Gajalakshmi Paramasivam – 31 March 2016
Sri Lankan Airlines’ Heritage
Sri Lankan Airlines has been highlighted one way or the other in the immediate past. As someone who shares common heritage with the National Carrier of Sri Lanka – I feel strongly about this institution which also helped me become stronger Common Sri Lankan.
I responded in detail to the current government’s report on the airline’s downward pull - through my article ‘Captain Ranatunga or MP Ranatunga?’ – at
If I did not carry my heritage when migrating to Australia, I would be merely observing as an ‘outsider’. Our values are carried at three levels: Money, People and Ownership. Ownership is carried as Corporate Wisdom and/or motivating Energy. When we are no longer seen as part of the current dynamics to make a difference to outcomes – and yet we feel happy or sad about a person or institution – the person and/or the institution is of heritage value – confirming that our own contribution went deeper than for money and status benefits. Such investments form natural structures even though the custodians of power do not see it. I feel this for Airlanka / Sri Lankan Airlines as well as for Sri Lanka itself.
As I was saying during a recent family sharing – I often considered as my family mentor - my paternal grandmother living independently in the village of Araly in Northern Sri Lanka – even though she was a mother of 10 children. No nursing home for her nor did she expect her children to take care of her. Now, I have inherited the family temple from her and when I live there – I feel like I am an extension of her life. That is the value of heritage. Likewise even after leaving Air Lanka – I mentally take a managing-owner position to identify with the Truth and support the airline through my natural Energy.
Air Lanka itself was formed by restructuring Air Ceylon – using Singapore International Airlines for management. The current government’s plans in using Singapore as its model often brings to mind Air Lanka itself. The conflict often is between political custody of ownership powers and money business itself. Under the circumstances there needs to be firm decision-making as to whether the National carrier is to be of heritage value – as a ‘lesson learnt’ - or of business value. If latter – then there needs to be clear separation from the previous profits and losses – so that the current team would be free of the sins of the past that ordinary staff would not have had influence over.
In business Status is often the opposition of money.
As per the Daily News report on this:
"SriLankan Airlines currently does not have any strategic plan or restructuring plan to deal with the losses, the COPE (The Committee on Public Enterprise )inquiry highlighted. Sri Lankan was advised by COPE to evaluate their route options, draw up a new route schedule at least to cover the key destinations in the Asian region, and come up with sound market strategy to deal with the loss. The company is on a minus equity footing right now, they should at least try to break even," Handunnetti said…………………………..
"SriLankan Airlines currently does not have any strategic plan or restructuring plan to deal with the losses, the COPE inquiry highlighted. Sri Lankan was advised by COPE to evaluate their route options, draw up a new route schedule at least to cover the key destinations in the Asian region, and come up with sound market strategy to deal with the loss. The company is on a minus equity footing right now, they should at least try to break even," Handunnetti said.
Taking Sri Lanka’s foreign relations as the Airline, would COPE be able to believe that a similar recommendation would work for the current Sri Lankan Government – with Prime Minister Ranil Wicremesinghe as the CEO and President Sirisena as the Governor? Does COPE know whether they are making a profit or a loss in their foreign operations? Should they not know – now that the Sri Lankan Government has moved towards zero base budgeting? When the past becomes heavy baggage one needs to move towards ‘Project’ structure. Has this happened ? If so – should not the employees be afforded the opportunity to work under such a structure and be facilitated to prove themselves – in an environment ‘free’ of political interference and baggage? Have the employees been facilitated to develop Objectively measurable targets to achieve ? so they become self-employed – as owners of the National Carrier?
As per published reports Captain Suren Ratwatte is the CEO of Sri Lankan Airlines after the politically driven restructure last year. If the current government profited from the Board of Inquiry into Sri Lankan Airlines – then did the Government itself not contribute to the demotivation of staff as Air Ceylon staff would have been if most of them had remained within the restructured form – Air Lanka?
The influence of Emirates is clear to me as follows:
Wikipedia – on the Emirate influence:
[Air Lanka, which was state-owned, was partially privatized in 1998, with investment by Dubai-based Emirates Group, when Emirates and the Sri Lankan government signed an agreement for a ten-year strategic partnership. This agreement included exclusive rights for all aircraft ground handling and airline catering at Colombo-Bandaranaike airport for a ten-year period. Emirates bought a 40% stake worth US$70 million (which it later increased to 43.6%) in Air Lanka, and sought to refurbish the airline's image and fleet. The government retained a majority stake in the airline, but gave full control to Emirates for investment and management decisions. In 1998, the Air Lanka re-branded to SriLankan Airlines. ]
Lanka News – on 07 October 2015:
‘Captain Suren Ratwatte who was living in Dubai has been appointed as the new Chief Executive Officer of Sri Lankan Airlines.Suren Ratwatte who is currently employed by Emirates Airline is due to commence operations in his new role from October 2015.’
Colombo Telegraph – on 26 March 2016:
[The sad and shocking state of the country’s national carrier, SriLankan airlines was revealed recently by Deputy Minister Eran Wickramaratne, who disclosed that the airline which recorded a profit of Rs. 4.4 billion in 2008, took an appalling nosedive having recorded a whopping loss amounting to Rs. 107 billion, since then.
Wickramaratne, the Deputy Minister of Public Enterprise Development speaking in parliament underscored that the decision by the former administration led by Mahinda Rajapaksa to cancel the deal with Emirates, just because they refused to permit a large entourage of Rajapaksa onboard was a ‘huge mistake.’
He further noted that the cancelling of the deal with Emirates has led to the current shocking financial situation the carrier is embroiled in.]
Emirates’ investment in Air Lanka was the parallel of Economic migration to Australia. Such migrants do not have a heritage to bring with them or to share when they leave.
The Sri Lankan Airlines problem started back then in 1998 when I also experience ownership related problems at the University of NSW. The problems did not start in when 2008 when Emirates left. They may have been more visible to ‘outsiders’ in 2008. When we have more money than we have earned through our own efforts and/or through inheritance through true shared ownership – we tend to not realize our Sovereignty and tend to live off handouts. There was no real ownership bonding between Emirates and Sri Lankan Airlines and yet the former had controlling interest. The Rajapaksa Government’s own parallel of this kind of force - was against the Tamils – for which they went to the UN using LTTE but without feeling ownership in UN through investment in global standards to protect law and order. If Sri Lankan Airlines staff are to be retrenched – then it must be on current performance basis for business purposes – using global standards. The CEO who is from Emirates - must be the first one to be tested – not staff who carry heritage by having stayed on for better or for worse.