19 September, 2020

Blog

Why They Won’t Open The Airport

By Kumar David

Prof. Kumar David

The government and Health Minister Pavitra are only part truthful when they say why they are in a funk about reopening BIA. Tourists may be COVID carriers and they fear a second-wave. But the real story is much more, it’s about Sri Lankan workers abroad, especially in the Middle East. The government is broke and does not want them back. A broke government does not want the cost burden of about 60,000 returning workers on its hands. They will have to be quartered for two weeks on arrival, fed and cared for, presumably at government expense; that’s why they are not welcome. Oh yes it can be done, but not by a broke government. China built and fully equipped two 1000-bed hospitals within two weeks; a dozen facilities each with 500 dorm rooms and decent shared toilets could have been put up in Lanka in the last utterly wasted six months.  

Ninety percent of Lankan workers locked-down and brutalised by culturally alien security forces in foreign lands would have been happy to return to basic facilities for a fortnight. The cost of buildings, payment for service and catering staff and food would be far less than Rs 300 million up to the return of the last workers. This is a drop in the ocean compared to the $6 to $7 billion that workers remit back each year – this is LKR 1.3 trillion a year (a trillion is a million-million). True the largest part of this is from domestic helpers who have not yet lost their jobs, but still the difference between the contribution of now jobless workers and the mangy attitude of government is five orders of magnitude wide. Some workers may have coughed up Rs 6,000 to cover the cost I estimated. Sri Lanka chooses to benefit from their labour and then discard them when they are in need. Shame!

Tourism proper will not pick up for years not only because our medical and tourist industries can’t cope with post-corona challenges but also because the global travel industry is kaput. But keeping BIA mothballed for seven months (so far) sends the wrong message. How many world metropolitan and capital cities have pensioned-off their airports? With 3100 reported infections we are in the middle (127) of 215 territories and countries in the world corona-meter, but no others have put a padlock on their primary airport for what looks like perpetuity. I am not satisfied that the authorities are setting about the business of preventing a second wave in the right way. They seem plan-less and befuddled. This way, even if they reopen in six months’ the risk will be no different; they are scared and broke. The export economy seems to be slowly recovering but that could be suppressed foreign demand reviving temporarily; that’s not the same as renewal and interactions between businesses. In the meantime, the 2020 fiscal deficit will be nearly 10%, I believe the highest ever in the country’s history, and the economy limps from bad to worse.

Is this why business partners from other countries treat our authorities as primitives, snigger on the side and murmur in their own language “Give the monkeys a banana and send them home” – it’s embarrassing when foreign friends who overheard let you in on the gag. Are those who look down on us not aware of our ‘splendid and prosperous’ achievements? Do they not know what our Civil Aviation Authority is valiantly forging ahead and researching? Please send any olla-leaf flying manuals in your possession to the “King Ravana and the Ancient Domination of Aerial Routes now Lost” project-desk and phone 076 6317 110 to confirm delivery. 

Air Ravana commenced operations for cute Indian damsels about 700 BC; in what language were the flight manuals? Prince Vijaya was wolf-whistling at Kuveni say 200 years on, a bad habit he picked up from the boys on Hikkaduwa Beach; proof of thriving tourism. King Pandu Carbs in about 350 BC built Anuradhapura as the cornerstone of a Golden Triangle Tourist Circuit, in what tongue were itineraries olla-leafed? All point to the flourishing of stone-age Esperanto in our beloved Island Pearl long before Tamil and Sinhala showed up and complicated things. Over to fighting fit Vigy and the sporty MPs yearning to gouge his eyes out, all mulling for a joust on the banks of the Diyawanna Oya. Kadavule, Deyo Saaki. 

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Latest comments

  • 21
    2

    Kumar at his sarcastic best, and right on target. The government, led by small-brained military types, is clueless in an unprecedented crisis. The the “Rataviruwo” are left to starve.

    A relative recently returned via Mattala, paying his own way. Took 7 hours from landing to his hotel, only 100 km away on the highway. Army waited till seven busloads were filled, instead of dispatching bus by bus as each filled up. So, backed-up at the airport and again at the hotel for checking in. Relative paid $1070 for this and two weeks quarantine at hotel. He says the food isn’t bad🙃

    Civil Aviation Authority is now led by Gota’s former travel agent from LA, Upul. He sold me tickets in the 1980s. Actually, a decent guy, very helpful to Sri Lankans.

    • 13
      4

      “,,,,Gota’s former travel agent from LA, Upul….. sold me tickets in the 1980s.”

      ….and Gota operated the cash till?

      • 18
        3

        Nothing but the bitter truth from Prof.K.D. The very same state that extorted money from these poor workers in the name of “insurance” now abandons them to their fate. Dozens of hapless Sri Lankans have died in overcrowded camps. The Pohottuwa lackeys prefer to flood social media with sunshine stories about our so-called good management of Covid. Last week they even went to town crediting Gota with saving the nation from an oil spill when it was clear that the Indian Coast Guard did the work.
        As another contributor mentioned, India has not shirked responsibility for its citizens. It has sent ships and planes, sometimes repatriating 15000 in a day. Surely our Navy can bring a few thousand? It is not necessary to reopen airports. Charter flights are arriving with rich returnees. It is the poor who bear the brunt of this callous government.

        • 3
          0

          I totally agree with you as I too am an old codger!
          Why are the public in deep sleep. Time to wake up the things the rulers do to hoodwink the Sri Lankan citizens. Time for them to say no to 20th Amendments which will be passed because of devious parliamentarians stuffing the freely printed notes in millions!

          • 1
            0

            Naman,
            As we old codgers know all these political tricks, don’t you think all seniors should get 3 votes each in 20A ?

        • 2
          0

          Shall we bring RW back? 😜

    • 10
      3

      Sarath,
      ” Relative paid $1070 for this and two weeks quarantine at hotel. He says the food isn’t bad🙃 “
      Aanduwa’s Corona Tourism income, without tourist. End of the year, Aanduwa and Central bank will release statistics that, “even during Covid -19, we had one million tourists.” They won’t talk about the income.

  • 15
    6

    I am sure they will open BIA to import beef, to teach Muslims a lesson, from the hard earned fx of the ME workers who are left stranded for months …in some cases 100 to a room.

    Ali Sabry only eats luxury beef imported from Argentina

    • 7
      3

      I hear form the grapevine that PM Mahinda’s proposal to ban cattle slaughter is now put on shelf for review in a months time…which I doubt will happen

      so all the hala balu and The distraction is not needed anymore as the murderer has now been sworn as MP

    • 3
      1

      It reminds me of the story of our thug politician Mervyn Silva, who banned beef being sold in his district, but apparently used to get HIS beef from Borella market.

      The Rajapaksa’s have travelled and lived abroad, and should realize just how stupid it is to ban beef in a country that depends on tourists to fill the coffers, and make it difficult and expensive for hotels and restaurants to have it in their menu’s. This is all a ploy to keep their extremist Buddhist supporters happy, and to marginalize the Muslim butchers……but at what cost?

  • 11
    3

    Sri Lanka is a country the never appreciated the contributions of its citizens. The current lot are the worst no nothings to get elected. Even the few repatriations flights that do arrive are handled in the most haphazard manner. Destinations are changed willy nilly tickets are issued to BIA then reissued to Mattala. Notifications and payments are held up till the last moment some times until the day before the flight and then after issuing a ticket the airport is swapped and the tickets are re-issued. Quarantine hotels are changed while the flight is en-route. The so called wonderful military put in charge are clueless about what is going on just stand by idling with no PPE reluctant to help the elderly passengers for fear of getting contaminated. Luggage is transported to the constantly changing hotel in a lorry. The passengers are expected to climb into the lorry and unload their own bags while the military stand by and watch. These are the lucky ones who coughed up well over Rs 350,000 to get back. These are people who had return tickets and forfeited them just to come back on their own steam. How much more shoddy are those lucky enough to return from the middle east treated when the cost is bourne by the state?

  • 10
    5

    Welcome back to “Vistas of Splendor”. Prof, very funny. Why the transformation from serious in depth analysis to pure satire. Any way I like it. Government does not give two hoots about migrants or their own citizen. It is all about holding power. There are daily flights bringing back thousands of migrants to Kerala , in which many are positive for Covid . The state did not shy away from taking them back and providing necessary quarantine facilities. Only a few will , if at all need hospital care. The same government boasted of making rescue missions in bringing those students (who helped in boosting foreigners revenue ) is now refusing to take back those migrants who worked hard and remit income back home. Still waiting for the article on US/China conflict and the impact on Lanka, you had promised.

  • 9
    4

    Prof, in my opinion from now we can consider, Democratic Socialist republic as a family owned “Walmart” business enterprise. Thanks to share holders/workers who blindly handed over their rights (future) to the Rajapaksa family. Now their only priority is to keep ownership and make profits for them, their family, friends and rest of the stake holders.Majority ownership is now with family so their is no question of veto. Like any family owned business it is filled with hundreds of family members and trusted people. Like any enterprise other than profits, year after year , they do not care for the workers, environment,social issues, sentiments , health , well being …etc. If at all if profit falls they may lay off in hundreds , cut off the perks like insurance, health, disability, pension fund ,find reasons to cut corners, try evading paying tax/laws, off shore /shale companies are the norm. But their annual report keeps promising vistas of splendor for poor workers/share holders.

  • 8
    2

    For the Kota Uda airport to be opened again, the workers who now have no money to buy their own tickets to come back to face starvation and drop dead the hour boru criminal punnakku modaya government prefers to keep them living in the open living as wild animals.
    \
    As the writer quite rightly states this big talking beggar government who strode to power on false promises do not even have 2 cents to scratch their balls.?
    The female partners of these pathetic poor workers will have to sell their bodies to survive.?
    Customers who like to avail of the bodies of these poverty-stricken ladies of the night thanks to the present situation will not have any paisa to enjoy the goodies.
    \
    Even if they manage to reopen the airport after finding the funds to do the needed alterations they will have no funds to meet the day to day outgoings.

  • 8
    1

    It is a Catch-22 situation for the widely popular government when it chooses to stifle repatriate traffic returning from their slaving venues. The voters put all their eggs in one Gota basket and will watch them hatch unless the circling jackals gobble them up. The people’s chief looks like a legendary duck that is supposed to lay one golden egg a day. If the airport is opened, there will be a flood of returning Sri Lankans who will swamp the system and let loose chaos. On the other hand, no foreign tourists can come without a similar risk, even if they agree to being cooped up in a hotel room for two weeks until they’re cleared to tour the land like no other. Already, ordinary consumer prices are sky-rocketing and the poor voters who overwhelmingly ushered in the hugely popular government are eating humble pie..

  • 4
    1

    Friends and R’family are filling up their pockets, pea-nuts to the GDP, by selling tickets as well as hotel charges have gone up almost doubled from Rs 7500/- earlier with no Gotu-allapu-TV announcements.

  • 2
    3

    I spoke to a friend in the travel trade (and he is not a fan of the ‘Family’).
    What he said made sense: The government has a serious problem with resources to handle returnees. The risk of infection is high among potential ME returnees, who are very poorly protected from the virus, and living conditions are pathetic. And a good number have no jobs to go to once they return.
    It is hard to be selective with countries and even a slow start could open the floodgates.
    *
    The government is desperate not only for economic reasons.
    The medical services will not be able to cope as well as they have done thus far, and once the virus gets to spread, we could have trouble like in India for example.
    I wish Kumar David had given serious thought to practical issues.

    • 6
      0

      This is really a comedy. I have no idea of what part of this talk can make what sense to whom. What a merciless filthy talk. This because some people missing the right part of the brain so they call them are brutal lefts. Will the Slap Party government go home. Vaalaiththodam wants to take it over. It is his team demands the stranded people have to be brought back. Let them bring back and manage this country people with this country resources, instead leaving them in deserts and politicians’ acolytes sleep in air conditioned rooms.

    • 6
      2

      Oh yes I have not only given it thought but also obtained opinions of knowledgeable people on these issues. The government is broke – that’s the bottom line. If as suggested by me facilities to accommodate more returnees had been initiated during the last several months, thousands upon thousands would be home by now.

      The Health Authorities have not been under undue stress for the last 3 months and were/are quite capable of coping given the resources. To repeat, the government has no long-term plan of action or funding allocated. It will be the same in 6 months if its conduct continues like this.

      • 3
        4

        Very glad to know that you gave thought and obtained opinions, but sad to note that none of it surfaced in this piece by you.
        There are often considerations besides ‘bottom lines’ that deserve study.

    • 2
      4

      SJ,
      .
      Did you ever wonder what really prof wants……?

      • 3
        4

        SCP
        I never bother to analyse intentions, but look at the worth of the views.
        This seemed a rather hastily written piece, unlike other comments that generally go deeper into the subject.

    • 0
      0

      Well done. The one sensible person.

  • 4
    0

    Professor K,
    What do you hear about Greece’s refugee camp? Disaster of the century; women and children are suffering. Some jackal terrorist who were trying to slip to Western countries hiding them in refugees, seems to be did this. Little by Little, once refugees problems sorted out, Greece should investigate and isolate that team, stop them reaching free world, instead put them in dark world.

  • 2
    4

    As described in the article, the impact of the returning migrant works is considerable. Prof. Kum implies that the more these people are out there the national coffers would be filled with foreign exchange. How can that be when the prospective returnees have resigned from their jobs to be in the queue to return? Other than conjecture, Prof. Kum does not provide any evidence that the impact of returning workers is the cause for the delay in opening the airport.

  • 6
    0

    Other people suffering make sense to some. (including KIA and his friend in travel business) Just because the govt dosent have resources or their priorities lie else where, dose not justify abandoning its own citizen. The govt claimed having just a few hundred cases and yet you giving the excuse of not having adequate medical services. Not every returnee is Covid positive. Out of the Covid positive very few will need your medical service. The risk is SO high ??? According to Kerala government it really did not make any such impact as you claim. In India with 100, 000 cases a day still the morbidity/mortality rates are less than 2.0 %. Living condition are pathetic, ?? Kerala migrants too returned from same countries and many of them tell me they share rooms with their Lankan friends. The govt is having serious problems with resources to handle returnees ? if true let the govt come out and admit that. In majority all it takes is self quarantine for 10 to 14 days and few ,less than 1 to 2 % needing medical help. Ignorance and denial for some has no limits.(hope apathy is not included)

  • 5
    0

    It is hard to be selective with countries ??? From what I know people from China, Russia, Europe and even India(hundreds) have returned. (self or govt sponsored including my family, friends, and their acquaintances) In which world are you living ??? I wonder is there a real / actual, travel trade friend involved in your story. A travel business guy who dose not know about the returnees but tends to know in detail , about our govt economical stress, access to medical services , spread of illness, prevalence among ME migrants —etc. Is that another Know It All ??

  • 4
    0

    If unemployment is a reason not to take back our own people, then many such living in Lanka right now should be deported to make way for these poor souls, who kept this bankrupt country alive for many years. Is that the politics in you,ll talking.

    • 5
      0

      Chiv,
      Look at what happened to Moria camp in Greece. 13,000 of them! Refugees protested, police tear gassed them. No place to sleep, nothing to eat, in a foreign land these children, women, elders are gassed. They have to take that pain too. Their mother countries don’t want them. Remember SunSea boat story? That is the story of the Tamils. Lankawe War criminal governments created more than a million political refugees and sent them to West by destroying Tamil’s livelihood out of North East by Pogroms, in side North East by Standardization and Sinhala Only, & in the upcountry by Indian Pakistani citizenship act and Nationalization of British Tea companies. Rest of the country created another 1 million economic refugees and sent them to ME by robbing the country’s resources and depositing them in foreign accounts and creating Nuraicholai, Hangbangtotata harbor like massive economic disasters. Then these people sent to ME, came back with forcefully Arabianized. Then created division between them and won election by telling they can bring security to people. If these people are sleeping on ME roads like in Greece refugees, is that Hitler’s king of security?

  • 2
    1

    I am so glad about the comments. Some agree with me, some disagree and ridicule me, but I can see that everybody has the same bottom line. These our own people who went abroad at our (and of course their own) urging, and we (SL) benefited a lot from their earnings. Now we owe it to these 60,000 people to do something to solve their misery and to do it soon.

    • 1
      1

      “…some disagree and ridicule me”
      Oh dear!

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