Realising yet another development goal, President Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday dedicated the $ 330 million Mattala International Airport to the high flyers of the future Sri Lanka, whilst emphasising that the latest destination in global aviation map will be a catalyst for socioeconomic prosperity.
The ceremonial opening of the Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport (MRIA) was marked by the arrival of a special SriLankan Airlines Airbus A340-300 aircraft named City of Magam – Ruhunupura at around 11 a.m., followed by three scheduled commercial services, a SriLankan flight from Dubai, Air Arabia’s flight from Abu Dhabi and a flydubai aeroplane.
The two Middle Eastern carriers will respectively operate twice weekly and thrice weekly flights to MRIA, which has a capacity to handle one million passengers, two aero bridges and 10 parking bays for aircraft including the super jumbo Airbus A380.
“Those who never expected an airport to be constructed in an area such as this now see their dreams come true. We will have critics. The future generation will answer them,” President Mahinda Rajapaksa said, adding: “Just as the Sri Lankan heroes who carried out dedicated work undergoing great difficulty to build this airport, my own is to see our children flying above us. What we all seek is to see our children rise above us in their lives. My dear daughters and sons, we did all this to achieve that goal. I trust you will make full use of this.” The President also said that as every aircraft lands at MRIA, so will the socioeconomic development in the area and across Sri Lanka. “With every take off of an aircraft, Sri Lanka’s value will also soar,” he added.
The President also said through the ‘Mahinda Chinthana – Forward Vision’ the Government announced that Sri Lanka would be made a naval, energy, commercial and knowledge hub as well as an aviation hub to make Sri Lanka the ‘Wonder of Asia’. “Accordingly, we have taken the correct path,” he emphasised.
Amidst criticism on the project from the Opposition, President Rajapaksa also defended borrowing funds from friendly countries to build much-needed infrastructure.
“It is not possible to build internationally important development projects such as this solely from internal revenue. It is true that we launch most development projects from the revenue of our own country, but we need international assistance too. Just as the Government of China gave the port, it also assisted in building this beautiful airport,” Rajapaksa said at the ceremony, at which Vice Chairman of China’s People’s Consultative Conference was present as a special guest.
“We are not borrowing money to eat food or squander but for development that will bring huge benefits in the future for the people,” the President said, adding that the Government was aggressively expanding socioeconomic infrastructure with new ports, expressways, power plants and irrigation facilities.
“We have to carry out major development on our land, sea, and in our skies. The whole world should be brought closer to Sri Lanka. The victories of the people of the world could be made even greater in Sri Lanka,” the President added.