Palali (Jaffna): Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on Thursday made a spirited call for strengthening the "cooperation and collaboration" among the South Asian neighbours so as to invigorate the socio-economic growth of the region.
Participating in a grand function to inaugurate the Palali International Airport here, he thanked the Indian Government for helping in the project, which he said was a strong illustration of the benefits from the neighbouring nations cooperating and collaborating for economic development. "But for India, this would not have happened…There is still tremendous potential for collaboration between India and Sri Lanka, especially South India and Sri Lanka and that includes Jaffna", he said.
"I hope this (Jaffna airport) is the beginning to fly to Batticaloa (in the east). India has been helping us in the development of the war-affected Jaffna. Let’s work closer, work for the economic development of both countries", he said.
PM Wickremesinghe said the Indian Ocean and the South Asian region are the fastest developing economic powerhouses that could be further developed and strengthened only through cooperation and collaboration among the nations in the region. "We must learn how to cooperate. If we work together, we can grow fast", he said, adding, "Whatever issues we have, we must settle by discussing among ourselves; bilateral issues bilaterally and regional issues regionally".
"We cannot afford to go to war. We cannot afford to clash. Sri Lanka and India have shown the potential for cooperation, so everyone in South Asia would resolve their issues through dialogue, and work together again", Wickremesinghe said, while placing on record his appreciation for Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Indian Government for helping in Sri Lanka’s development.
Voicing similar sentiments, Indian High Commissioner in Colombo Taranjit Singh Sandhu said the Palali project "reflected our shared desire to further strengthen the people-to-people relations between India and Sri Lanka". Listing out the various projects implemented by India in Sri Lanka, he said they "touched lives of so many people".
He also recalled that Prime Minister Modi visited Sri Lanka thrice in the last four years and was the only Indian PM to have gone to Jaffna. The PM had declared during his 2015 trip that the future he dreamt of for India "is also the future I dream of for our neighbours".
Pointing out that the Palali project was also a "first step" for the Alliance Air as the airline chose the north Lanka city as its first international destination, Sandhu said the Indian consular office at Jaffna "will be happy to issue visas to travel to Chennai". He also quoted Thiruvalluvar and translated into English the couplet: "If we make efforts, we will surely rise".
Northern Province Governor Dr Suren Raghavan in his address, in both Tamil and Sinhala, hailed the airport project as an "effort ensuring that Jaffna will no longer remain an isolated place but evolve as a favourite destination for the international traveler". He recalled that his father had taken him, as a kid, on Air Ceylon flight from Ratmalana (Colombo) to Palali and thereon to Chennai and Singapore.
"I am the first Tamil Governor for the Northern Province, but you have also created a situation that all our future Governors will be Tamils, thank you for that", he said looking at President Maithripala and Prime Minister Wickremesinghe seated in the front row.
Senior Tamil MP, Mavai Senathiraja appealed to the Sri Lankan Government to return all the land taken from the Tamils by the Military during the Eelam war. He said the new air service from Chennai would enable the people from Tamil Nadu and other parts of South India to visit the many temples in Sri Lanka, such as the famous Raja Rajeswari temple and the Nallur Murugan temple....