Friday 23rd June, 2023
SriLankan Airlines came under a scathing attack in Parliament on Wednesday. In what turned out to be a rare moment of unity among warring political parties, both sides of the House joined forces to bash the so-called national carrier left, right and centre. Not that the beleaguered airline does not deserve such a roasting, but the question is whether the holier-than-thou MPs can absolve themselves of the blame for the plight of the national airline.
Minister of Labour and Foreign Employment Manusha Nanayakkara led the attack on SriLankan Airlines in Parliament. He went ballistic. His ire was understandable; the 800th batch of Sri Lankan workers had failed to reach South Korea on time due to an inordinate flight delay, the previous day. He said SriLankan Airlines had consistently failed to provide a satisfactory service, and therefore Korean Air had offered to operate direct flights to Colombo mainly for the benefit of Sri Lanka’s migrant workers. Thus, South Korea has had to go out of its way not only to provide jobs to Sri Lankans but also to help them with air travel! Aren’t we abusing that friendly nation’s kindness?
SriLankan Airlines has said Tuesday’s flight was delayed because one of its cockpit crew members was not well, and it was difficult to find a replacement until Wednesday owing to ‘various regulations for fatigue and safety that govern operating crew’. But how would it explain its flights being ‘usually late’? Minister Nanayakkara told Parliament that it was not the first time there had been an inordinate delay on the part of SriLankan Airlines. He insisted that such delays were frequent. If SriLankan Airlines cannot keep to its flight schedules, it should at least learn to concoct believable excuses for its delays!
Every legislator loves to get on the moral high horse, and pontificate to others. While watching our honourable MPs raking the national carrier over the coals for delays, etc., one wondered why they did not turn the searchlight inwards. What did those worthies do when unmistakable signs of an economic crisis appeared about two years ago?
They have had the chutzpah to claim that they were not aware of the gravity of the economic situation, because nobody had informed them of it! In so doing, they have admitted, albeit unwittingly, that they neglected their fiduciary duties; it is incumbent upon legislators to watch over the economy and call for corrective action whenever ominous dark clouds happen to gather on the economic front. They should have protested in Parliament, cranking up pressure on the Gotabaya Rajapaksa government to seek IMF assistance forthwith when it became known that the country’s foreign reserves were dwindling.
The leaders of almost all political parties currently represented in Parliament are responsible for what has befallen the national carrier and other state-owned ventures such as the Sri Lanka Transport Board. Their corrupt practices and interference have taken a heavy toll on the state-owned airbuses and omnibuses alike. They have catapulted their cronies sans any experience in the airline industry to the top notches of SriLankan Airlines besides cutting corrupt deals at its expense. Today, the national carrier is lying spread-eagled like a sick dodo, and the self-righteous kapati-suit fraternity is trying to make it perform aerobatics!
What’s the world coming to when a nation cannot ever so much as ensure that its migrant workers reach their destinations on time? Sri Lanka must get its act together and show the world that it is serious about hoisting itself from the current economic mire. But how could it do so while being in the clutches of a bunch of failed politicians who have bankrupted its economy and are holding on to power by depriving the people of their franchise?