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Sri Lanka thanks China for 2nd int'l airport


COLOMBO - Opening a second international airport, Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa pledged his gratitude to China for its development loans in Colombo on Monday.

Landing at the Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport as the first official passenger aboard a special Srilankan flight, Rajapaksa made a tour of the entire facility before officially declaring it open at an auspicious time.

He then addressed the nation while the ceremony was broadcast live on TV.

Referring to the $209 million Chinese loan that funded the airport, Rajapaksa praised China for its assistance and pledged further close cooperation.

"It is not possible to build internationally important development projects such as this solely from internal revenue. It is true that we launch most development projects from the revenue of our own country, but we need international assistance, too. This is a practice followed by other countries too. It is necessary to obtain loans to build a country. We too obtain such loans and assistance and build many things for the development of the country. Therefore, I express the gratitude of our people and our country to all of you," he said.

He insisted that the new airport will boost tourism arrivals in the southern part of the country as well as assist overall growth.

He stressed that the opening of the airport in Mattala would not take away traffic from the main international airport in Sri Lanka, the Bandaranaike International Airport.

The president added that he would remain unfazed by critics and continue to work with China to achieve development goals for Sri Lanka.

"While repeating my gratitude to the government of China for assisting us in this project and sending a special representative for this event, I also extend my good wishes to the new president of China. I also extend my thanks to all Chinese and Sri Lankan engineers, staff and all workers who assisted in this task."