There was quite a hype after a plane made an emergency landing in Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport (M.R.I.A.). It certainly would have not garnered the level of attention it received had it not been for the labors of the incumbent Wickremesinghe government.
This incident occurred after a brilliant move by the Wickemesinghe government to provisionally convert an International Airport into a paddy storage facility. Perhaps this may very well be the World’s first ever Paddy storage facility that also happens to be an International Airport.
In an article titled “Why Mattala could not take off: Here’s the plane truth”. Namini Wijedasa of The Sunday Times writes at length about the issues and challenges plaguing Mattala. Chief among them is the runway orientation. Planes are supposed to land into headwind that is a wind blowing from directly in front, opposing forward motion. But the orientation of the Mattala Airport runway is such that aircraft are affected by crosswind. A crosswind is any wind that has a perpendicular component to the line or direction of travel or in the simplest of terms crosswind is the wind that blows across the body of an airplane horizontally in either direction. Crosswind landings take a toll on both the aircraft as well as the runway in the long run.
The article further goes on to state that aviation experts in Sri Lanka were not consulted when constructing this Airport and that a secondary runway added to the Bandaranaike International Airport would have been better as it would have helped to develop Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) as an international hub. Lack of proper hotels for food and accommodation, lack of hospitals for medical necessities and emergencies would lead one to classify that this Airport was built in the middle of nowhere. However, the argument put forth by the MR camp then was that an Airport would help develop the area and that hospitals and hotels would come up. In very simple terms they believed in a “if you build it, they will come” policy that is yet to be seen.
Mattala Airport is here to stay. It is a sunk cost; it is a done deal. One cannot simply wave a magic wand, utter some magical words and turn the investment of Mattala Airport into a second runway at BIA. So instead the focus should be to reimagine a way to use the Airport or repurpose it for a sensible purpose. Alleged genius of the strategist Ranil Wickremesinghe or as I like to put it Ranil’s Tikiri Mole (juvenile brain) needs to find purpose for the Airport other than relegating it to paddy storage facility.
They said they will put an end to the vindictive political culture of this country. They said they will restore justice and good governance. But that’s what they said and this is what they do. I remember seeing Divi Naguma lorries near Henry Pediris ground, Pettah and Town hall building in Colombo. But even “Divi Naguma” has to go. Divi Naguma is no more. Divi Naguma is now reverted back to Samurdhi (feels like the summer of 94).
Sri Lanka’s War on Terror ended at Nanthikadal in 2009, but the War on Rajapaksa(s) has just begun. It is all out hunting season for anything and everything Rajapaksa be it a Theatre, a Port, an Airport, a Highway, a Gota or a Namal. Even if it is in the best interests of Sri Lanka; everything Rajapaksa has to go.
War on Terror in Sri Lanka was not the doing of the Sri Lankan State, it was not the Sri Lankan State who chose to close down Mavil Aru anicut and deprive 20,000 civilians of water. It was the doing of separatist terrorists. Sri Lankan State was merely a reactionary force against the inhumane actions of the LTTE separatist terrorists. But the War on Rajapaksa is the doing of politicos now in power and the victims of this personal and spiteful war against Rajapaksa(s) would inevitably be the Sri Lankan public who elevated the said politicos into power to begin with.
If insecurity of such Politicians who fear and/or hate Rajapakse(s) can be cured simply by renaming the Mattala “Rajapaksa” International Airport to something without Rajapaksa so be it. So long as a billion-dollar investment is used for its intended purpose as opposed to using it to perpetually ridiculing the regime that built it.