Upgrading Palaly airport: SLAF given task



by Shamindra Ferdinando

Amidst Joint Opposition accusations that the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government was planning to hand over the strategic Palaly airfield to India, Transport and Civil Aviation Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva yesterday said that the Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) would undertake a feasibility study for developing the airport.

Addressing the media at the SLFP office on T.B. Jayah Mawatha, flanked by Ports and Shipping Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe and SLFP General Secretary Rohana Lakshman Piyadasa, Senior SLFP Vice President de Silva said required funding amounting to Rs 1.2 bn would be made available by the government.

Minister de Silva said that Indian proposal in this regard was rejected to pave the way for the SLAF to take over the assignment.

According to the SLFPer, once completed Palaly runway would be able to accommodate A 320 aircraft.

Earlier, the media reported three ministries-Transport and Civil Aviation, Policy Planning and Economic Development and Tourism would jointly seek cabinet approval to transform Palaly airport to the level of a regional airport capable of operating flights to South India. Recently, a three-member Indian aviation delegation visited Palaly.

Referring to post-war projects undertaken by the SLAF, Minister de Silva said it had the capacity to undertake the Palaly project.

Palaly is the nerve centre of military operations in the Jaffna peninsula during the conflict. The government brought the Jaffna peninsula under its control in early 1996. The war was brought to a successful conclusion in May 2009.

When The Island sought clarification from SLAF spokesman Group Captain Gihan Seneviratne as regards the status of the feasibility study and the upgrading of the runaway and whether it would be the largest such project undertaken by the SLAF, he said: "The requirement has been forwarded by the State and considering the national need the SLAF is carrying out the feasibility study. The modalities are yet to be worked out. The scale of the project cannot be commented on until the modalities have been finalized."

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