Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport : A catalyst for development | Sunday Observer

Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport : A catalyst for development

26 January, 2020

The Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport was set up under the Mahinda Chintana concept by the then Mahinda Rajapaksa regime. And it was President Mahinda Rajapaksa who gave leadership to this work which is a catalyst for the development of the entire country.

There was a crying need for a second international airport for decades but it was side stepped and politically neglected by successive regimes.

The new airport was not set up in isolation. It is being supported by an international sea port, an international conference hall and an international play ground with a grand revolutionary change in the political situation in Sri Lanka. The opening of the international airport at Mattala marked the beginning of a new era in the country. In a developed country such as Japan, one could see more than a thousand sea ports, the reason for it being the geographical location of the country. This airport at Mattala is an asset and a legacy for the country.

This airport was built on the principle that the leaders of today should think prudently. The people of Sri Lanka could reap many benefits from a project of this nature, and the younger generation of this country would benefit the most.

At a time when the country is moving towards a new era in development, this international airport would be a money spinner for the regime of Gotabaya Rajapaksa and the people as well. This milestone would also provide the backbone for developing the tourism industry, and we need a second international airport with the expansion of the tourism industry.

During the period of the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime, several foreign airlines in Arabia that fly to Dubai flew to and fro from the Mattala airport to different destinations. The Mahinda Rajapaksa International airport is the only airport with a strip that could land the world’s biggest air craft known as A 380.

The motive behind the setting up of the MRIA was to get some of the flights overflying Sri Lanka. Although Sri Lankan airlines joined hands with the airline LUFTHANSA to make Mattala airport the maintenance centre it was not possible with the change of government then.

This air port will make a major contribution to the country’s well being focusing on the neglected areas in the deep south, giving a long awaited boost to international trade, tourism, exports and agriculture. It will also create a large number of new employment opportunities for those in the Southern and Uva provinces.

Combined with the Hambantota international sea port this new international airport will be an important catalyst for the expansion of economic activity. This is also a great new stride ahead for both Hambantota and Sri Lanka bringing further international links to the Southern region.

This air port was commissioned on March 18, 2013, and with the setting up of the new Mattala airport. Mattala village which was a thick jungle three years ago joined hands with modern economic activity through the Rajapaksa international airport.

This airport was built with local design and construction skills and its successful completion was an important milestone in the achievement of the country’s engineering sphere and goes on record as the first Sri Lankan built international airport.

The district of Hambantota which had been long deprived of the overall benefits of national development was undergoing major transformation under the then Mahinda Rajapaksa regime. The Greater Hambantota Development Plan envisaged the establishment of a commercial centre for the Southern region and these include plans for the establishment of administrative complexes, a sea port and an airport among other things.

This coincided with the establishment of a new second international airport. The task of implementing the construction work and the operation of the airport was entrusted to the air port and aviation services.

This historic project was launched in 2009 and it was the then President Mahinda Rajapaksa who broke the ground to commence construction work accompanied by the then Speaker Chamal Rajapaksthe, Minister Mahinda Amaraweera and parliamentarian Namal Rajapaksa.

The completion of the first phase took three years and four months. In the quest to make the new airport capable of catering to ultra high capacity modern aircraft, the air bus 380 was chosen as the design aircraft. This meant that all infrastructure constructed eventually would be of adequate capacity to match the operational parameters of the air craft according to an aviation engineer connected with the construction of the airport, who wished to remain anonymous.

The Hambantota District is a region blessed with wildlife resources and it is where the Yala and Bundala National Parks are located. Hambantota has beautiful sandy beaches with sunshine all the year round. The Colombo-Matara Expressway also known as the Southern Expressway and which covers a length of 126 kilometres has connected the city of Colombo with Matara.

The commuters can travel to Colombo from Matara in one and a half hours. The new Southern Highway has been completed from Barawakubuka via Hambatota to Mattala. This highway will be connected with the Matara highway soon under the present regime led by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, and the construct ion of this stretch of highway is progressing steadily.

Johnston Fernando, the Minster of Highways, who made a tour of inspection of this stretch of highway, said that it has not been constructed according to the required standards. There are many shortcomings in this new Southern highway and it was constructed in a mighty hurry by the previous regime during the presidential election to gain the votes of the Southerners. Remedial measures should be adopted by the Minister of the present regime to make it a fully fledged Southern highway.

Apart from the Mattala International airport, the Matara-Beliatta railway inaugurated by the previous regime has proved to be a boon to commuters.