By Don Juan As I watched the SriLankan Airlines flight land at the Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport before it was declared open and then watched millions of rupees go up in smoke in a kaleidoscopic display of ‘have money, will burn’ no expense spared fireworks in the night, my hopes and heart soared with national [...]

Sunday Times 2

Hail the miracle of Mattala


By Don Juan

As I watched the SriLankan Airlines flight land at the Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport before it was declared open and then watched millions of rupees go up in smoke in a kaleidoscopic display of ‘have money, will burn’ no expense spared fireworks in the night, my hopes and heart soared with national pride and delight like a SriLankan Airlines plane taking flight.

If this country’s economy was thriving, if the rupee was stable and strong, if the exports were far higher than the imports, if the people were happy and prosperous, if this country had good relations with her neighbours and the international community, if donor aid agencies were banging on our doors to lend money at low interest rates, then building an international airport even in some remote godforsaken spot would hardly have been the sort of stuff to have evoked national pride.

But with the nation’s exports at its nadir and the Treasury coffers bare to meet the bill for imports which consist of necessary food and oil supplies; with the economy on the verge of collapse, with more than 80 per cent of the masses on the poverty line and their day to day survival made more acute by the day to day rise in food, petrol and diesel prices; with electricity and water charges already at an all-time high set to increase even more come the new year; with the international community unsheathing their daggers against Lanka; with the international donor agencies shutting the door on Lanka’s begging bowl; with all these thousand and one problems which would have toppled a lesser government with a strong opposition, it speaks volumes of the dauntless spirit of the Rajapaksa regime to pick up the gauntlet and successfully build another international airport in a distant, unheard of village called Mattala, even though there is an international airport at Katunayake operating at under capacity.

The challenges braved, the seemingly insurmountable obstacles overcome, the great suffering heaped upon the people who have endured it silently and who will continue to endure it in the future until they are freed from the dangling noose of deathly debt, have made it an achievement worthy of the highest praise of the people: A laurel accolade of appreciation that can only be bestowed upon its visionary architects by those Lankans privileged enough to possess the intellectual amulet to discern its true significance in the oracle’s prophetic light. Only the ignorant will fail to fathom its true meaning.

It is the Mahinda Vision which has been the driving force behind this glorious project which at last has seen fruition even the nearby Hambantota Port saw completion few years ago. Built at over two billion dollars, both now await commencement of operations which will hopefully take place somewhere in the future.

But like the Chinese with over five thousand years of history behind them who financed these two projects, Lankans must learn patience, must learn that ‘everything comes to he who waits’. The Chinese are prepared to wait with stoic patience for their dividend to realise which will come in the event of war with India. Then they will have a Chinese made Naval Base for their warships to dock in Hambantota and a Chinese made Air Force Base for their fighter jets to touch down in Mattala. Likewise we Lankans must also await the arrival of a merchant ship to Hambantota or the landing of a commercial passenger aircraft in Mattala with patience and fortitude; and though neither ship nor plane appears yet in the horizon, hope must spring eternal in the Lankan breast.

Even as the SriLankan Airline plane carrying the President and his entourage, touched down on the blessed Mattala tarmac – so moving was the moment propelled as it were by the massive television blitz building up the event as the mother of all events and rightly so, that for an instant I half expected the President to go down on his knees and kiss the hallowed ground with reverence – I couldn’t help but hold a hanky to my eyes. For I realised the admirable dedication it would have taken of our beloved leader to have overcome, with single determinedness of mind, all the challenges and, against all odds, to fulfil his grandiose dream to build a second international airport in the country aptly and most deservedly dedicated to his own good self.

Furthermore I felt a great patriotic fervor come over me and streams of national pride surged and ran through me and I couldn’t help but give vent to my emotions and let the flood fall down my cheeks when it struck and brought home to me that every brick used to build this Air Pad Of The Gods was brick wrought with the pain of the people, each brick cemented with their tears of anguish; and the entire mammoth edifice a symbol of a dream’s triumph over reality.

Many yokels will pooh this massive achievement out of sheer ignorance and pig mindedness. For, like the plays of Shakespeare, the symphonies of Mozart, the paintings of da Vinci can only find exquisite appreciation in the senses of the connoisseurs of art, the Miracle of Mattala can only be experienced, appreciated and hailed by the top most intelligentsia and those at the top most echelons of power in this country today.

Let the mocking world mock, let the scorning enemies scorn in undisguised envy, let the world wonder not only how impoverished, cash short Lanka could create the eighth wonder of the world without any apparent means but also how it had enough and more money to burn in a kaleidoscopic colourful, no expense spared, grand fireworks display to celebrate in style the advent of Mattale to the world’s aviation stratosphere. But no matter. The Lankan caravan is on the move and there is no stopping it. Let the watching world note Lanka can fly and, given enough lift from her Sino ally, Lanka will soon touch the sun in the sky.

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