President, Ministers charter flights: SriLankan losses top Rs.24 bn


by Zacki Jabbar

 Sri Lankan Airlines and its subsidiary Mihin Air are making huge losses due to the President and his ministers chartering its flights at the tax payers’ expense to travel the world.

General Secretary of the UNP Tissa Attanayake told a news conference in Colombo yesterday, that that the two airlines had jointly run up losses totalling over Rs. 24 billion due to the government policy of chartering flights to ensure that President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his Ministers, including Prof. G. L. Peiris, travelled in comfort to more than 35 countries since 2010.

SriLankan Airlines made an operating loss of 19.1 billion rupees in 2011. Its debts have kept mounting since 2008 when Emirates Airlines ended a management contract in protest against SriLankan offloading passengers to accommodate a government delegation.

The Treasury had pumped 2.7 billion rupees in tax payers’ money to SriLankan in 2010, while providing guarantees for it to obtain loans from State banks totalling over Rs. 3,500 million in the last few years, Attanayaka said.

Mihin Air had lost nearly 6 billion rupees since in capital in 2007, despite the Treasury doling out subsidies at regular intervals, he said.

Attanayake said that most of the foreign visits undertaken by the President and his ministers had yielded minimal or no benefits, at maximum cost to the country and its people.

The last visit of the External Affairs Minister, G. L. Peiris and his delegation to the UN has been a dead loss as they were unable to defeat the HRC Resolution on Sri Lanka, Attanayaka said.

Attanayake said that Mihin Air should be sold and whatever assets that were left, used to ease the burdens that were being mounted on the poor, even three years after the war had ended.

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