By Shamindra Ferdinando
Chairman of Sectoral Oversight Committee (SOC) National Security, Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera, MP, has asked the top management of Sri Lanka Telecom (SLT) to take a clear stand on the proposed privatisation of the national telecommunications provider.
MP Weerasekera has, in a letter dated 07 July, addressed to CEO Janaka Abeysinghe, stressed the responsibility on their part to take the public into confidence and reveal their position. One-time Deputy Navy Chief of Staff has asserted that the SLT couldn’t remain non-committal in this regard.
The former Public Security Minister has said so in response to a letter dated 21 June, received from Abeysinghe. On behalf of the Board of Directors of the SLT, Abeysinghe has emphasised that the top management, including the Chairman, during consultations with the SOC on National Security, on 04 April, never asserted that divestment of the remaining shares to a foreign shareholder would be detrimental to national security.
MP Weerasekara has alleged that divestment of the remaining 49.5 percent stake in the SLT, held by the government, could ‘expose the country’s strategic communication infrastructure and sensitive information to private companies that are motivated by profit, which could pose a threat to national security.’
The President’s Office has categorically denied the SOC’s assessment. The SLT’s second biggest shareholder is Malaysia-based Usaha Tegas Sdn Bhd with a 44.9 percent stake in the company.
Declaring that the SLT couldn’t provide expert opinion on national security, Abeysinghe has requested that their position be made known to members of the SOC. MP Weerasekera has pointed out that the SLT brought the matter to the notice of the Secretary to the Treasury as it was keen to assure the government it was not against privatisation. While acknowledging that national security was not in the SLT’s domain, MP Weerasekera has said that it couldn’t ignore the moral obligation to express a clear view on this contentious matter.