SriLankan hurriedly reversed a previous decision to replace the regular A340 with an A330 to fly Colombo â€“ Kuwait â€“ Zurich on Friday merely to accommodate Capt. Praveen Wijesinghe who is not certified to fly an A340.
SriLankan Airlines would have incurred a huge loss in revenue as a result of the wider bodied A340 being changed to a smaller A330 resulting in 56 passengers having to be off- loaded.
SriLankan initially made the change not only to accommodate Capt. Praveen Wijesinghe who according to the Defence Secretary himself is a â€˜personal friendâ€™ and â€˜offeredâ€™ to fly to Zurich to bring down the puppy dog but conveniently rostered Capt. Madini Chandradasa too who is a niece of President Mahinda Rajapaksa so the two pilots could fly together as they are in a personal relationship. The story resulted in Gotabaya Rajapaksa resorting to verbal abuse and dire threats which drew international condemnation.
Capt. Praveen Wijesinghe has since been replaced by Capt. Gamini Goonetilleke. Wijesinghe was instead directed to fly to Paris on Saturday, July 14.
Capt. Wijesingheâ€™s girlfriend, Capt. Madini Chandradasa however left for Zurich on Friday as originally scheduled together with the cockpit crew.
The flight left Colombo on Friday at 11.40 a.m. flying the first leg to Kuwait and thereafter to Zurich. The plane used is an A340. It is scheduled to return to Colombo tomorrow at 10.30 a.m. Speculation was rife that the puppy dog intended for Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his wife may not now be on the flight. Senior managers at SriLankan have been warned with dire consequences if even a whisper of the puppy is released to the media.