Business

President rejects BOI Chairman and others’ resignations

  • Sends individuals letters to all who resigned
  • Resignees include Chairman, DG, Directors
  • Expresses ‘highest’ confidence in Chairman’s capabilities

BY Shenal Fernando

The Presidential Secretariat has, through letters signed by the Secretary to the President Dr. P.B. Jayasundara, informed all Board of Investment (BOI) members who resigned last week that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has refused to accept their resignations, The Morning Business learns.

The letters, dated 2 December 2021 and as seen by us, had been served to the BOI Chairman, Director General (DG), and three Directors who had resigned from their posts last Thursday (2) via letters sent to the Presidential Secretariat.

These letters sent to each of the resigned BOI members had informed them that the President had refused to accept their resignation letters and wished for them to continue their services as Board Members of the BOI. It further stated that the President had the highest confidence in their ability to effectively contribute in promoting foreign investments in the best interests of the country and to help with post-Covid recovery.

This mass resignation comes as a result of BOI staff protests against a recent decision to hire private sector professionals for a new unit as well as the recent parliamentary Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) summoning which inquired into the BOI recruiting a number of officials at very high salary levels and misleading the Cabinet.

The resignation of BOI Chairman Sanjaya Mohottala and Board Members Dr. Harsha Subasinghe, Dr. Harsha Cabral, and Sanjay Kulatunga were reported first, followed by reports of the resignation of BOI DG Pasan Wanigasekara.

Issuing a statement about the resignations, the BOI blamed both internal and external factions that opposed necessary transformations happening within the BOI. The statement mentioned that these factions either failed or refused to comprehend the competitive realities of the international promotion landscape, in which Sri Lanka needs to compete if it is to attract foreign direct investments (FDIs) at the scale the country needs.

“Unfortunately, the efforts of the leadership to achieve this urgently required transformation were strongly and continuously resisted by isolated factions both within and outside the organisation who have put their self-interest over the public. The Chairman, Members of the Board of Directors, and Director General assumed office with the singular intent of supporting the President’s vision to double Sri Lanka’s GDP in this decade. In line with this, the BOI’s role in transforming the country into a preferred investment destination by creating a compelling investment climate arose through the conceptualisation and execution of strategic and proactive investment promotions,” the BOI stated.

However, despite the unfortunate developments, the BOI stated that its leadership remains confident about the significant potential their reform programme can provide to support Sri Lanka’s economic progress in the future, if it is continued to its natural culmination.

In response to this mass resignation, COPE Chairman Prof. Charitha Herath stated that the committee never asked anybody to resign, and instead only did their oversight summons for the BOI. He explained that during the summons, COPE members inquired about all the points made in the Auditor General’s report, which was regarding both the previous and current Governments’ periods.

The COPE Chairman further stated that regardless of whose time it was, the incumbent officers have to answer and that there were no issues with their summons.

“From the COPE’s point of view, we didn’t ask anybody to resign or even recommend any resignations. What we did was recommend the BOI to fulfill some of the official requirements for our recommendations. Our members gave varying recommendations based on the Auditor General’s report,” Prof. Herath explained.