deal of the bribery sleuth
special police investigation is to begin against an alleged fraud
committed by former DIG, Logistics, Kingsley Wickremasuriya, who is at
present a commissioner at the Commission to Investigate Allegations of
Bribery and Corruption.
police probe will center around the multi million rupee purchase of 24
thoroughbred horses from Australia in 1989. At the time, Wickremasuriya
was DIG logistics and travelled to Melbourne together with CI Welimuni
Siripala Mendis Abeysekera, who was the officer in charge of the police
has been alleged that of the 24 horses purchased for the Police
department on a final approval given by Wickremasuriya, 13 were much
older than the stipulated age. Also, that after the horses arrived in
the country, three of the animals brought were not the ones selected and
of these horses died soon after they arrived in the country, incurring a
massive multi million-rupee loss to the government.
to police specifications, the horses purchased should have all been less
than five years of age. Though this was stipulated by the supplier after
the animals arrived in the country, 13 of them were found to be older
than five years, while one was as old as nine years.
with the horses 24 saddles were also purchased. It was later revealed
that despite these saddles being certified as of Australian origin, when
inspected were found to have been made in India and were of a very
are trying to find out if the present bribery commissioner is guilty of
having received a pay back for blindly buying 24 horses, 13 of which
were too old whilst he also paid for 24 inferior quality saddles which
had been made in India and not in Australia.
contacted, Kingsley Wickremasuriya said, he could no longer remember how
much had even been paid for each horse and saddle. "It was a long
time ago - I cannot remember the details," he claimed.
horses were bought from Bryan R. Muschialli, in Victoria, Australia and
shipped to Sri Lanka on January 21, 1989.
the animals arrived in Colombo, it was found that 13 were over five
years old. A team of veterinary surgeons led by the Head of the
Department of Veterinary Clinical Studies at the University of
Peradeniya, Dr. V. Y. Kuruwita, upon examining the 24 horses imported
for the police mounted division found a difference in age as against
that given by the supplier. Dr. Kuruwita was assisted by Dr. L. N. A. de
Silva and Dr. I. De Silva who were also members of the faculty.
local doctors concluded that most of the animals were very much above
the age as that indicated by Muschialli, who had indicated in writing
all the animals were below five years of age.
horse was as old as nine years while seven horses were found to be older
than seven years. The vets arrived at this conclusion after studying the
horse can be used for police duties until it is approximately 15 years
of age, after which its usefulness would depend on the animal's physical
condition. It was also found that three other horses had been
substituted from an original three that were selected among the 24.
the controversy broke, Chief Inspector Abeysekera who had accompanied
DIG Kingsley Wickremasuriya to Australia said in a statement to police
that in respect of the 24 horses selected to be brought to Sri Lanka,
Muschialli had provided a veterinary certificate to the effect that all
the animals were below five years of age. Abeyesekra has stated that he
has had no knowledge of veterinary science and therefore was in no
position to judge the age of a horse by looking at it.
his statement, Abeysekera who later retired from police service as an
ASP, said, "I left to Melbourne, Australia along with Kingsley
Wickrem- asuriya, DIG, logistics, in order to purchase 24 horses for the
Police Department. About 60 horses were examined at the farm of the
principle agent in Melbourne Brian R. Muschialli and out of them 24
geldings were selected to be brought to Sri Lanka for the Police
Department. The selection was done within a period of three to four
days. In respect of the 24 horses selected, the principle agent produced
a veterinary certificate to the effect that all the animals were below
five years of age. Therefore, I took the veterinary certificate for
granted and believed that the animals were below five years of age. I
have no knowledge of veterinary science and am not in a position to
judge the age of the horse by looking at the animal. This is all."
Wickremasuriya appears to have suffered the same problem and took at
face value the Australian certificate and the horses. Wickremasuriya
when asked to submit a report on the matter to the then IGP, he (Wickremasuriya)
wrote on February 10, 1989, that, CI Abeysekera should be held
responsible for not checking that the transportation of the horses had
not been done correctly.
further argues that three of the horses selected were substituted due to
various reasons. One being, that one of the horses chosen had received
an injury before its departure and had to be substituted while another
was rejected for similar reasons.
regard to the saddles he says since there was no sample beforehand to
compare with, he accepted Muschialli's claim that they were of
adds for good measure that "the need to have a specialised officer
in the mounted division who is thorough
in the knowledge of horses and allied matters concerning horses, cannot
be over-emphasised. We may have to train and build such a creed at least
in the future if we are to handle this subject with some
on earth the Police Department chose DIG Wickremasuriya and C. I.
Abeysekera to travel to Australia to select these horses and
saddles given that neither had any knowledge of horses or saddles is the
all important question.
having a clue about what he was about, Wickremasuriya yet, was bold
enough, or foolish perhaps, to give a certificate of inspection on
January 17, 1989, to the Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd.,
stating that the horses and saddles inspected by himself and C. I. Abeysekera were in perfect accordance with the
Criminal Investigations Department has begun a probe into the matter and
is awaiting the green light from Interior Minister John Amaratunga, to
initiate a full-scale inquiry considering the fact, Wickremasuriya is
today one of the three commissioners of the Permanent Commission
Investigating Allegations of Bribery and Corruption.
reduced to shame amidst blatant lies
years into what now can be termed as being a disastrous
partnership for SriLankan Airlines, Emirates Airlines has compounded
some of the worst fears critics voiced in 1998 with regard to this
marriage between the two airlines.
Sunday Leader can prove how Emirates Airlines has fallen far short
of their pledges to make SriLankan Airlines one of the foremost carriers
of the region.
implementation strategy of the business plan Emirates submitted promised
that under a carefully structured business management programme, the
operating income of SriLankan Airlines would be taken “from a loss to
a positive result by year three of the plan.”
a profit, three years after the partnership, SriLankan Airlines has had
to declare a 6,000 million rupee loss on its core operation which is air
further pledged to “aim to have the airline profitable on a stand
alone basis by year three. If
we are successful in achieving this target, we will expand the
airline’s operations over and above the business plan.”
three years later, the operations of SriLankan Airlines has not been
expanded but downgraded.
promise now broken is where Emirates vowed to “implement an operating
programme, which centres on Colombo as a hub, thereby maximising traffic
indeed Emirates Airlines has done is to create Male and Dubai as hubs,
completely overshadowing Colombo.
Eastern airline promoted the sale and lease of six A330 aircraft which
they said, “will be purchased under the favourable launch customer
terms that Emirates achieved for its A330s. A sale and lease back will
then be put in place by an operating lessor.” (See box for details on
the purchase of the A330s)
Chief Director, Emirates Airlines, Tim Clark appears to have uttered a
blatant lie when he on August 13, 1997, wrote to former Director
General, PERC, Mano Tittewela, and stated that Emirates Airlines had
negotiated the purchase of six new A330 aircraft for SriLankan Airlines
at a flyaway price of only US $ 83,151,360.
puzzling, is why SriLankan Airlines later paid Airbus Industrie over 97
million US dollars for each aircraft. None of the local directors of
SriLankan Airlines can explain why.
the other pledges made by Emirates and not honoured are: “to introduce
employee incentive/bonus schemes; introduce performance and productivity
measures to improve business efficiencies and practices; establish a
full blown leisure business unit to promote and develop inbound tourism;
to enhance the already good cabin service standards through training at
Emirates Training Centre in Dubai — not a single cabin crew member has
ever been sent to Dubai for further training by Emirates since the take
based airline also ignored a promise to operate flight operations
procedures that would be
similar to Emirates, allowing pilot compatibility between both airline
Airlines in fact had to pay far in excess for pilot crew simulator
training which was carried out for 42 crew members in Dubai at a
colossal expense to the local carrier.
was collected by Emirates Airlines at the rate of US $ 119,048 per
training session, which involved two pilots.
SriLankan paid Emirates Airlines US$ 5 million for this training
exercise which could have been conducted for at least half the cost in
also lied when it promised to harmonise all commercial strategies
including distribution with SriLankan Airlines, particularly in the
European and Pacific rim markets. They promised that the “two airlines
would thus complement each other’s activities in all geographical
spheres of operations” and “where possible the two airlines will
integrate their commercial schedule programmes to maximise market access
and economic benefits.”
on the orders of Peter Hill and Tim Clark, SriLankan Airlines was forced
to suspend their flights to Frankfurt and Rome while Emirates increased
their frequencies to these destinations.
promise to upgrade the maintenance and technical facilities of SriLankan
Airlines is also forgotten. In
fact, senior engineers at SriLankan Airlines confided that the aircraft
being flown at present by SriLankan Airlines are not keeping to safety
standards as laid down by the manuals authorised by the director general
of civil aviation. “Even though they are certified as “release to
service” by the engineers prior to departure, the malpractices in the
Department of Engineering they said, “are of a serious nature.”
Sunday Leader reliably learns that there are many SriLankan Airlines
flights leaving the ground today, after modifications of a mandatory
nature have been done, based on the instructions issued by unauthorised
personnel in the Engineering Department.
the dangerous and hazardous situation Emirates Airlines has placed the
national carrier in today, apart from pillaging its financial resources
for personal gain.
what Clark wrote in January 1998, three months ahead of the formal
signing of a management agreement between SriLankan Airlines and
a great future for AirLanka as one of the foremost carriers of the
region. Its style and
marketing muscle will make it a formidable force in its principal
markets and we are confident that the government and people of Sri Lanka
will be justifiably proud of their national carrier.”
penned these few lines for the ‘Foreword’ to the
‘Business Plan’ initiated by Emirates Airlines for SriLankan
Airlines (then called AirLanka).
promised more. He further
wrote that the business plan for SriLankan Airlines sets out the way
forward for the airline in the period 1998/99 to 2007/08.
The plan, he said “is both profitable and cash positive.”
SriLankan Airlines, he vowed would be turned into “a high quality
carrier with expanding international markets and will draw many benefits
and synergies from the Emirates Group.”
pledged in black and white, that the business plan by Emirates would
“provide sufficient cash to meet the costs of expansion without
resorting to funding from principal shareholders. Clearly this is
achievable and we would expect to expand upon the plan, most probably in
year three, subject to improved aeropolitical entitlements and market
a great future for AirLanka as one of the foremost carriers of the
region,” he boasted, promising, “its style and muscle will make it a
formidable force in its principal markets, and we are confident that the
government and people of Sri Lanka will be justifiably proud of their
words — which Clark doubtless has to now chew, as the national carrier
of Sri Lanka has wilted and waned four years thence, under the
management of Emirates Airlines.
situation is so serious the government of Sri Lanka has been forced to
appoint a special committee to study in detail the entire management
contract between SriLankan Airlines and Emirates Airlines.
claimed a Rs. 6,000 million air
transportation loss, not once but twice, the national carrier has been
reduced to shame. It is certainly no longer the pride of the government
of Sri Lanka and her people.
and annoyed with the manner in which Emirates Airlines has performed
four years into its partnership with SriLankan Airlines, Premier Ranil
Wickremesinghe had decided to sign an open skies policy with both India
and the United States of America.
concluding a three-day official visit to India last week, Wickremesinghe
and the Indian government agreed to adopt an open skies policy regarding
air travel service companies of Sri Lanka and India.
addition, both India and Sri Lanka have agreed to launch a regional air
service as the second national carrier of both countries.
Minister Tyronne Fernando has also been galvanised into action. Fernando
last Tuesday, June 11, signed a similar agreement in Washington with US
Secretary of State Colin Powell. The United States and Sri Lanka’s
‘open skies’ aviation agreement will boost air links and cooperation
in air traffic security between the two countries.
bold promises have long fallen by the wayside — four years into it’s
business plan, the rewards SriLankan Airlines envisaged as a result of
the partnership with Emirates Airlines proved to be gifts borne by a
argue that the devastating terrorist attack on the Katunayake
International Airport last year was a contributory factor to the steady
decline of SriLankan Airlines. This however cannot be tolerated as an
excuse. SriLankan for the financial year 1999/2000 as well declared a Rs.
6 billion loss.
continuing deficit at SriLankan pushed its new Chairman Daya Pelpola
into writing to Peter Hill, chosen by Emirates Airlines to be the chief
executive officer of SriLankan.
taking office this year, Pelpola, sought a detailed account of
expenditure the foreign management has incurred since taking over the
business administration of the national carrier in 1998.
strongly worded letter to Hill, Pelpola stated that when analysing the
past performance of the airline and its projected financial results it
is clear the forecasted business plan of the Emirates management is not
making a contribution to the system.
April 1, 1998, when the agreement with Emirates Airlines was signed, the
new management has made abrupt and controversial decisions in managing
SriLankan Airlines. Uncontested
since they took office in 1998, The foreign led management have
strutted, not bothering to be held accountable for some of the
questionable management and business administration policies they forced
SriLankan Airlines to adopt.
fantastic monthly remuneration packages and enjoying other luxurious
perks at the expense of the airline and the government of Sri Lanka, the
foreign management of SriLankan Airlines has feasted in the name of
uplifting standards at SriLankan.
four years later, the airline has little to show for its decision to
privatise and leave itself in the hands of personnel employed by
stunning budget deficit, the foreign management at SriLankan Airlines
continues to wine and dine. Barely a week after the LTTE led a
devastating attack on Katunayake completely destroying four Airbus
aircraft and damaging another three, Hill, was seen wining and dining at
the JAIC Hilton together with a party of friends and other senior
management personnel of SriLankan Airlines.
the management closed down operations to certain key destinations. Frankfurt, Berlin, Stockholm, Rome, Dhaka and Karachi were
lucrative flying destinations for UL.
No reasons were given for the sudden withdrawals. If any
evaluation was done before the closure it has not been made known to the
board of directors at SriLankan which include government appointees.
foreign management introduced new destinations UL would fly to. These
were Beirut, Berlin, Dhaka, Stockholm and Sydney. Last year, the
Emirates led management took a decision to reduce some of these same
destinations SriLankan was operating to and from. They were Beirut,
Berlin, Dhaka, Stockholm, Sydney, Frankfurt, Rome and Milan.
has demanded a detailed explanation from Hill to find out if there was a
market to these destinations in 1999, which warranted the huge expansion
of the fleet. If so, what has happened to these markets in the year
2001/2002 is puzzling.
chairman has ordered that the Emirates management furnish copies of
feasibility studies done when deciding to operate to the above mentioned
destinations. Pelpola has also asked for names of senior officers at
SriLankan Airlines who were responsible for this decision.
that Hill must also justify the closure of the above destinations
supported by evaluations done at that stage with details of the officers
who are responsible for this decision.
points out that when preparing the new plan for 2001/02 - 2003/04, the
management was aware that the peace initiative was in place. Why,
Pelpola has asked, was this scenario not taken into account?
points out is the strategy of SriLankan Airlines in operating flights
via Male with the improving environment in Sri Lanka due to the peace
further queried what steps have been taken by Emirates to help UL
capitalise on the present demand to Europe?
Whether SriLankan has achieved the revenue targets during the
last two years is also not known.
and more to date, has not been answered by Hill.
Instead, Emirates Airlines have steadfastly continued to ignore
Pelpola’s queries leaving it to Sheik Ahamed Bin Saeed Al-Maktoum to
sweet talk a high level government delegation who are attempting to
re-negotiate the disastrous agreement which lends Emirates Airlines
complete management control for 10 years until April 1, 2008.
in the dark
A340 aircraft leased on a long term basis to SriLankan
Airlines which arrived in the country on July 13, 1999 was
preceded by controversy. It was the last straw that broke the back
of ex-Chairman, SriLankan, Harry Jayawardena who resigned with
regard to this transaction on the basis that he had not been given
enough time to consider the deal before it was negotiated.
a claim by Emirates Airlines at the time that this commitment was
fully supported by the board of SriLankan Airlines, there were
rumblings from the board that the local directors were kept in the
dark regarding the leasing of this aircraft.
K. Wickremasinghe, the new chairman of SriLankan at the time said
he knew little. Wickremasinghe confessed he did not even know what
the new logo would look like. He however asserted that all new
purchases of aircraft had received full board approval.
aircraft was flown from Paris to Colombo on Tuesday, July 13, 1999
sporting a new logo. This was despite the fact that the late
Minister of Aviation, Dharmasiri Senanayake had mentioned in
parliament when a no-confidence motion on the privatisation of
SriLankan took place, that there would be no change of the
existing logo which depicted a peacock.
in aircraft purchases
Airlines in 1998 received special cabinet approval to
ignore government tender procedure and release over 600 million US
dollars to Airbus Industrie for the purchase of six new A330-200
aircraft. This approval was lent by President Chandrika
Kumaratunga who ordered the then aviation minister the late
Dharmasiri Senanayake to also place his signature on the relevant
to the Financial Manual at SriLankan Airlines, the national
carrier is bound to follow the purchases procedure as laid down by
SriLankan. This requires them to subject any purchase of Rs.
750,000 and above to a tender board.
procedure requires in the event of refleeting of aircraft, the
appointment of a refleeting committee (this was done in the
earlier instance when aircraft were purchased by the local
management); to study the corporate plan in terms of the forecast
made for route development, sector traffic and priority services.
Once the requirement is established, the number of aircraft to be
purchased must be decided against the requirements. It is only
after this that bids are called for.
to this Financial Manual, bids must be called in terms of aircraft
and financing packaging. A technical evaluation committee must be
appointed to evaluate the bids.
Thereafter, the tender board should make a recommendation
to the cabinet.
this instance, SriLankan Airlines did nothing. The entire
transaction was handled by the Public Enterprises Reform
Commission (PERC) which submitted a package deal to the cabinet
for approval which again received a carte blanche stamp of
authority from no lesser personage than President Chandrika
this occasion, no bids were called for and SriLankan Airlines only
made the remittance for Airbus — US $ 29 million in one single
particular remittance was signed by Presidential Secretary
Kusumsiri Balapatabendi, who was
also a director of SriLankan Airlines at the time.
Balapatabendi signed after the then Chairman, Harry
Jayawardena refused to do so. Once Jayawardene found this was a
disastrous deal for the country, he had indicated his displeasure
at placing his signature to such a ‘deal.’
Airlines are on record as having said that a “discount was
available on this purchase” and that this discount would be
obtained by Emirates and that they would give credit to SriLankan
Airlines against the value of this discount.
is contrary to all accepted practices as if at all, the discount
should have been given directly to the purchaser (which was
SriLankan Airlines in this instance) vis-a-vis Airbus Industrie.
The discount needless to say should not have been made available
to an intermediary.
meanwhile, had absolutely no legal mandate, no expertise, no
competence and above all no responsibility to handle this
purchase. This institution has no authority whatsoever to play a
role in the purchase and procurement of aircraft.
Tittewela and his team at PERC did not have the sense to evaluate
previous purchases made by SriLankan Airlines for A340-300 Airbus
aircraft in 1994 and 1995.
he had done so, Tittewela would have found that the credit
discounts Emirates Airlines boasted they secured for SriLankan as
a result of being ‘launch clientele’ of Airbus Industrie was
nothing more than a shallow boast.
fact, when SriLankan Airlines purchased aircraft from Airbus in
1994 and 1995 the credit discounts the airline secured were double
of those finalised by Emirates Airlines in 1998.
credit discount on the aircraft SriLankan secured in 1994/95 was
16 million US dollars against the aircraft for a list price of US
stark contrast, when Emirates Airlines handled the purchase
together with PERC in 1998, the maximum credit discount they
secured for the A330-200 aircraft was US $ 13,102,000.00 against a
list price of US $ 83,315,000.00.
and incompetent in this field, PERC did not or chose not to
recognise this glaring difference in credit discount ratings
whereby SriLankan Airlines had efficiently secured a much higher
discount than Emirates Airlines, a mere four years previously from
the same supplier.