Friday 19 January 2018

Gajalakshmi Paramasivam

19 January 2018                                     

Soul Power of Sri Lankan Airlines

SriLankan Airlines said that contrary to popular belief, the Board of Directors of the national carrier have taken all action possible to address the internal and disciplinary issues highlighted in the J. C. Weliamuna Report.
Due to numerous News Paper articles and other interested parties who have referred to the J.C. Weliamuna Report time and time again, the airline today issued a response to “put things into perspective” and clarifying the position of the actions taken by the Board of Directors of SriLankan Airlines Limited.”  - report - All possible action taken based on Weliamuna Report: SriLankan Airlines
As indicated previously, the problem with the structure that seems to have evaded the Weliamuna team is lack of separation between Executive Power and Governance Power in the Board. This is largely due to excessive use of direct administrative power by those closely associated with the Government. This has led to serious deterioration of standards towards the National Carrier becoming another Government Department.
The group of Government Representatives in the Board ought to be  the parallel of Legislative Branch of the Government and NOT interfere in direct Administration.
Recently when advising in the relation to a Disciplinary issue in which a member of staff of the University of Jaffna has filed a Fundamental Rights case, I discovered  Section 45 (2) (xii) which beautifully presents the Independence value of  Intellectuals as follows:
45. (1) Subject to the provisions of this Act, the Council shall exercise the powers and perform and discharge the duties and functions conferred or imposed on, or assigned to, the University.
(2) Without prejudice to the generality of the powers conferred upon it by subsection (1), the Council shall exercise, perform and discharge the following powers, duties and functions:-
(xii) to appoint persons to, and to suspend, dismiss or otherwise punish persons in the employment of, the University:
Provided that, except in the case of Officers and teachers, these powers may be delegated to the Vice-Chancellor;
In other words, the Vice Chancellor (CEO) does not have the power to take disciplinary actions against ‘Teachers & Officers’ who are also part of the Representation of Intellectual Independence of a University and therefore are part of Governance power at that level.
Like in the case of Sri Lankan Airlines, in which the services of lawyer Mr J.C. Weliamuna were hired, the authorities of the University of Jaffna has hired a paid lawyer to represent the Governing Council. The problem with lawyers is that they are driven by ‘winning’ . As per the above news report:
The terms of reference of the Board of Inquiry was to conduct a preliminary investigation and ascertain whether there was prima facie evidence of abuse of power by the Board of Directors and the Senior Management of SriLankan Airlines prior to the appointment of the current Board, irregularities in the procurement/or leasing of Aircraft, whether due process has been followed in the procurement of goods and services valued at over Rs 25 MN and whether there have been external interferences adversely affecting the smooth functioning of the Airline
The parallel of the above in the case of the University was that the Vice Chancellor wrote to two senior academics comprising the advising them of their appointment by the Council - as the Preliminary investigating team to look into allegations against the Defendant and asking them to submit their report, clearly indicating whether there existed a prima facie case in order to frame charges against the Defendant.  It said 'You are kindly requested to investigate into the complaints and submit your report clearly indicating whether there exists prima facie case in order to frame charges against  the Defendant ‘.You may also please get the written confirmation from the complainants on the reported facts by them'. By this time the Defendant was  already interdicted.  
In both cases the Inquiry team’s work needed to be limited to finding whether or not there existed a Prima Facie case on the face of the evidence available. But in both cases  - this seems to justify the decision already made by the custodians of power. In both instances staff  (and students in the case of the University) were invited to have their say. Those who are politically driven would tend to sway with the powers that seem strong at that time.
In psychology, they say that in answering multiple-choice questions, the first one that the student identifies with is the right one for that student. Once an Medical Academic of the University of NSW said this about recruiting for an Academic position – that he and the other academic ‘saw’ and they knew. That is also the case with Governance decisions.
The two Chancellors of the University of NSW did identify with my value and expressly shared it through their position. Others with ownership power will identify with that common heritage. In today’s contribution to Australian Hindu community I included the following in this regard:
A home is where our common values are naturally shared through self-governance by each part.  The place where  Lord Muruga’s Ther / Chariot is pulled with faith -  becomes sacred and like all faiths – gives the person with faith a head start in Globalization through which the whole world becomes our Home. The current generation that completes the journey in Australia,  develops global heritage that would support generations to come.
To my mind, Sri Lankan Airlines with peacock logo is the vehicle of Lord Murugan. Given that majority shareholding in Sri Lankan Airlines is the Sri Lankan Public – all those who believe in Lord Murugan would naturally influence Governance outcomes and to the extent this power is stronger than the Administrative / Executive power - Sri Lankan Airlines would represent Sri Lanka and therefore is wholesome.
Colombo Telegraph reported recently as follows on this matter under the heading - SriLankan Airlines: Chairman Dias And Director Board Have Not Resigned – Confirms PM’s Office:
“According to sources close to Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s office it can be confirmed that Chairman Ajith Dias had met up with his Board of Directors in mid December and informed them that due to the restructuring process the airline was going though it may be evident that a new Board of Directors be reconstituted. At this meeting Chairman Ajith Dias and his Directors agreed to submit a letter on the 21st of December 2017 to the Ministerial Committee informing them of their willingness to resign. However at this meeting Board Director Harendra Balapatabendi refused to agree to the decision taken by the rest of the Board of Directors and instructed that his name not be included in the letter. According to Premier Wickeremesinghe’s office sources the letter received on the 21st of December 2017, was only tabled at the concluded Ministerial Committee meeting held last Wednesday…..”

It is interesting that Mr Harendra Balapatabendi  refused to accept the decision made by another. He demonstrated Independence and true Governance and therefore represents all of us who contribute to the Independence of the National carrier.  

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