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Sunday, 15 August 2010

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A landmark achievement

Today will go down as a red letter day in the annals of Sri Lanka with the ceremonial occasion of filling sea water in the harbour basin of the new Hambantota Port under the patronage of President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

The construction of the Hambantota Port is indeed a landmark achievement, signifying a new era of development under a united Sri Lanka. Local engineers and architects designed the new port project by carving the harbour inland, allowing 1,200 acres of land to be filled with sea water, making it the world’s largest international harbour built inland.

More importantly, the Hambantota Port, close to the international maritime route in the Indian Ocean, could attract about 20 sailing vessels per day on completion of the third stage. The new Hambantota Port is only six kilometres from the East to West and West to East international sea lane.

The first phase of the port covers four berths of 300 metres in length and a depth of 17 metres - 21 metres up to sea level and four metres of free area allowing fluctuations in water level. The harbour basin, with a 600 metre diameter, will be ceremonially filled with sea water at a ceremony to be held today.

Many opportunistic politicians scoffed at the idea when the President spoke about the envisaged mega development projects, similarly to what they did when the Security Forces were engaged in the battle against LTTE terror. Certain UNP Parliamentarians belittled our valiant soldiers, alleging that they go to Medawachchi, claiming that they are marching towards Kilinochchi.

When the President launched the Hambantota Port project two years ago, many doubting Thomases said that the project would be confined to the foundation stone stage.

They alleged that the Government was trying to gain political mileage by launching projects which they dismissed as mere day-dreams.

Having debunked all critics, President Rajapaksa found the finances needed for the project with assistance from China, which has been a true and a dear friend of Sri Lanka in its battle against terrorism as well.

Political jokers who were hankering after power and criticised the Government’s development drive ate humble pie eventually when terrorism was eradicated under the right political leadership of the Commander-in-Chief, President Rajapaksa.

The Government, under President Rajapaksa’s stewardship, is now heading towards new economic horizons, completing mega development projects.

The President, while battling against the most ruthless terror outfit spending billions of rupees on national security, did not ignore development. While waging the deadliest war against the LTTE, he embarked on many gigantic development projects such as the Southern Expressway, Moragahakanda Reservoir, Norochcholai Coal Power Plant, Upper Kotmale Hydro Power Project, Mattala International Airport, Oluvil Harbour, Kerawalapitiya Power Project and Hambantota Port project.

For the first time in history, a massive project to develop five ports, including the Hambantota Port, Oluvil Port, Colombo Port expansion, development of Galle and Trincomalee ports were launched.

The Oluvil Port which covers 1.4 kilometres will include commercial and fisheries harbours. The Oluvil Development Project was given top priority under the Eastern Reawakening program launched to expedite development activities in the Eastern region.

The Oluvil Port project, launched two years ago to give a further impetus to economic development in the Eastern region, is now on fast track. The first phase of the project will be completed before the end of this year. The total cost of the Oluvil harbour project, which will soon become a reality with financial assistance from Denmark, is expected to be around Rs. 6 billion.

The Colombo South Harbour development project was accelerated and the proposed harbour will have four terminals, each over 1,200 metres in length to accommodate three berths with provision to go down to 23 metres to accommodate deeper craft vessels in the future. The development of phase one of the Colombo South Harbour project will be implemented in two stages with the first stage estimated to cost around US$ 300 million which would be found locally.

The Galle Port will be of multipurpose value with room to be developed as a water sports venue too. This would be the only local port that could provide facilities for yachts with the International Yacht Society recognising the Galle Port as one of the world’s best attractions.

This prompted the government to convert it into the region’s first tourist harbour. In the next phase, facilities will be provided to accommodate passenger cruise ships. The project will be completed in two stages within three years.

Moreover, the government will also develop the Trincomalee Port while the Kankesanthurai harbour would be developed to international standards with Indian assistance. Following its success there would be a revolution in the shipping sector.

Sri Lanka’s second international airport too will be a reality in a couple of years. This would ease air traffic at the international airport at Katunayake. Preliminary construction work on the 3.5 kilometre runway at the Mattala International Airport, close to the Hambantota Port, is already under way.

On completion of the project in 2012, the new airport project will create 2,000 direct and 5,000 indirect employment opportunities, opening a new chapter in Southern development. These gigantic tasks have been achieved due to the dynamic political leadership of President Rajapaksa.

Opposition politicians and even a few in the Government, apart from certain moderates, wondered as to how the Government would find the tremendous finances needed to implement these mega projects.

President Rajapaksa had a far-sighted vision and a sincere desire to achieve all these economic development goals. The battle against terrorism and development went on apace and the President proved that nothing is impossible if there was a genuine willingness and devotion to achieve these goals.

Opportunistic Opposition politicians, who were critical of the President and attempted to sling mud at him to gain petty political mileage, are now dumbfounded as the President is taking the nation towards economic prosperity.

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