Beam me up, Mattala!

Friday, 22 March 2013 00:01 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Mattala is just a 75km dubiety. The million dollar question bewitching islanders lies elsewhere and is anyone’s guess. What do you reckon it is? Go ahead, drop me a line; I’ll spill the beans soon.

As for the new airport, greens and blues both promised us one in their election manifesto. The Chief Opponent fancied Wellawaya. Rajapaksa got the nod instead and cobbled it up, just as Wickremesinghe pledged, a mere 75 kms south of Wellawaya. I guess it should put an end to the face-off. It isn’t the end of runway for the chief who still hankers after the idea of his name too, on something. With the debate put to rest, I joined the junket, grabbing the last available seat on the Presidential flight to Mattala.

Good morning, ladies, gentlemen and others; this is your Vice Captain speaking (Captain was busy reading the gossip in Business Class). We’ll be taking off shortly to Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport. Flight attendants will not demonstrate safety procedures as they will be busy preparing for the landing. We hope you’ll have time to enjoy the flight.

Usually an Airbus A340 takes about 23-30 minutes to reach cruising altitude of about 35,000ft but who says you need to climb so high, especially when you can see your kith and kin waving excitedly on the ground.

I wanted to buy some fresh buffalo curd from Tissamaharama but the Pilot was apologetic that the new fly-through was not yet open. As we approached Mattala I could see elephants roaming in Uda Walawe, surfers in Arugam Bay and tea pluckers in Haputale. “May Day, May Day,” I raised the alarm, just to see the crowd response. A Presidential aide said it was still March. The Pres seemed unfettered. An old gentleman seated across the aisle from the Pres started to recite a gatha.

Did you know why ships and aircraft use May Day as their code sign for help? It derives from the French word m’aidez meaning ‘help me’. I don’t understand these English wordsmiths; why speak in tongues when you can say it in English?

As we taxied, a fire drill was in full swing and not just one fire truck but two, probably manned by red brothers, trained their water cannons at the aircraft. Thankfully, nothing could put a wet blanket on such a happy day. We all wished our new airport a million happy landings. Later on, I was pleasantly surprised to see a commercial running on CNN inviting the world to Mattala. Please put the whole paradise on international television, like the Malaysians and Thais do, so we can actually hope for five million landings.

Emmi, a grad student from Finland, offered me a taste of her bailiwick. Inside what looked like a matchbox was swarthy, tiny diamond-shaped candy. Her kittenish comportment prepped me for the dole about to unleash. Apteekin Salmiakki is a hard candy, first manufactured back in 1950s as a cough remedy. Fins loved it so much they just don’t leave home without it. She’s Finnish(ed), alright!

Starlet Geetha Kumarasinghe called. She was lucidly bummed out. She asked if I have any problem with her lips and why men can’t just leave them alone. She was temperately furious about Chandima Weerackody running off at the mouth, all over lipstick. Oh well, boys will always be boys!

Tomorrow is Earth Hour. Remember, lights off from 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. A small click for one man, woman or child, but a giant leap for mankind! It’s for Mother Earth. I think you’d do it!

(Dinesh Watawana is a former foreign correspondent and military analyst. He is a brand consultant and heads The 7th Frontier, an integrated communications agency which masterminded the globally-acclaimed eco tourism hotspot KumbukRiver. Email him at