?
        Beaches are full of touts and beach bums and have you taken any actions?
        Underated hotels are over priced everywhere, If you want i will submit the naems of the hotels and rates too. So called tourist hotels (not 5 stars) dont serve meals after 9pm in Colombo itself. Can you beleive it. After charging a hefty amout for a musty room still you have to call housekeeping for toilet rolls or for a bath mat. I can go on and on and on.
        I prefer your mail ID so I write or suggest things for improvement. Our tourism in SL is hopeless and doing nothing compared to Thailand, Malasia and Singapore (in the region).

        • I agree to what you are saying to a certain extent. We may have certain issues in delivery of services. But with limited resources I can assure you that we are doing our best. As I told you there are many good workers in the government and they do not have enough resources to deliver the services required. Your next question will be; why don’t you hire the right caliber of people ? One thing the system will not allow and they are poorly paid. This will go on till someone corrects this. Anyway to understand what we do in a more positive manner, pls visit our website: http://www.sltda.gov.lk

  5. Sam Nath

    Godahdewa thinks he is GOD-ahewa. The most arrogant, self centered man it has been my misfortune to have come across in over 45 years of international commercial expertise. There was one fellow worse than him: many many years ago in Lagos, Nigeria. the President should sack godhewa and that in itself will be enough to get Tourism up up ad away

  6. A. Gunaratne

    It seems all of you are jealous of Dr. Godahewa and trying to tarnish his name, his career and his future by capitalizing something or other.

  7. Sriyani Balasuriya

    Harry J always wanted to have a stake in Apollo Hospital. He has used his former employee and now good friened Nalaka Godahewa to achieve his such ambition

  8. Miriam Wedamuni

    Is Damien Fernando invloved in this Harry J deal? I heard after taking over Pelwatte sugar they (both) are going to clear all the jungles in Moneragala, so that Elephants have no where to go

  9. Miriam Wedamuni

    Godahewa – How did he become Dr. He did not even pass year 12

  10. Victim

    Well said Dr. Ranjan de Silva, Tourism in Sri Lanka is in the hands of a couple
    of private sector hawks. Therefore, no Ex.private sector tourism bosses would prove prudent for Sri Lanka tourism. As their decisions would primarily be in favor of their current/ex companies, to swell their bottom lines, whilst the country and the people in the industry suffer in silence. Renton de Alwis was a star, and our best. However, it will take a doing as the industry is in the hands of nincompoops and ex beach boys at present.

    • Most of the people who have commented here do not know what they are talking about. Especially people like Dr. De Silva who is clueless. If he (Dr. De Silva) was given the position, I’m sure he will fail miserably. It was prudent of H.E. President to appoint Dr. Godahewa as the Chairman of Sri Lanka Tourism. After working many years locally and overseas, I know how hard to work in a government institution. We have to have institutional system in place to allow people to perform as well. Lot of good workers in the government get frustrated since the system will not allow them to work. This government is trying to rectify the issues and correct the system where so many previous governments messed it up. We know what Renton did to the tourism. He is good to write wonderful articles to newspapers, but not more than that. I worked with him for nearly 2 years and he was just a talker and very little came out of him. I think the entire institution should go through an overhaul in order for people like Dr. Godahewa to work. It’s easy to say this, but to put it into action will take time. I want to ask everyone who has posted comments here a question; that is “What do you expect from Sri Lanka Tourism?” After reading my comments someone might think that I’m a stooge of Dr. Godahewa, but views expressed here are my honest opinions.

  11. Sudesh Kodippili

    Harry Jayawardane gave billions to UNP, SLFP and JVP. He is in good books with all the parties. Now he is milking the Sri Lankan cow very finely, for many of his future generations and stooges

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