Godahewa Vs. Jayasundera: Tourism Board In Disarray
- Tourism Chief Resigns
- Dr. Jayasundera sends 18-Point Show Cause Letter
- “Frustration at autocratic and dictatorial” instructions
By Faraz Shauketaly
Sri Lanka’s Treasury Secretary – also the country’s Tourism Ministry Secretary – Dr. P. B. Jayasundera has issued the country’s Tourism chief Dr. Nalaka Godahewa with an 18-point ‘show cause’ letter. The letter which was sent to the Chairman of the Sri Lanka Tourism Board (SLTB) last week has resulted in a voluminous response. It is also believed that Dr. Godahewa’s resignation last Friday from three of his four positions was precipitated by the implied allegation that Dr. Godahewa had failed to fulfil his duties as Chairman SLTB. A leisure industry professional said, “it can hardly be true that Sri Lanka is forging forward when there is deep unhappiness at the top end. For the Tourism Secretary and the Tourism Head to lock horns is a clear indication of trouble at the top.”
Dr. Godahewa who arrived at the Tourism Board with little expertise in the industry has compiled a detailed and voluminous response. He has laboriously explained in great detail that of the 18 points raised by Dr Jayasundera, many events were agreed and completed well before Godahewa took over the mantle of Tourism Chief. In a rare move, Godahewa was appointed to all four arms of the Tourism development segment, in the hope that the development of tourism in Sri Lanka would be fast-tracked. The original plan was that the four different entities would eventually be operated under one central umbrella although for whatever reason this has never materialised.
Dr. Jayasundera who is not a stranger to controversy has been at the receiving end of many allegations that he runs a dictatorial administration in which policies and direction must be only his way and no other way. This has placed him at loggerheads with a number of professionals who are uncomfortable with being kept down and whose latent talent is apparently being stymied.
It certainly appears that the Ministry Secretary is attempting to place the blame on Dr. Godahewa for allegedly not taking action on a number of fronts. Godahewa for his part claims that he has no authority at all. Our table shows the charges and Godahewa’s response:
Excerpts from the extensive list of questions raised
by Dr. Jayasundera and responses by Dr. Godahewa
1. After 1 year Corporate Plan not submitted:
Response: Point not accurate. 3 of the 4 institutes under me have submitted the plan. The 4th, SLTPB has submitted a corporate plan for 2010-2013 which COPE accepted.
2. Receivable have been written off without Treasury Approval:
Response: No such thing has happened. The discussion at COPE (at which meeting you were not present) was about the correct procedure if the Bard decides to make any write offs.
3. The Loss of abandoning the Small Miracle branding programme having spent Rs 14.25 Million:
Response: After innumerable delays confirmation was received from Mr Wimalasena (Accountant at the Ministry of Economic Development) that an explanation was sent to COPE. It is worth noting that thos Small Miracle Programme was initiated under Minister Milinda Moragoda with Cabinet Approval. (Reporter’s Note: a Chairman of any government institution cannot override Cabinet)
4. Allowing Govt to be discredited over IIFA 2010:
Response: I was not in Office during this period however questions 5,9,10,11,12 and 13 are all related to IIFA. I assumed duties on 15th June 2010 – 11 days after the IIFA event finished. (Inter-alia Godahewa tells Jayasundera that matters relating to payments and expenses for IIFA are now within the ambit of COPE, Godahewa as Chairman of SLTB cannot institute unilateral action against anyone) He points out that the decision to hold the IIFA event was taken by the Board of Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau with Bernard Goonetilaka as Chairman and comprised 10 other members. Approval for the event was granted by the Cabinet of Ministers who asked for activities relating to the event be carried out expeditiously due to the limited time frame.
5. Obtaining a bank loan on pretext of using it for IIFA – Rs 10.8 Million:
Response: The loan was approved by Dr. Batagoda DG Public Enterprises, and Mrs. Hema Dharmawardena DG Ministry of Economic Development. I also note a letter from then Secretary George Michael the Chairman at the time Eranga Basnayaka referring to a discussion with the Treasury Secretary Dr. P. B. Jayasundera in which ou proposed a mechanism to release USD 2.5 Million from the Bank of Ceylon to be repaid in instalments.
Nalaka Godahewa’s detailed and voluminous response detailing documents and events comprises over 170 pages leaving The Sunday Leader with the option only of publishing this on their website available next week.
From the contents of The Treasury Secretary’s letter written in his capacity as the Tourism Secretary, Dr. Jayasundera appears not to have been fully aware of the facts. He refers to a COPE discussion at which he was not present and has relied clearly on material provided by other parties whose recollection of events appears now to be in doubt. In an attempt to shift the blame away from the Ministry and in his haste to place the blame elsewhere Dr. Jayasundera has clearly exposed himself. Detailed reading of the matter only points in that specific direction.
Godahewa whilst appearing to be a victim of Dr. Jayasundera’s lopsided attempts to hold him accountable even to the point of going against Cabinet and COPE authority, is also no stranger to controversy as revealed by The Sunday Leader however in matters unrelated to Tourism. Dr. Jayasundera is famously said to have reminded Godahewa that if he cannot perform he ‘knows what he can do’. Godahewa, whose penchant for dropping names particularly those that end with the surname ‘Rajapaksa’ appears to have a limited support base but he does move in high company: he is on the Board of Colombo Land & Development and has had other high profile positions including being on the board of Lanka Hospitals. His popularity with the ruling elite appears to have mixed fortunes. He was for a while the darling of the governing administration when he was appointed as Managing Director of Sri Lanka Insurance, a post he held when Harry Jayawardena controlled that business. Harry Jayawardena moved Godahewa away only to see Godahewa return after the Supreme Court ordered Jayawardena to return the company to the Treasury. Godahewa came to the Tourist Board some months thereafter.