COLOMBO: An anti-corruption watchdog yesterday criticised the appointment of Sri Lanka’s navy chief as head of the country’s shipping company, calling it a further sign of the military’s growing influence.
Vice Admiral Jayanath Colombage took over as chairman of the state-run Ceylon Shipping Corporation (CSC) on Tuesday which he will run along with the navy, the navy said. “With his vast knowledge and professional expertise, his contribution to the new portfolio will be of immense importance... for Sri Lanka to be the ‘wonder of Asia’”, it said.
Transparency International criticised the appointment as a conflict of interest, and said it reflected the military’s growing involvement in business. “There is a clear message in this appointment. That is, the government wants to expand the defence ministry’s authority into civilian areas that are coming under other ministries,” the watchdog’s chief in Sri Lanka, J C Weliamuna said.
The navy carries out some policing functions in Sri Lankan waters, where the CSC competes with other companies to run commercial maritime services, posing a conflict of interest, he said.
“As head of the navy, he would have access to navy intelligence that would impact commercial shipping operations,” Weliamuna said. “If they want him so badly, then ask him to quit the navy and take up the civilian job, but he can’t have both.”