Written by Staff Writer
17 Oct, 2019 | 7:55 pm
COLOMBO (News 1st) – Adding a new chapter to the civil aviation history in Sri Lanka, the Jaffna International Airport was declared open today (October 17).
The Jaffna International airport which was declared open as the third international airport of Sri Lanka was constructed at a cost of Rs 2.25bn. Rs 300 million of the total investment was financed by the Indian government.
As part of the first phase of the project, the first 950m of the main runway used for aircraft operations has been renovated.
The first plane from Chennai reached the Jaffna International Airport at 10:15 am this morning. The aircraft from Alliance Airlines (a subsidiary of Air India) landed at the airport with a group of India nationals.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe noted that plans for the airport were there even before the war, however it remained to mere plans. He added that however, they managed to complete the airport six months after the cabinet paper was presented.
He went on to note that the development in Jaffna was initiated in 2015 right after Maithripala Sirisena took over as president and took steps to release lands.
He added that within the five next years, he has confidence that Jaffna will regain its status as an economic centre.
He further added that minister Arjuna Ranathunga has now earned two world records. One is the 1996 world cup title. The other is the opening of an airport in such a short period.
Taranjit Singh Sandhu, High Commissioner of India to Sri Lanka noted that their projects have touched the lives of people in Sri Lanka. He added that today’s flight is another example of our commitment to continue their people-centric development partnership with Sri Lanka.
He went on to note that they have completed several people-centric projects in various fields, they are currently setting up an IT centre in Jaffna, the iconic Jaffna Cultural centre is close to completion, and they are also upgrading the harbour, after which it will be fully used as a commercial port.
He added that he is confident that the start of flights between Chennai and Jaffna will increase tourism and boost the economy in Jaffna.
Arjuna Ranatunga, Minister of Transport & Civil Aviation noted that they initially decided to upgrade the airport in three phases.
He said that for the first phase, they decided to create a system that will only facilitate the landing of aircraft that can accommodate 70 to 80 passengers. He went on to note that they did not want to spend too much as they were concerned about the return of investment as well.
He further added that it was the first time in the history of Sri Lanka that the civil aviation policy was approved by the cabinet.
He added that through this policy, they have taken steps to develop the Jaffna airport, the Batticaloa airport in the eastern province, the Bandaranaike International Airport, and the Mattala Airport as well.
During the event, public representatives expressed their views regarding the benefits of the airport to the general public.
Suren Raghavan, Governor of the Northern Province stated that this was one of the results of the attempts to develop the district. He added that following the airport it would open more avenues for the international community and would ultimately help the nation to be developed.
TNA MP Mavai Senathirajah stated that for 70 years the people of this country did not receive any solutions for their problems. He added that just like they were offered resolutions to open this airport and connect this region with the international community they requested that steps will be taken to provide political solutions to the people of this region as well.
Domestic flights at the Jaffna International Airport are due to commence from November this year.
UPFA MP Kanaka Herath shared his thoughts for the opposing faction regarding the Palali International airport.
He noted that the Palali International Airport is brought up to the operational level by carpeting the runaways by the Road Development Authority and assigning ground handling operations to an Indian company.
MP added that these were revealed by an official and clearly implies that the airport is not up to international standards. He added that the opening of the airport was expedited due to the impending presidential elections.
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