‘Shareholder’ wanted Airbus A350-900s bought - SLA Official | Daily News

‘Shareholder’ wanted Airbus A350-900s bought - SLA Official

The controversial Airbus A350-900 aircraft deal had come to light only with an e-mail that was sent internally by SriLankan Airlines (SLA) Chief Executive Officer (CEO) in August 2012, it was revealed at the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) on irregularities at SriLankan Airlines, SriLankan Catering and Mihin Lanka yesterday.

SLA’s Financial Management Head, Yasantha Dissanayake testifying said that email was sent to him and a few others by the CEO mentioning that he (CEO) got directions from the shareholder to go for A350- 900 wide body aircrafts for re-fleeting.

The e-mail says “We should take up the A340 replacement task now.The directions from the Shareholder are as follows. For SriLankan Airlines, we should maintain Airbus fleet.We should target the A350 as a long-term replacement with the A330 (40 tonne option) as a bridging solution until the A350s are available around 2021 / 22.”

Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Neil Unamboowe, PC leading evidence asked the witness as to how the A350 -900 came to light at that time when it has not been mentioned even in the then business plan of the company. The target period to have the aircrafts available was also beyond the scheduled period of the business plan.

“I don’t know how that direction came to the CEO”, Dissanayake said.

ASG also questioned the witness as to who is the shareholder that the CEO has referred to in this e-mail without pointing out the name directly. It could be either the Secretary to the Treasury, who had 51 per cent of shares or the rest shareholders including the state banks, Employees Provident Fund (EPF) and the retired employees of the company, the ASG said.

Then Dissanayake replied that it should be the then Secretary to the Treasury, Dr.P.B. Jayasundara but, not someone else as it was the Government of Sri Lanka, which was the main shareholder of the company.

However, it was also highlighted that this e-mail specializes only the airbus aircrafts and there is no mentioning on the Boeing aircrafts, which is the only other aircraft manufacturer in the world.

It was also revealed before the commission that the SLA following its usual practice, which at most times had resulted in the bad outcomes to the company had sought the approval for this deal only after the decision was made to obtain the A350s. The e-mail by the CEO had been sent on August 13, 2012. But, a Board Paper seeking the approval for this deal had been presented two days later on August 15 and the Board of Directors had approved it only after two weeks on August 28.

Although it had been planned to purchase four aircrafts and lease another four from the A350 – 900 category, this was cancelled in 2016 after the new government was elected, Dissanayake told the PCoI.

“When we requested the last tranche of the capital infusion of USD 500 million for 2014/15 financial year, the Cabinet wanted us to go for a comprehensive restructuring plan instead of the existing one in 2015. The cancellation of this deal is included in a cabinet paper presented in June 2015”, he added.

Dissanayake will be further questioned on the same issue by the PCoI today.


 

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