SriLankan - Our Own
SriLankan Airlines is finally
our own, with the termination of the partnership with Emirates.
There is no doubt that SriLankan benefited in some ways through
this partnership, but no airline can be called a ‘national
carrier’ if a foreign entity owns the majority of shares and
SriLankan is now poised to enter a new era as a fully
State-owned venture. It will be a true national carrier in every
sense of the word.
This is exactly what President Mahinda Rajapaksa had in mind
when he urged SriLankan employees to face the daunting
challenges ahead and establish a strong and viable airline
service, at the ceremony held to mark SriLankan’s transition.
This is indeed a challenge that SriLankan staffers have to
surmount, given the negative outlook among the public regarding
many State institutions as inefficient bodies.
Perhaps the long years under foreign control may have
inculcated different work ethics among the employees and they
will not fundamentally alter the sound operational patterns at
But this still remains a challenge as well as an opportunity
to literally reach greater heights.
Air travel is booming around the world, despite increased
security measures following 9/11. The fastest growth in air
travel is naturally in the Asia Pacific region, where more
people are becoming affluent.
This is where most of Boeing’s Dreamliners and Airbus’ A380s
will be headed for in the coming years, as Asian airlines and
Sri Lanka - and Sri Lankan - are ideally positioned to
exploit this boom as Colombo is already a hub in South Asia.
With a joint initiative by the Government and the inbound
tourism sector, more tourists are headed towards Sri Lanka. This
will also increase the demand for seats into Colombo.
The commissioning of the country’s second international
airport in Weerawila in a few years will be a source of strength
for SriLankan. It is highly likely that SriLankan will be given
preferential status at this airport.
That also brings us to the issue of domestic flights, which
have been stopped at the moment due to security concerns. We are
hopeful that these services will resume in due course.
Eventually, SriLankan should evolve a wider domestic network,
perhaps in association with Mihin Lanka. The two airlines should
complement each other nationally and internationally.
All Sri Lankans should make an effort to fly SriLankan
whenever possible to express their affinity to an airline which
can now proudly be called their own.
Transport Minister Dullas
Alahapperuma deserves plaudits for initiating the Sisu Seriya
programme which aims to increase the number of dedicated school
buses to 1,000 by year end.
This is a laudable move, given that most parents now spend up
to Rs.3,000 per month on so-called school vans to send their
children to school. These school vans leave a lot to be desired.
Most of them are rickety contraptions into which schoolchildren
are crammed like sardines.
Although they have only around 15 seats, some vans carry
nearly 30 children. There have been many cases where children
have been abused sexually by some of the school van drivers.
Some drivers are also not properly qualified and drive
recklessly, endangering the lives of the children and other road
The Police began a special programme to identify ‘good’
school vans and even pasted stickers to distinguish them, but we
do not know whether this programme still continues. If it has
been stopped for some reason, it should be continued so that
parents can rest assured their children are in good hands.
In fact, if there was a good school bus network countrywide,
the vans would be left with little or no business. School buses,
especially those belonging to the Sri Lanka Transport Board, are
everything that the vans are not - ample seating, disciplined
drivers, lower fees, etc.
Parents have no cause for anxiety if there children are
conveyed to and from school by dedicated school buses.
The school bus concept is well entrenched in developed
countries such as the USA, whose yellow school buses are world
famous. Our officials should study the school bus systems in
developed countries to get an idea as to how the efficiency of
the local school bus network could be increased.
Private operators will also be involved in this Sisu Seriya
exercise. It is our view that these private bus operators should
be thoroughly ‘vetted’ before allowing them to run school
services. The buses should be manned by disciplined, courteous
and competent crew who could assure the safety of children
during the two trips.
As the Minister has rightly pointed out, punctuality is vital
when running a school bus service. Children have to be at school
on time. Consistent delays will affect their education. Sisu
Seriya operators, both public and private, should bear this in
mind. A superb bus service for the children should be their