Colombo rethinks Chinese project issue

Updated 27 February 2015

Colombo rethinks Chinese project issue

BEIJING: Sri Lanka will not make any decision on Chinese projects it is reviewing until it consults China, Sri Lanka’s foreign minister said on Friday, pledging that his new government would welcome Chinese investors.
Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena has unnerved China with his re-examination of certain projects that China has invested in, including a $1.5 billion “port city” project in Colombo.
India, which lost out to China in infrastructure development on the Indian Ocean island, was in particular worried about the security threat posed by Chinese ownership of land, aggravated by the docking of Chinese submarines in Colombo last year.
Last week, Sri Lanka said it would reconsider the outright transfer of a parcel of land to China under the port city deal signed by the previous government, amid concern it could be used for by the Chinese navy.
Speaking in Beijing after meeting his Chinese counterpart, Sri Lanka Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera said he did not discuss the port issue directly, and the government was not only looking into Chinese projects.
“Anything relating to Chinese investment will be shared and discussed with the government of China before we take any final decision,” Samaraweera told a news conference, citing what he told his Chinese counterpart.
Sri Lanka will always welcome Chinese investment and it would now be an even safer place in which to invest, he said.
“We are trying to ensure that there is a level playing field for all investors and a conducive environment for investment based on the restoration of the rule of law, democracy, good governance and transparency,” Samaraweera said.
“All proposals in future will be considered totally on merit.”
Samaraweera is in China to prepared for an expected visit by Sirisena next month.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said China remained a good partner of Sri Lanka.
“China is willing to continue being a trustworthy and reliable development partner ... and will also keep doing its best to provide assistance for Sri Lanka’s social and economic development,” Wang said.
India had grown increasingly wary of former president Mahinda Rajapaksa’s pursuit of closer ties with China, which became a key supporter of the island’s economy after its 26-year-civil war ended in 2009.
China has built a seaport and airport in the south of the country, raising fears it is seeking influence in a country with which India has traditionally had deep ties.
India’s concern grew after the Rajapaksa government allowed the Chinese submarines to dock.


Sri Lanka turns former military air base into third international airport

Updated 18 October 2019

Sri Lanka turns former military air base into third international airport

  • President Sirisena termed the opening of Palaly Airport for commercial flights “a significant landmark of the development program commenced after the conclusion of the conflict.”

COLOMBO: The Palaly Airport, a former military air base, has been turned into Jaffna International Airport, the third gateway to the island.

The new airport was inaugurated by the island’s President, Maithripala Sirisena, while Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and his Cabinet ministers also witnessed the ceremony.

The refurbished airport, costing $13.8 million, has a 1,400-meter long runway to facilitate ATR 72 aircraft, which can carry 70 passengers. It will later be expanded to 3,500 meters to handle large passenger aircraft such as the Airbus A320 and A321.

Located approximately 16 km north of Jaffna, Palaly was a Sri Lanka Air Force base and a domestic airport. The airport was built by the British Royal Air Force during the WWII.

After independence, Palaly Airport was used as the second international airport of the country for flights to southern India before the civil war began, almost 40 years ago.

President Sirisena termed the opening of Palaly Airport for commercial flights “a significant landmark of the development program commenced after the conclusion of the conflict.”

Prime Minister Wickremesinghe said the upgraded Jaffna International Airport marked a “turning point” in Sri Lankan aviation, which would be “an asset for the entire nation.”

“The airport will deploy regional airliners and be elevated to an Asian travel destination,” the premier said.

“The airport, which is expected to accommodate direct flights between Sri Lanka and India, will contribute toward promoting the tourism industry in the north. This will play an important role in the economic growth and overall development of the country,” he added.  

The service will be made available first for Indian destinations, and later for flights to Australia, China, Japan, the Middle East and some European cities.                                                      

Transport and Civil Aviation Minister Arjuna Ranatunga said Palaly airport was developed into Jaffna International Airport in a very short period of time.

“We were able to overcome the challenge successfully due to the sincere assistance we received from all institutes and stakeholders contributed to the development,” he said.

The minister said that in addition to Colombo and Jaffna international airports, three more airports in Sri Lanka will be upgraded to international airports, such as Ratmalana and Batticaloa.

“The opening of Jaffna airport for regional scheduled commercial passenger operations will undoubtedly enhance the quality of life of people in the area, with improved connectivity and accessibility that the airport brings to the region. It would also help reduce the current congestion at Bandaranaike International Airport and also eliminate the difficulties of the people in the north have in coming to Colombo Airport,” said H. M. C.Nimalsiri, director general of civil aviation.