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Political molehill threatens to topple SriLankan's CEO

Sri Lanka’s Board of Investment (BOI) has asked the country’s immigration department to cancel the work permit of SriLankan Airlines’ CEO, Peter Hill, because of a personal spat between the airline and the country’s president.

An official working in the office of BOI director general, Dhammika Perera, says they have already notified the immigration department that Hill’s work permit should be cancelled.

“The decision was taken in the public interest because the airline failed to act in the interests of the major shareholder - the government”, says the official, who declined to comment further. Perera was unavailable for comment on 19 December.

Well-placed sources say the move to try and ouster Hill came after the country’s president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, at late notice tried unsuccessfully to secure 35 seats for himself and his entourage on board a SriLankan Airlines flight from London Heathrow to Colombo.

The airline was unable to fulfil the president’s request because the flight was full, say the sources, adding that the matter occurred the week commencing 10 December.

Various news reports say the president was in the UK on a personal trip to see his son’s graduation and that when the airline rejected his request the president resorted to chartering an aircraft from SriLankan state-owned budget carrier Mihin Lanka. This carrier is named after the president. 

Hill at Sri Lankan declined to comment, when contacted by ATI on 19 December, except to say: “All I can tell you is that I have not received any confirmation from the government whatsoever” with regards to my work permit.

Sri Lanka’s government owns 51% of SriLankan Airlines and Emirates owns 43.6%. Emirates has a management contract over the airline but the contract is due to expire next year and it has been working with the government to negotiate an extension.

Source:'s sister premium news service Air Transport Intelligence news