40 years on, Chennai-Jaffna flight restarts


JAFFNA: After redeveloping Jaffna International Airport, Sri Lanka is looking at further collaboration with India, especially south India, to develop the northern province.
Sri Lanka President M Sirisena inaugurated the airport, which was redeveloped at Rs 1,950 million (Sri Lankan rupee) of which India funded Rs 300 million (Sri Lankan rupee). An Alliance Air flight from Chennai touched down to mark the commencing of commercial operations at the airport after a gap of 40 years following the LTTE-led civil war in the island nation.
At the inauguration Sri Lanka PM Ranil Wickremesinghe said that India-Sri Lanka collaboration has potential for economic development of the Jaffna region. “India has shown willingness to develop Jaffna and funds were given. India has invested Sri Lankan Rs 300 million to develop Jaffna airport. Fastest growing region in Indian Ocean will be South Asia. We should settle all issues by internal discussions and should not go to war that will lead to disappearance of South Asian miracle.”
Northern province governor Suren Raghavan said the development of Jaffna airport was a step to improve an area that was in tatters once. Hinting about the significance of Alliance Air flight landing at the airport on its day of inauguration, he said, “This is not a mere opening of an airport but to rebuild relations with international destinations. Now, it is easy to go to Chennai than to go to Colombo and then fly to Chennai.”
However, he pointed out the need to hand over land to around 2,000 families staying near Jaffna airport. “They are still like refugees and are yet to get their land back.”
High commissioner of India to Sri Lanka Taranjit Singh Sandhu said that bilateral relations between India and Sri Lanka have now truly touched the sky! “The inaugural flight was yet another example of India’s commitment to continue with peopleoriented development projects in Sri Lanka. It was also a reflection of the shared commitment to further strengthen people-to-people ties between India and Sri Lanka which lies at the heart of the bilateral relationship.”
(This correspondent was in Jaffna at the invitation of Alliance Air)


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