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TUs accuse SLT of being sold off to India ; Who is behind Adani – Subhashkaran deal?

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Trade Unions of Sri Lanka Telecom have requested President Ranil Wickremesinghe to scrap the Budget decision of selling Sri Lanka Telecom to foreign investors.

Presenting Budget 2023 in parliament, the President has stated that several SOEs such SriLankan Airlines, Sri Lanka Insurance, Sri Lanka Telecom, etc., have been earmarked for restructure.

Mr. Jagath Gurusinghe, Senior Vice Secretary of Telecommunication Workers Union, says that a series of extensive protests will be held islandwide from tomorrow (23) against the government’s decision to sell Sri Lanka Telecom to Lycamobile and the Adani Group.

The Telecommunication Workers Union held a media conference in this regard yesterday (21) at the Guru Madura Hall in Colombo.

Likening the SLT to a hen laying golden eggs, Mr. Gurusinghe said that the institution is like a dowry given to every government that is appointed every 5 years.

In addition to selling off such a profitable institution at such a ridiculously cut price deal, he added that the deal also poses a threat to the national security.

Noting that President Wickremesinghe requires funds in the treasury to maintain power, Mr. Gurusinghe said that the President is currently selling off institutions to fill up the coffers.

SLPP TUs also oppose

Meanwhile, the Trade Unions representing Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) also opposed the above move.

Economic experts have pointed out that since nations with leading economies are moving towards an e-commerce world, a country’s communication system to remain in the hands of the state is crucial for its growth.

Also, defence analysts point out that with India already being involved in the printing of the country’s NICs, their second step would be venturing into the national communication network.

They point out that the loyalties of potential buyers – Adani and Lycamobile owner Subaskaran Alirajah, prominently lie with India.

Swarnawahini deal

It is said that Alirajah, a British citizenship holder, had heavily invested in the Bollywood industry.

Details pertaining to his recent investment in the local TV channel – ‘Swarnavahini’ remains under the wraps.

Back then, media reports had revealed that the State Intelligence Service had warned that several directors of the foreign investing company which obtained shares of the EAP owned ‘Swarnavahini’ media network, have direct links with the LTTE.On Nov. 15, 2019, the State Ministry of Defence had informed the TRCSL and the Ministry of Mass Media of this through the document number MOD / TEC / 01 / MGMR Network / 2019 (04).

A portion of the assets belonging to EAP Group of Companies was thus purchased by and on behalf of Ben Holdings (Pvt.) Ltd.

The company has also been able to indirectly obtain 60% ownership of Swarnavahini, violating the laws and regulations of Sri Lanka.  Ben Holdings (Pvt.) Ltd. holds 40% of shares while one Alex Lowell has obtained 20% of shares.

The remaining 40% is owned by Blue Summit Capital.

It was later revealed that Alirajah had provided funds for Ben Holdings (Pvt.) Ltd, Alex Lowell and Blue Summit Capital. to obtain the Swarnawahini shares.
It was also revealed that 03 prominent figures at Ben Holdings (Pvt.) Ltd. have direct links to the LTTE when the company was in the process of purchasing Max TV owned by MGMR Networks.

Before the deal was processed, directors of the purchasing company required a clearance certificate from the Ministry of Defence and this above information was revealed during the clearance process.

However, the security clearance process had not been required during the Swarnawahini deal because the license of the media channel was not a one obtained recently.Alirajah is also said to be a strong financial supporter of the British Conservative Party and former UK Prime Minister – John Major.

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Won’t be able to offer SriLankan to investors even for free – Minister

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Ports, Shipping, and Aviation Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva yesterday (26) spoke firmly on the national carrier – SriLankan Airlines, stating that the airline’s disruptive employees and tarnished reputation would deter potential buyers in the privatisation process.

Speaking at a media briefing yesterday, he said  “We cannot run an airline with disruptive employees. This is a critical moment for SriLankan Airlines. We cannot afford to entertain employees who fail to handle situations under pressure.”

“The deadline for the Expressions of Interest (EOIs) is set for 5 March and in the present scenario, according to the information I received some of the bidders want to withdraw. With the negative reputation plaguing the airline, we will not be in a position to offer it free-of-charge even,” the minister claimed.

However, SriLankan Airlines Chairman Ashok Pathirage’s views had contrasted starkly with that of Minister de Silva.

The discussion saw a disagreement regarding ground handling. Minister De Silva advocated for immediate privatization of the service, citing shortcomings. Chairman Pathirage, while acknowledging areas for improvement, argued that the lack of aircraft, not ground handling, was the primary issue. He blamed lengthy government procurement procedures for hindering fleet acquisition.

De Silva justified his push for privatization by citing the airline’s struggles and reports of potential bidders withdrawing their interest. While not inherently opposed to privatization, Pathirage emphasized the ongoing process and the lack of control the airline has in the decision.

Meanwhile, trade union representatives commended Pathirage for his leadership whilst blaming political interventions and its past management. 

“We all undoubtedly praise the Chairman for his leadership and unwavering commitment to operate this airline amidst all odds. Neither the employees nor the current management of the SriLankan Airlines are responsible for the cancellations and bad reputation, but the political intervention,” they stated.

They also slammed the former COPE Chairmen and MPs Dr. Harsha de Silva and Dr. Charitha Herath for disrupting the lease procedure of the airline when the aircraft were at a lower price. “They are responsible for all the operational delays the airline is facing at present,” they claimed.

(Excerpts : DailyFT)

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Australia’s United Petroleum enters SL market

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Australia’s United Petroleum has entered into an agreement with the Sri Lankan government to supply petroleum products to the Sri Lankan market.

According to United Petroleum Lanka, Australia’s United Petroleum entered into the relevant agreement with Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Power and Energy on Feb 22.

Following the signing of the agreement, United Petroleum is assigned 150 existing fuel stations and also has the right to build 50 new fuel stations in Sri Lanka.

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4 SriLankan Airlines flights experience delays

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This morning, four SriLankan Airlines flights experienced delays as ground staff refrained from performing some of their duties, according to reports.

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