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Sunday, 17 March 2013





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Government Gazette

A landmark in country’s aviation history

History will be created when President Mahinda Rajapaksa opens the newly constructed Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport in Hambantota tomorrow. Undoubtedly, this will be another significant milestone in Sri Lanka’s ambitious march towards its goal of becoming the Wonder of Asia. At the time the Security Forces did their utmost to protect the only international airport at Katunayake from LTTE terror attacks, barely anybody even in their wildest dreams guessed that the country would before long get another international airport.

President Rajapaksa’s political sagacity and vision helped the country to score another first with the end of terrorism. The dawn of peace has opened new horizons for Sri Lankans and the Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport (MRIA) is one of the many mega development projects completed after President Rajapaksa took office in November 2005.

These gigantic achievements will be written in letters of gold in Sri Lanka’s chequered history. While expanding operations of the Colombo harbour for the first time since independence, a new international port was constructed in Hambantota. The Magampura Rajapaksa Harbour is just a 17-minute drive from the new MRIA, thereby commissioning a new sea-air transportation hub in the Southern Province.

President Rajapaksa became the Head of State at a crucial time when the nation faced an uncertain future. Thousands of people fell victim to LTTE terror and the country’s economy was on the verge of near collapse. The Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) at Katunayake, the only international airport came under attack by LTTE terrorists on three occasions, cutting Sri Lanka off from the international aviation map. This was indeed a severe blow to the country’s travel and tourism industry.

From the day the LTTE was crushed militarily almost four years ago, the country has achieved many milestones in every sector. While providing people in the North and the East a new lease of life with speedy resettlement and livelihood, the UPFA Government, led by President Rajapaksa, has embarked on an ambitious development drive. The Mahinda Chinthana has set in motion mega development projects ranging from the construction of super highways to ports, mega reservoirs to hydro power generation projects, express rail tracks to ports, ultra modern sports stadia to coal power projects.

A few years ago, Mattala was a little-known remote village in the Hambantota district. Even the road network was in a deplorable state, let alone air travel. Nevertheless, this hamlet will now become the latest destination on the international aviation map, opening ample opportunities not only for the people in the area, but also for all Sri Lankans.

Those who scoffed at the idea of constructing another international airport a few years ago will now have to eat humble pie with the MRIA launching operations tomorrow. Although sceptics said it would be a daunting task to find huge funds to construct a new airport, the President made it a reality.

It is a crying shame that some Opposition politicians fail to see these positive developments beyond their nose and concoct negative stories to mislead the public. They should, at least now, desist from descending to such a low level to gain petty political mileage. The UNP, which brags about its so-called achievements, was unable to provide even a solitary job in the public sector when Ranil Wickremesinghe was the Prime Minister.

On the other hand, the JVP is unable to put a brake on its fast eroding vote base. They never, for a moment, guessed that mega development projects of this magnitude would see the light of day in the Southern Province, where they had their highest vote base. The masses could no longer be fooled by the UNP and JVP’s canards and the gloomy picture projected by them on investments.

It is regretted that the UNP’s so-called economic pundits don’t seem to realise that an investment on an international airport would be a boon to the country. It is an investment for the future and the masses would benefit in the long run. The MRIA could facilitate even the most modern aircraft in the world such as the Airbus A380, which the BIA runway cannot accommodate.

The 3,500m Cord 4F type runway at the MRIA has a width of 75m with two taxiways - a 360m length code F type with a width of 60m and a 550m code C type with a width of 25m. The MRIA is equipped with two modern aero bridges, which directly links an aircraft to the main arrival terminal, including an F code F type which could facilitate an Airbus A380.

The Opposition never expected the Government to invest on such mega development projects while spending a colossal sum of money for the battle against terrorism from 2006 to 2009. The economy was managed well even during the height of the economic recession that hit Asia and Europe. Hence, Sri Lanka achieved all these victories with the steady economic growth.

A myriad new job opportunities in various fields would be created for people in the area with Hambantota emerging as a commercial hub. The MRIA and the Southern city of Hambantota will be developed as a sea-air transportation hub.

Opposition politicians who were pessimistic about the Mattala airport project never dreamt that it would launch international flights. Four international airlines have already unveiled their international schedules from Mattala tomorrow while several other international airlines are now holding discussions for landing rights at Mattala. Global players such as Emirates and Qatar Airways could soon pick Mattala as their latest destination. Apart from regular SriLankan Airlines and Mihin Lanka flights, Air Arabia and China Eastern Airlines will also operate flights to Mattala.

China Eastern Airlines will fly from Shanghai to the BIA via Mattala twice a week - on Mondays and Saturdays while the local budget airline will operate daily flights to Buddha Gaya.

The national carrier, SriLankan Airlines will operate three flights a week to Riyadh from Mattala. There would be another flight from the BIA to Beijing via Mattala operated by China Eastern Airlines and to Male from Katunayake via Mattala by SriLankan Airlines while Mihin Lanka will fly to Buddha Gaya via Mattala on Saturdays and Sundays.

Apart from passenger transportation, the MRIA would generate considerable foreign exchange by servicing international aircraft, supplying aviation fuel and cargo transportation. It would ease congestion at the BIA and assist exporters in the Southern Province and the adjoining Uva, Sabaragamuwa and the Eastern Provinces to reduce the lead time.

This would also help cut down costs in transporting export products all the way to Colombo.

The MRIA’s open skies policy without any binding obligations or regulations, would certainly attract more international airlines in the future, thereby avoiding congestion at the BIA. The MRIA will also be promoted as an eco-friendly international airport. Whilst utilising international expertise and the latest techniques, the MRIA has preserved the nation’s identity in its architecture.

More importantly, a land area of 2,000 ha. have been reserved for the MRIA, though 800 ha. have been used for stage one. Hence, there is plenty of land in the vicinity as the MRIA makes its mark and becomes one of the most sought-after airports in the world.

Mattala’s close proximity to the Yala sanctuary would woo international travellers on transit in Mattala for a memorable safari in one of the most beautiful natural parks in the world. A botanical garden and an IT park would also be set up, adding more value to the nation’s second international airport.

The masses will not be misled by the Opposition’s claims that the MRIA opening would curtail BIA operations. The Mattala airport will initially target one million passengers per year and it would be increased in the near future. Simultaneously, the BIA’s passenger capacity too will be doubled in the next five years.

With the launch of the MRIA, we remember with profound gratitude the untiring efforts of Airport and Aviation Services Chairman, Prasanna Wickremesuriya who spared no pains to make Sri Lanka’s dream of a second international airport a reality. His sole objective is to promote Mattala as a transshipment hub that links the Hambantota Magampura harbour and a bio-diversity theme park.

Had it not been for President Rajapaksa’s dynamic vision, these gigantic tasks would have been only a distant dream.



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