One hundred employees, who were recruited to Mihin Lanka worked for nine months without salary, starting April 2008, retired Mihin Lanka employee Ingrid Catharine Guruge told the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCol) on irregularities at SriLankan Airlines, SriLankan Catering and Mihin Lanka today.
Guruge is the retired Ground Handling Manager at Mihin Lanka (Pvt.) Limited.
During her testimony, she informed the Commission that the Mihin Lanka had wet-leased (When leasing the aircraft with the entire crew) two aircraft from Bulgaria and Turkey in 2007 and after the expiration of their contract period in 2008, the two aircraft left the country and they had to work without salary for nine months.
“Mihin Lanka did not have flights for nine months and we hoped the new management would solve this issue,” she told Commission.
She said that during the period the CEO of the Mihin Lanka was Sajin Vaas Gunawardena and after this situation, the management had changed and Anura Bandara was appointed as CEO of Mihin Lanka (Pvt) Limited.
She informed the Commission that the employees, who were above age 55, worked under SriLankan Airlines, had retired on a Voluntary Retirement Scheme and joined Mihin Lanka (Pvt) in 2006.
She also informed the Commission that the ground handling part at the Mihin Lanka was performed by the SriLankan Airlines.
“On December 31, 2007, the SriLankan Airlines had moved out from their services of ground handling and took the equipment due to non-payment for ground handling,” she said.
“On December 31, 2007, we had to face a serious situation. Due to SriLankan Airlines moving out from ground handling, the engineering staff of Mihin Lanka had to push out the one aircraft physically to the runaway. Also, we had cancelled several flights on that day,” she informed the Commission.
She also informed the Commission that after the above incident certain second-hand German manufactured ground handling equipment were purchased by Mihin Lanka for the purpose of self-handling but there was no separate trained staff to handle the equipment and subsequently it was also handled by the SriLankan Airlines.
During her testimony, she also informed the Commission that Mihin Lanka was incorporated as a Budget Airline but the management had used that as a commercial plan.
“Mihin Lanka had the duty free facilities, food served in the flights and they had charged a baggage allowance as well,” she said.
The witness also informed the Commission that after Mihin Lanka was liquidated most of the staff had been taken back to SriLankan Airlines and all twelve routes and three aircraft which were handled by Mihin were taken over by the SriLankan Airlines Management.