General Secretary of the UNP Tissa Attanayake has claimed that extravagant trips aboard by the President and his entourage have contributed to huge losses being incurred by Sri Lanka’s airlines.
Stating that President Rajapaksa and Foreign Minister GL Peiris have travelled to more than 35 countries since 2010, Attanayake said that tax payers were funding these trips, with both Sri Lankan Airlines and Mihin Lanka running up losses totalling 24 billion rupees.
Attanayake then went on to state that Sri Lankan Airlines had made an operating loss of 19.1 billion rupees in 2011, whilst being pumped with tax payer funding and state loans.
He further stated that the airline had been mounting debts since Emirates Airlines ended their management contract in 2008. The termination came in response to the Sri Lankan government demanding 35 premium cabin tickets for President Rajapaksa and his entourage on short notice, a request that was refused and led to the then chief executive Peter Hill having his working permit and visa withdrawn (see report from the BBC here).
Attanayake also called for the scrapping of Mihin Lanka, a regular receiver of government subsidies, but which he claimed had lost nearly 6 billion rupees in capital since 2007.
See our earlier post: Rajapaksa pilots Sri Lanka's airlines (03 May 2012)