22 May 2022
USE AIRSPACE – DON’T SELL THE NATIONAL CARRIER
When I first read that the Economy Next article of 01 May 2022, under the title ‘Sri Lanka ex-PM who failed to privatize SriLankan Airlines brings up sale idea in opposition’ - at https://economynext.com/sri-lanka-ex-pm-who-failed-to-privatize-srilankan-airlines-brings-up-sale-idea-in-opposition-93735/ - I got upset due to my own investment at ownership level through Air Lanka. I commented as follows:
[Sri Lankan Airlines has the capability of operating successfully on commercial basis. It should not be sold but ought to be supported]
Since Mr Ranil Wickremesinghe became Prime Minister, this issue kept nagging me. It got worse after I discovered through my independent intellectual research and concluded through ownership indicators – that the Galle Face protests were through American and would-be American minds. The more Western education we have, the greater the influence of the West in our minds. So long as we maintain our independence – it remains a balanced intellectual influence. But after the ‘appointment’ of Mr Ranil Wickremesinghe as PM by the President who was American until the last elections, I was not sure that Mr Ranil Wickremesinghe’s proposal was ‘independent’.
When I reread Mr M K Bhadrakumar ‘s article – ‘India’s Quad Dilemma in Sri Lanka’ at - https://www.indianpunchline.com/indias-quad-dilemma-in-sri-lanka/ - in the consciousness of my current discoveries – the pennies kept dropping! This article’s punchline ‘Between the cow and the Quad, their preference is a foregone conclusion. It is like boon after boon from Kamadhenu – mother of all cows.
The Indian-American mind in this
issue surfaced from within when I read the Morning article headed ‘
The Indian-American mind in this issue surfaced from within when I read the Morning article headed ‘Salvaging the debt-ridden National Carrier’. The introduction included the following:
[Founded as Air Lanka in 1979, the airline was described by Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew as “a glamour project, not of great value for developing Sri Lanka”. ]
To my mind, if the above was stated - by Mr Lee Kuan Yew, he was cursing not only Air Lanka but also his own National carrier – Singapore International Airlines who were responsible for management training during my time. If indeed it was said between 1977 and 1979 – then it is quite possible that it was a business ‘trick’ to get in cheaply - as Indian-American coalition seems to have done to take control of this Indian Ocean island – whose value has escalated due to China’s investment followed by Quad awakening under the leadership of Capt. Trump. Our new PM is due to attend tomorrow’s Quad meeting in Tokyo.
In light of this, Sri Lanka’s current value has increased to global levels. The emphasis is on ports and terminals. Most importantly, the national carrier which has strong links to the Civil Aviation Authority could share in the revenue earned by fees charged to those who would use our Airspace.
The solution is indicated in the following paragraph of the above mentioned article:
[According to SriLankan Airlines Annual Reports from 2008, the final year in which Emirates operated the airline, it made a profit of Rs. 4.4 billion. It was mentioned in some reports that this profit included insurance claims after the terrorist attacks on the Bandaranaike International Airport. ]
The National parallel for Sri Lanka is to collect high level fee for all its airports and seaports due to the ongoing Terrorism threat combined with ongoing Political instability. Quad members need to be charged a very high fee – especially due to the risk to Sri Lankan waters and airspace if there is confrontation between China and Quad member countries. The Malabar exercises by Quad is a strong indicator of the contingent loss in this regard.
Under Mr Wickremesinghe’s leadership a team of paid professionals investigated the National carrier. On 16 July 2016, I published my analysis on this under the title ‘Pilots & Lawyers Damaging Sri Lankan Airlines’ -
The leader of that team was later sent to Australia, as High Commissioner. Has Mr Wickremesinghe found out the benefit derived from that exercise during his leadership? If the outcome was negative in money terms – then any business move in relation to the National Carrier – by Mr Wickremesinghe will carry that loss also.
As per the above mentioned article :
[ The problem is both clear and dire. We maintain a national airline at a substantial loss and ask the common people, many of whom don’t even possess a passport or haven’t even stepped on an aeroplane, to foot the bill. In other words, we are maintaining a failing airline at the expense of the education and healthcare of our people. ]
Once a mechanic in Vaddukoddai (Northern Sri Lanka) said to me that when the LTTE soldiers marched along the streets in their uniforms – he felt brave and courageous. That is the value of deep ‘ownership’. Likewise, as a Sri Lankan I experienced elevation of my status in my circles due to working as senior manager of Air Lanka. No – Sri Lankans at grassroots level are not likely to experience step foot into the National carrier. But when they ‘see’ the ‘flying peacock’ they would enjoy the experience as if they were piloting the planes or that they were the crew elegantly serving the international passengers. That is ownership. Recently when our granddaughter adjourned her holiday plans to Sri Lanka, she apologized to us for any disappointment we would experience. She had booked to fly Sri Lankan Airlines. That is the heritage value I have developed at family level.
I pray that the Prime Minister does not make the mistake again with the National carrier due to his own lack of business sense. Mr Lee Kuan Yew lacked intuition into Sri Lankans’ resilience. If we stayed alive for 43 years – we would find a way to stay Sri Lankan – at least to reach SIA’s current age of 56.