- India will control 70% while SL would have 30%
- Railway lines and highway to be extended to MRIA
- Minister assures no threat to national security
By Skandha Gunasekara
The Government will enter into a 40-year joint venture with India to salvage the loss-incurring Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport (MRIA), Parliament was told yesterday.
Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation Nimal Siripala De Silva, taking part in yesterday’s adjournment debate on the fate of the MRIA, asserted that there was no move to sell the Airport.
“The Mattala Airport has been incurring heavy losses since its inception. Its accumulated loss since it was opened in 2013 is Rs. 20 billion. We need to revitalise this dying Airport, but we cannot do it alone. We need investors. In 2016, I presented a Cabinet paper to this effect to seek international investors to revive the Airport. However, we didn’t receive any favourable response. Then, India offered to help us. So, we are now in discussion with India to enter into a joint venture to revive the MRIA,” the Minister said.
The Minister said that India would most likely control 70% while the Government would control 30%.
“India will control 70% of MRIA. We are still in discussion regarding the conditions of the joint venture. We still need to decide on matters such as future investments.”
Dismissing opposition claims that the deal may result in a threat to national security, the Minister said that India would have no say in security matters.
“All security matters will be dealt by Sri Lanka. Even the air traffic controller will be under us,” he said, adding that 70% of losses incurred by the Airport would be borne by India through the joint venture.
In addition, the Minister noted that plans were underway to extend both the railway lines and the highway up to MRIA.
“Once the railway lines and the highway are connected to the Airport, both tourism and trade can be increased,” Minister De Silva said.
The adjournment motion was submitted by Joint Opposition MP Kanaka Herath.
MP Herath, opening the debate, charged that the Government was planning to sell MRIA to India.
“If we sell this Airport, it will be detrimental to our country. We shouldn’t be selling our national assets. Plus, selling it to India will be a threat to our national security,” MP Herath said.