By Saman Indrajith
The Palali International Airport had come to a standstill because of the high airport taxes, Tamil National Alliance (TNA) parliamentarian M.A. Sumanthiran told Parliament on Thursday.
“When the airport was opened, there were flights from Madras, then due to Covid all flights were suspended. Now, this has not resumed yet, and even when it resumes the cost of the airfare is prohibitive. The reason for that is that the airport taxes are so high that people will not be able to afford it,” he said.
The TNA MP said that airport taxes have been waived at the Mattala airport and that they wanted the same for the Palali airport. Sumanthiran said Palali can attract visitors.He also said that the land issues in the North and East persisted. Sumanthiran said that in Kurunthoormalai there was a demonstration about a new construction that is being undertaken by the Department of Archaeology.
“Two of our members were arrested saying that they had disrupted the officials from functioning. Now Archaeology is entrusted with the responsibility of preserving archaeological monuments. We know that there are archaeological monuments that must be preserved, but they don’t have the authority to build new. And there are court orders, restraining them from building new structures, and yet, when people demonstrate against illegal activity by the Department of Archaeology, they are being arrested,” he said.
The TNA MP added that there are now efforts to bring in new people from other districts to Mullaitivu, particularly from the Ratnapura district.
“There was one politician who took people from Ratnapura district and settled them there. Now there are 58 shops and efforts are being made to grant land from this Archaeological site to these 58 shop owners who have been brought and settled there to change the demography. This must be immediately stopped,” he said.
Sumanthiran said that the people in the North are facing land grabs by the Departments of Archaeology, Mahaweli, the Forest Department, and Wildlife Department.
He said that the Government is now facing a challenge in the UN Human Rights Council. In September 2015, the Sri Lankan government co–sponsored a resolution called HRC 30/1.
“Co– sponsoring means you agree, you sign on to that resolution which then means it is your resolution. Now in that resolution, there was a clause that Sri Lanka agreed to have Commonwealth and other foreign judges, defence lawyers, authorised prosecutors and investigators participate in a process. It was at the request of the Sri Lankan government the words “Commonwealth” also was added, Commonwealth and other foreign judges. Now this is Sri Lanka’s own resolution. But now your Foreign Minister goes to Geneva, and saying participations like this, external mechanisms, are unconstitutional,” he said.
In response the Minister of Aviation Nimal Siripala de Silva said that successive governments have invested a lot of money on the Palali airport.
“A lot of people from Jaffna were recruited. However, no airline has come in. We have developed the infrastructure. The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) is good at making allegations and they say they have great Indian contacts. Why don’t they encourage Indian airlines to fly to Palali? If Palali becomes a bustling airport it will benefit the people of Jaffna greatly,” he said.