Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe's political appointee, controversial SriLankan Airlines CEO Capt. Suren Ratwatte has sought early retirement in the midst of the current Presidential Inquiry into fraud, corruption and irregularities committed at SriLankan Airlines, SriLankan Catering and Mihin Lanka, Chairman Ranjith Fernando announced yesterday.
CEO Capt. Ratwatte, the brother of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremensinghe's close confidante Charitha Ratwatte was parachuted into the role of CEO SriLankan Airlines in October 2015, soon after the President Maithripala Sirisena - Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe led Yahapalanaya government came into power.
Capt. Ratwatte who earlier worked as a First Officer with the national carrier, was entrusted the position of CEO SriLankan Airlines despite having no prior experience in holding such a post.
He also served as an ordinary pilot with Emirates Airline and was involved in CRM training.
Earlier prior to their resignations the Board of Directors of the national carrier officially made it known that they had no confidence in the capabilities of CEO Ratwatte and as to how he was running the operational affairs of the airline.
This was soon after CEO Ratwatte went ahead and signed a controversial lease agreement without the Board of Directors approval and leased three age old Airbus 330 aircraft at staggering price for a further six year period.
It is common knowledge among those in aviation circles that whopping sums of commissions are paid for signing such deals.
Captain Ratwatte was also instrumental in stopping SriLankan Airlines flights to Paris, Rome and Frankfurt which were prized European destinations, allowing other Middle Eastern aviation competitors to gleefully fill the void. This begged the question if his loyalties still lay with his former employer Emirates Airline who benefited the most.
Speculation is also rife as to what became of the plum landing slots of these European destinations.
CEO Ratwatte also went on to sign up another controversial loss making wet lease deal with Pakistan International Airlines.
This deal was signed soon after the current Head of Engineering Dinarga Padmaperuma a former employee of Lufthansa was brought in as the Engineering Head of the national carrier.
Currently the government of Pakistan has barred the exit of its former PIA CEO German national Bernd Hildenbrand also a former Lufthansa professional like Padmaperuma and is investigating the airline for serious fraud committed during its wet lease deal made with SriLankan Airlines.
Meanwhile Chairman Ranjith Fernando is confirmed to have said that CEO Ratwatte's exit must be made graceful.
This is after the CEO Ratwatte demanded a whopping sum of Rs 7 million a month to see out the remainder of his contract.
It is not yet established as to how much SriLankan Airlines Chairman Fernando has agreed to pay and see CEO Ratwatte depart.
In a new development Captain Druvi Perera the former Chief Operations Officer of SriLankan Airlines during the former Rajapaksa regime has also suddenly tendered his resignation in the midst of the Presidential Inquiry.
Initially Capt. Druvi had also demanded that his gratuity be paid in full for the 29 years of service he has provided the airline.
Captain Druvi Perera was earlier exposed in Lawyer J.C.Weliamuna's Report for the role he played in the commencement of the Air Taxi operation, constructing of the Flight Simulators in the premise of the airline in Katunayake and also attempting to lower the pass marks at a pilot recruitment intake to help facilitate the employment of two politically influenced pilots.
His incompetence as a pilot was exposed in the media where he once pushed back the aircraft on a VVIP flight without Air Traffic Controller's permission and also busted several tyres of the aircraft he skidded off the runway into Chennai and damaged several runway lights.
Capt. Druvi Perera along with CEO Suren Ratwatte are currently being investigated for the alleged fraudulent roles they played by a team of lawyers appointed by the Additional Solicitor General’s Department.
However unconfirmed reports reaching the news desk of Lankanewsweb, is that Capt. Druvi Perera has subsequently withdrawn his Letter of Resignation.
A Senior Manager of SriLankan Airlines in the Commercial Department speaking to Lankanewsweb on condition of anonymity said “Something fishy is going on here. The Nyras report containing the recommendations made by the UK based firm's assistance sought to investigate and recommend a restructuring process of the national carrier is still under wraps. Why is this report hidden for over two months? Are CEO Ratwatte and Capt. Druvi Perera privy to the contents of the report? Has it being recommended that the airline be shut down and re-open? Is that why they want to pocket their gratuities? These are questions that have left the rest of the 6000 plus staff perplexed. Will the same fate befall the rest of the staff like what happened to employees of Mihin Lanka? The max pay out senior staff of Mihin Lanka got was a mere sum of Rs 150,000."
Earlier in February 2018 President Maithripala Sirisena whilst issuing a Gazette Notification dated the 2nd of February 2018, appointed a team of five Commissioners headed by Hon. Anil Gooneratne and comprising of Ethauda Arachchige Gamini Rohan Amarasekara (Judge of the Court of Appeal), Piyasena Ranasinghe ( Retired Judge of the High Court), Mallawaarachchige Don Anthony Harold (Retired Deputy Auditor General) and Wasantha Jayaseeli Kapugama Geeganage (Director General, Sri Lanka Accounting and Auditing Standards Monitoring Board) to investigate Sri Lankan Airlines, Mihin Lanka and SriLankan Catering during the period 1st January 2006 and 31st January 2018.
Lankanewsweb can confirm that whilst reaching the tail end of its investigation, many employees of the national career have once again fearlessly come forward to establish contact with the team of senior lawyers attached to the Additional Solicitor General's office and Criminal Investigation Department's Officers appointed to complete their investigations and submit evidence to the appointed Commissioners to commence prosecution.
Additional Solicitor General Neil Unamboowe PC, speaking to Lankanewsweb said “We request any staff of Sri Lankan Airlines to come forward and speak to our team. Assurance is hereby given that any person interfering or intimidating those employees who come forward to assist with this Presidential inquiry will be severely dealt with”.
Employees of SriLankan Airlines are urged to walk in, phone or send in their emails to the investigating team.
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