Opposition to protest airport deal

Sri Lanka’s main opposition party, mostly comprising loyalists of former president Mahinda Rajapaksa, said today it will stage a protest against the proposed lease of an airport to an Indian company.

The Joint Opposition, a political alliance formed by a right-wing faction of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and several left-wing parties, said they will protest on Friday against the proposed 40-year lease to an Indian company of the Mattala Mahinda Rajapaksa International Airport (MRIA), located in the Mattala town, 18 km from Hambantota.

“We will go to Mattala on October 6 to protest against the deal. We are opposed to selling of state assets by this government,” Dullas Alahapperuma, a Joint Opposition parliamentarian told reporters here.

“We tell the government to stop selling state assets. We will protest against the government in the language they understand,” Alahappruma said.

In mid August, a Cabinet paper presented by Transport and Civil Aviation Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva approved the lease of the MRIA to an Indian company for 40 years.

“We stress that the government should not allow our country to be a battle ground of super powers,” Alahapperuma said.

An Indian company had made a bid to develop the MRIA, which was built by the Rajapaksa government under massive borrowings from China.

MRIA built at a cost of USD 209 million has been dubbed the world’s emptiest international airport due to the fewest number of flights operating from it.

Leasing out MRIA to India comes in the wake of a similar deal to hand over an adjoining sea port at Hambantota to a Chinese company for 99 years. (NIE)

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