29 June, 2022


Surcharge Those Responsible For Mattala Airport Cost

By R.M.B Senanayake

R.M.B Senanayake

R.M.B Senanayake

Surcharge those responsible for the cost of the Mattala Airport – a colossal waste of public funds

The Mattala Airport is a colossal waste of public funds. It was estimated to cost US$ 210 million. It was entirely the idea and work of Mahinda Rajapaksa. There is no evidence that he consulted any technical officials in the airport and air navigation field.

Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport (MRIA) (also known as the Hambantota International Airport) (IATA: HRI, ICAO: VCRI) is an international airport serving the city of Hambantota in southeast Sri Lanka. Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport is Sri Lanka’s second international airport, after Bandaranaike International Airport. It is named after the Rajapaksa family. It is the newest airport in Sri Lanka.

Control Tower

The new international airport was expected to expand the local aviation industry whilst being a catalyst for the country’s economic development enabling international trade, tourism, vocational training and employment. It was being implemented as an eco-friendly project. The airport was estimated to cost US$210 million and, by the end of construction, will cover 2,000 hectares. It was built to be compatible with the latest Airbus A380 aircraft and has been designed according to recommendations of the International Civil Aviation Organization. According to Sri Lankan government officials, future domestic airline Air Hybrid, and international airlines Emirates, Enter Air, Etihad Airways, Korean Air, Lufthansa, Qatar Airways, Singapore Airlines, and TUI showed interest in flying to Mattala, but none of these airlines confirmed these statements by government officials. Air Arabia, Rotana Jet, Airlines and Mihin Air did fly to Mattala at various times, but all cancelled service for commercial reasons. Flydubai is the only airline currently flying to Mattala.

MattalaThe airport was declared open by the President of Sri Lanka, Mahinda Rajapaksa, on 18 March 2013 and commenced operations with the landing of a SriLankan Airlines special Airbus A340 flight named ‘City of Magam Ruhunupura’ with the President on board. According to Wikipedia there were the following incidents at the new airport.

Incidents at Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport;

· 25 March 2013, A SriLankan Airlines Airbus A340-300 flight UL 114 aircraft travelling from Malé to Colombo via Hambantota had met with an accident while flying from Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport to Bandaranaike International Airport in Colombo. A few minutes after taking off from Mattala, a bird hit the windshield and damaged it. No passengers were injured.[15]

· 11 January 2014, A flyDubai Boeing 737-800 flight FZ 551 aircraft traveling from Colombo to Dubai via Hambantota had met with an accident while flying from Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport to Dubai International Airport in United Arab Emirates. The airplane encountered the birds during its take-off from Mattala international airport.[16]

It is a colossal failure. Should no one be held responsible for such a colossal waste of public funds?

Is there no possibility of going to courts to hold Mahinda Rajapaksa personally responsible for such wasteful and uneconomic expenditure? Would a lawyer please express an opinion on this matter for I think there are persons interested in public interest litigation who would go to courts against Mahinda Rajapaksa?

If there is no law then a new law on Public Finance and Accountability should be passed. If MR was a public official he would be guilty of violating the Financial Regulations. But there is a doubt about whether Ministers and the President can be bound by these Financial Regulations. Public Interest organizations should address their minds to this issue since public funds are the subject matter. Can Ministers be allowed to act with impunity in matters of public finance? We are now talking much about good governance. What about its applicability in financial matters?

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Latest comments

  • 3

    This is a B… S… argument. More than 80% of all projects ever undertaken in the history of mankind have incured cost and / or time over-runs. How many of these have been resolved by surcharging those responsible for the over -runs?
    If this is to be adopted, start surcharging Ranil – Ravi pair on the most recent Bond issue fraud.

    • 1

      When the Airport Project was being discussed in late 90s, the aviation experts suggested to start with a landing strip for emergency landing with refueling facilities. The aim was to get cargo carriers to land because the operators of cargo carriers could load 500-MT extra if a facility for refueling is available midway between far east and west Asia. In 2002, Mr Paskaralingam, advised the Civil Aviation Authority to go ahead. However RW put a counter proposal to locate it in Wellawaya, considering the positive economic impacts it would have in dry zone. Come 2005, the crown prince of King MR wanted an international Airport and the King thought why not a Rajapaksha International Airport?

      So that is the story Paul. How it was built the is the issue. The story is the new version of Robbing Peter to pay Paul, titled “Robbing People To Pay China”.

  • 2

    If you are seriously going to surcharge everyone you will have to start with Vishvakeerthi Sinhaladheeswara Shree Wickrema Lankadheeswara, Vibhooshana Dharamadveepa Chakravarti.

    But what can you get from him is the question? He has given all the loot to others for safekeeping and some are refusing to give it back. Perhaps you can send him for a life of hard labour to sweep the runway at Mattala and chase away the peacocks and monkeys.

    The other stooges who are promoting him seem to be taking advantage of Maha Rajaneni to cling on to power. Feel sorry for the torment and guilt he has to go through to climb up the ladder again without all the gilmart and buksheesh. May end up at Angoda very soon.

  • 3

    Airline experts, specially the people specialized with the operation of an aircraft have criticized the direction the runway is placed and warned that Cross winds blow across the runway. Heavy cross winds can turn the direction of the aircraft while taking off or landing and cause operational hazards, often resulting in crashes. Understand the placing of taxi ways also wrongly done. This is apart from bird strikes
    and animals on the runway and other operational hazards mentioned in various reports. The question is whether, weather experts and ICAO were consulted before the plan was made to build an airport at Hambantota. Building an airport is not like building a bus terminal and it needs expertise. was there a real necessity to have a second
    international airport of this scale.? Was CAK considered inadequate
    to handle the future traffic with a second runway.? In the event CAK
    becomes non operational for some reason, there are airports in close
    proximity in south India( Madras & Trivandrum) & Maldives, open H24

    China, who is considered a friendly nation and a mentor who advices Sri Lanka on many matters, built the airport and how come it did not dawn on them that there were serious lapses in the plan. China is a
    developed country and they would have built many airports in their
    larger country and elsewhere, and why did they not study and comment
    on the plan.
    So, RMBS – you know as to who should be surcharged.

  • 1

    Mr.R.M.B.ratnayake, while I appreciate your concern,your suggestion is impractical because it has to be extended ad nauseam.Take Mahaweli, who planned to do it in 5 years as against the original 30 years and in the rush forgot to reforest the deforested areas and the result sedimentation of the reservoirs and loss of power generation.Take P.B. jayasundara who destroyed the planning ministry, got rid of the cross disciplinary professionals in it packed it with curvy ladies with degrees in economics, CBK for destroying local textile industry. It is a long list.Think about the privatizations where of the 145 odd that were sold only about 5 are functioning.The political cathchers or the politicians for destroying well laid grounds for their meetings or take the repairs to Galle Road or Battaramulla road and repetitive expenses because somebody forgot to shove in the load factors while designing the original repair through the past 3-4 years.

    However I think the economists in the Finance Ministry at present should be charged for not channelling food and fertilizer imports through Hambantota.The volumes involved will help to amortize the cost over a comparably shorter period than through the import of cars.

    We are living in Alice’s wonderland.

  • 0

    Talking about cost escalations, take the case of Southern Expressway. RDA originally tried to cut the coat according to cloth, that is, trying to build a single lane expressway with the available budget. As the money became available it was increased to dual lanes but with narrow shoulders which is a dangerous one. MR came and doubled the contract value in just one sitting without any regard for contract procedures. Now we hear same thing going to happen to Northern Express way. The original three lanes being reduced to two lanes, just to show some cost reductions. It looks as if same people who handled the original southern expressway handling this one too and eventually mess it up. May be one day a new politico will come and double the cost just like what MR did, all at the expense of poor taxpayers of Sri Lanka.

  • 0

    After writing the above comment last night I was watching the live television coverage given to two Africans leaders by BBC. One was the African American Barak Obama and the other, Kenyata the president of Kenya. It was an inspirational talk by both men. They too were talking about ‘yahapalanaya’ or the good governance.It appears that yahapalanaya has become a catchy slogan all over the world. However in our case it seems to me that people are using it as a meaningless tag or a lable. Few months ago, the present day rulers were criticizing MR for using exorbitant rates for awarding contracts and using local commercial banks for building roads. After coming to power and after scrutinizing his deals they too are going to do the same thing at same rates. They have restarted Hambanthota expressway on the same conditions as before. There were many articles in media about the $ 90 million consultancy fee which obviously is way above what should be due. There was a report that the present government has applied for a loan from Exim Bank for the same amount for the same job. Whats more, they are going to use commercial banks to fund other road projects. If this is true, then yahapalanaya guys should apologize to MR (and his men) for severely criticizing him before the election and causing his downfall. I think when it comes to money all the politicians are the same. The pithy Sinhala saying that ‘kanna ona unahama kabaragoyath thalagoya’ is true.
    Whom to surcharge RMBS ?.

  • 0

    There is a difference between cost over-runs in a project which is useful and a totally wasteful project built to indulge someone. The latter is of no use to the economy and if it had been undertaken without consulting those who are experts in the field I think the person in authority who did so should be surcharged. This is the practice in the public service in respect of officials. But after 1963 the Ministers are taking all the operating decisions and while formerly the public officials were accountable now there is no accountability at all. Do we allow this situation to go on? If not those responsible politicians should be surcharged.

  • 0

    We need a Public Accountability like is some other countries like New Zealand. There are two kinds of mistakes- those made in good faith where there has been decision making in a risk environment and those made without any proper study but only on the whim and fancy of the Leader. Mattala Airport is one of the latter. If the President followed procedure in project preparation and evaluation then it could be accepted as a genuine failure. But the Mattala Airport is different. No studies were made and no expert opinions were sought. It seems to have been at the pure whim of MR whose knowledge is far below expectations of a leader. What is his educationa; background? Should the nations resources be dealt with by an ignoramus

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