India delays project to modernize key Sri Lankan airport

India is waiting for the political climate to settle to redesign Sri Lanka’s Palay Airport. (Photo/Supplied)
Updated 06 January 2019

India delays project to modernize key Sri Lankan airport

  • India has yet to green light the implementation for the proposed redesign of Palaly Airport

COLOMBO: An India-led project to modernize a northern Sri Lankan airport has been delayed because of political instability, according to media reports citing an unnamed aviation official.

India’s Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has yet to give the green light for the Airport Authority of India (AAI) to press ahead with its proposed redesign of Palaly Airport as it is waiting for the political climate to settle, the reports said.

Sri Lanka was thrown into turmoil last October, when President Maithripala Sirisena sacked Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and reinstated his predecessor Mahinda Rajapaksa.

The power grab triggered international condemnation, and even clashes in Parliament, as the government ground to a halt.

Rajapaksa stood down last month and Wickremesinghe was reinstated.

Jayant Sinha, India’s minister of state for aviation, told Parliament earlier this week that the AAI had signed an agreement with the MEA to prepare a detailed project report for developing airports in Kalay in Myanmar and Palaly in Sri Lanka. 

The go-ahead had been given for the Myanmar project but not the Sri Lankan one, he said.

“The delay in getting the MEA nod is due to the current political climate in Sri Lanka,” the unnamed AAI official was reported as saying. “If the relationship between both countries, which is still sort of fragile, gets stronger in the coming months we will definitely get a go-ahead to develop the airport.” 

The AAI signed the agreement for Palaly Airport last September, before the Sri Lankan crisis kicked off.

Mano Ganesan, a Sri Lankan government minister, said while there was a conducive political climate for foreign investment on the island there were factions for and against the airport project being carried out by India.

“This has to be sorted out first,” he told Arab News.

Sri Lankan politician and western province governor Azath Salley said it was not a question of India pointing a finger at the island’s political instability, but mixed feelings in the government about whether to accept or reject India’s offer to modernize the airport. 

China has been investing heavily in Sri Lanka, developing infrastructure, and India has been eyeing up opportunities in response.


Jakarta literary festival aims to give a voice to the voiceless

Updated 4 min 3 sec ago

Jakarta literary festival aims to give a voice to the voiceless

  • The four-day festival features authors from the Middle East and Africa
  • The festival unites international authors with dozens of fellow writers from Indonesia

JAKARTA: The inaugural Jakarta International Literary Festival commenced on Tuesday evening with a focus on bringing together writers and literary works from the Global South. 

Festival Director Yusi Avianto Pareanom said that the organizer, the Literary Committee of the Jakarta Arts Council, wanted to emphasize the importance of creating balance in a discourse that has been dominated by work from the Global North.

The four-day festival features authors from the Middle East and Africa, such as Legodle Seganabeng from Botswana, Adania Shibli from Palestine, Bejan Matur from Turkey, Zainab Priya Dala from South Africa, Shenaz Patel from Mauritius, Momtaza Mehri from Somalia and many authors from Southeast Asian countries.

The festival unites international authors with dozens of fellow writers from Indonesia at the Taman Ismail Marzuki arts and cultural center in Jakarta between Aug. 20 and 24.  

“Our theme ‘Fence’ highlights that we want to unlock and deconstruct the barriers that separate us, so that these writers can get to know each other,” Yusi told Arab News. 

“From authors like Adania Shibli, we can enrich our knowledge about Palestine and its literary scene. There are plenty of ways to portray a situation. Through Shibli, we can get understand Palestine through its literary side.

“By featuring Bejan Matur, we know that there is another prominent Turk author apart from the world-renowned Orhan Pamuk,” he added. 

Shibli delivered her keynote speech titled “I am not to speak my language” at the opening of the festival, in which she described how the Israeli occupation has silenced Arabic-speaking Palestinians.

“The phenomenon of Palestinians taking refuge in silence whenever they are around Hebrew speakers in Palestine or Israel is not unfamiliar,” Shibli said.

She added that decades of military occupation had made speaking in Arabic a fraught experience. 

“Colonialism, however, does not only show contempt toward the colonized, their history and their culture by silencing them, but also toward their language,” she said.  

Shibli described how the nationality law, which the Israeli government passed in July 2018, strips Arabic of its designation as an official language and downgrades it to a special status. 

“Arabic was downgraded from a language into a threat a long time ago,” she added. 

Yusi said that what Shibli described in her speech is relevant to similar situations in other countries, including Indonesia. 

Multilingual Indonesia has more than 700 actively spoken local dialects, with 652 of them verified by the Ministry of Education and Culture. Many of the remaining dialects are in danger of dying out due to diminishing speakers, especially among the younger generation.