‘Friendship bridge’ cements Lanka ties

Mohammed Rasooldeen | Arab News
Publication Date: 
Sat, 2009-10-17 03:00

The opening of the Kinniya bridge by Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Tuesday (Oct. 20) will be an important landmark in the annals of the people of Sri Lanka’s Eastern Province.

The 396 meter-long bridge, the longest overpass in the island, was constructed with SR45 million from the Saudi government and will trigger the region’s economic and cultural development, as envisaged by the government following its defeat of terrorists on the island.

Trincomalee is one of the main cities in the Eastern Province. More than 10,000 people each day cross the Kinniya lagoon between Kinniya and Trincomalee.

The new bridge is 10 meters wide and there are two pedestrian pavements, each 1.5 meters wide. The bridge was constructed by a Chinese firm under the supervision of the Road Development Authority.

“The bridge will connect Kinniya and Trincomalee and ease transport problems ... in the Eastern Province, benefiting more than a million people in the Eastern Province as well as others who come to Trincomalee district,” said Abdul Aziz Abdul Rahman Al-Jammaz, the Saudi ambassador in Colombo.

He added that people cross the lagoon by ferry and that the trip is arduous. “We have a special place in our hearts for Sri Lankan Muslims who form eight percent of the island’s 20 million population,” he said,

This Ramadan, the Kingdom sent 120 metric tons of dates to Sri Lanka for Muslims to break their fasts. “The Kingdom is home to 550,000 Sri Lankans. They have earned a good reputation for their hard work and perseverance, and they have contributed a great deal to the nation’s development,” he said. Kinniya has a rich 400-year-old history. It has a population of more than 100,000 with 32 schools. It was known for pearl fishing and elephant hunting, and is the single largest Muslim village in the island. The local population — known for their hospitality, piety and good manners — support themselves through fishing, trading and agriculture. The village is also home to a mosque by Saudi money. Apart from thanking Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah for the bridge, the majority of Kinniya’s residents expressed their thanks to President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Trincomalee District MP and Minister of Cooperatives Najeeb A. Majeed.

“With the support of the Saudi government, our age-old sufferings have come to an end. Our future generation is going to use the new bridge for their daily work,” said Mohammed Sadikeen, a retired banker and community leader from Kinniya.

He recalled that sometimes it took hours to cross the lagoon because of the heavy passenger traffic. “The absence of a road link remained a major obstacle for the progress and development of Kinniya,” he added.

People wanting to go to the nearest hospital at night in emergencies have for years been unable to do so, as the ferries do not operate by night. Sri Lanka Consul General in Jeddah Abdul Lateef Mohamed Lafeer, who is from Kinniya, said the entire Sri Lankan nation is grateful to the Kingdom for funding a project that will benefit over a million people.

“This new development will pave the way for the social, cultural and economic development of the Trincomalee district,” he said, adding that he was aware of the difficulties people have faced.

Nimal Chandrasiri, director of the Kinniya Bridge Project and highway engineer, said that villagers are overjoyed that the bridge is to open.

Eng. Abdullah Al-Shedokhi, project officer of the Saudi Fund For Development, (SFD), said that this is the largest Saudi project in Sri Lanka. The Kingdom is currently building a 2.25 billion rupee worth Epilepsy and Diagnosis Hospital in Colombo, which will be the first of its kind in Sri Lanka.

The SFD has previously funded several health projects and sewage and water projects on the island.

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