By Sujeeva Nivunhella in London
A group of Lankan expatriates in the United Kingdom have raised issue over the dual role played by the incumbent Sri Lankan Higher Commissioner to London as he continues to serve as chairman of a key mercantile firm, which they asserted, was "in violation of the Government Establishment Code (GEC)".
At a meeting held in London last week, the concerned group pointed out that according to GEC (Chapter XXX titled ‘Rights of Government over its offices’: Sections 1:1 and 1:2), "a government official cannot engage in any other business".
They quoted the relevant sections: "The government has a total claim to the time, knowledge, talents and skills of its officers and their salary is fixed on the assumption, unless specifically provided for otherwise. No officer may take part in the affairs of any commercial or business undertaking or of any firm carrying on any description of professional work".
One of the key questions asked from prospective candidates under ‘Future Employment Relationships’ is – "will you sever all connections with your present employers, business firms, business associations or business organizations if your proposed appointment is confirmed?", they pointed out.
The official website of Mackwoods Group of Companies lists Dr. Chris Nonis as its Chairman, which is in violation of the GEC as he serves as Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner to London, they said
They also quoted London’s ‘Diplomat Magazine’ (December2011/January 2012), which inter alia, stated, "Dr. Chris Nonis is also an accomplished businessman, having in 2005 succeeded his mother, Sriyani, as Chair of the family business, Mackwoods, a Sri Lankan company established in 1841 which nowadays employs approximately 8,500 people across a range of industries including healthcare, agribusiness and plantations, infrastructure development, energy, tourism and financial services, including stockbroking and fund management"."It has been proven beyond doubt that Nonis continues to serve as the chairman of Mackwoods, which is unacceptable in terms of the law", the apolitical group, which met at the Lihiniya Restaurant in London, said voicing deep concern over the development.
Repeated attempts by the Sunday Island to contact Nonis for comment proved futile as he generally doesn’t respond to calls from the media. Officials at the mission also declined comment saying "Ask the High Commissioner".
A senior External Affairs Ministry official in Colombo said yesterday that this is a matter for the Minister to respond to.
The question has arisen on whether this would apply to Secretaries of Ministries as well as Dhammika Perera, the Secretary to the Transport Ministry, holds office in several companies owned/influenced by him.