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FORMER GOVT’S AIRBUS deals to be probed

The government is investigating as to why the previous government ordered A350 Airbuses for SriLankan Airlines in 2013 when the country did not need such long distant air buses, Finance State Minister Eran Wickramaratne said yesterday.

He said the government is investigating as to who entered into these agreements and if those agreements were legal and if commissions have been taken for ordering the manufacturing of these air buses. The Minister made these observations yesterday while taking part in the debate on the regulations under the National Medicines Regulatory Authority Act.

He made these observations in response to a statement made by Parliamentary Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) Chairman Sunil Handunnetti who said that the government could incur large scale financial losses if it fails to inform Airbus to halt the production of four A350 Airbus aircraft that is to commence manufacturing soon on demand of the previous government.

The COPE Chairman told Parliament that the government should inform the relevant companies in Germany and France to halt the production as it will have to pay a huge amount if the deal is cancelled after the resumption of the production of these airbuses.

“The Government has already lost US$ 125 million as a result of terminating a deal to acquire four other A350 air buses earlier,” COPE Chairman said. “It will have to pay more again if it failed to cancel the deal without delay.”

With the sanction of the COPE, JVP MP Handunnetti proposed that the Government discuss the issue with both French and German Governments and to put a stop to a decision the Rajapaksa regime took by placing the controversial order for eight Airbus A350 aircraft.

“We must decide if we want the remaining four aircraft. According to the agreement, the Airbus company will commence manufacturing these four this September. We may have to pay millions of rupees if we cancel the order after they start manufacturing the aircraft.

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The COPE wanted me to inform the House that it is necessary to have discussion between the Governments to suspend the manufacturing until a firm decision is reached.

The Sri Lankan Government should talk to these two Governments,” MP Handunnetti said.

He also said COPE will carry out separate investigation on the deal signed in 2013 to acquire the Airbus aircraft and on the termination of the deal to acquire four aircraft by the present regime.

However at this stage Leader of the House and Minister Lakshman Kiriella stated that the COPE Chairman could investigate only into the matters that has been referred by the Auditor General only. He added that the COPE chairman could not inquire into the government policies. He also said that although the COPE Chairman inquires, it has to do so at the COPE Committee only.

COPE Chairman said that he was making the statement on the request made by members of the COPE committee.

Minister Rajitha Senaratne said that COPE Chairman made this statement for the benefit of the government. However, Senaratne who welcomed COPE Chairman’s cautioning said: “According to my understanding, COPE Chairman Handunnetti is cautioning the Government. What he is trying to say is that the manufacturing will commence soon.

If the manufacturing process starts, we may have to pay them more to cancel the order. Hence, prior to starting the manufacturing he wants the Government to take a decision.”