OPEN TO THE MATTALA CHAPTER
Mattala airport opens today, and our bumper supplement
on the MRIA should put everybody in the picture on the evolving
new reality that Mattala airport in Hambantota district is
defining a new paradigm in development.
Hambantota has hitherto been considered the backwoods – a
sleepy arid expanse, that in the remembered past, fomented rebel
activity against the State.
It is from the arid terrain and the immediate region that
slogans such as ‘kolamabata kiri apata kekiri’ originated.
Mattala curiously seeks to turn that particular lament on the
Already the misinformed and the totally addle-headed are seen
to be complaining that Mattala will close down the Bandaranaike
International Airport. This is of course a figment of Ranil
Wickremesinghe’s erratically active imagination.
But the fact that anybody is saying this is an indication
that some Colombo elites – Colombans -- are feeling ‘Hambantota
ta kiri, apata kekiri’ already in their guts (cream for
Hambantota, watermelons for us.) Though this kind of
contestation between cities is healthy, what’s more important is
that this new picture of a freshly ascendant Hambantota
signifies a spanking new paradigm for development.
Hambantota is a vast a terrain -- acres and acres of it, and
for a densely populated country, it is one of the relatively
But that brings for the province, a built-in advantage which
is in fact a disadvantage that has been turned into an
The relative lack of potential in Hambantota for agriculture
for instance, may have ensured that the region remained as part
of the Sri Lankan backwater that fell into the persistent
atrophy of neglect. Successful governments let that situation
remain, taking under-development for granted.
But the Mahinda Rajapaksa government, with Mattala, signifies
that what is in fact perceived as a disadvantage, can be turned
into Hambantota’s main advantage over the rest of the nation.
Developing the Western province for instance, can be a
nightmare, with every land clearance activity being resisted by
an entrenched population, and every nook and corner being
already utilized either by the government, or by private
enterprise. But Hambantota is different.
Vast areas remain unexplored, and untouched -- and it is in
this virgin territory that the authorities blazed a trail to
establish an airport which proves to be the catalyst for a
quantum leap industrial effort that would be the envy of the
rest of the country – one that may even raise (misplaced)
anxieties no doubt, about 'Hambantota ta kiri -- apata kekiri.'
The plan is also to utilize the vast unexplored potential in
an imaginative and organized fashion. Each project will be
interconnected to the other, and IT parks and eco-hotspots will
co-exist, making for a dreamland of modernism, that would
probably make for a Singapore with far greater quantities of
Sri Lanka seems to be therefore the country in which ‘every
prospect pleases’ though only a few men are vile. These evil
elements seem to be surprised that we are doing it our own way,
which is what the Maldives did years ago after a UNDP survey
pointed out that there is zero tourism potential for the group
of atolls that are called the Maldive islands!
We all know about how true that was! This is the same thing
the editorial writers are saying for Sri Lanka, that the
country’s insistence on forging a new development paradigm of
her own, will not pay dividends because it is difficult to go
against the prognostications of the ‘experts.’
Who are the experts? The same people who say that Sri Lanka’s
‘rights situation’ will see no proper development of the
economy, and that our refusal to follow the diktat of the West,
would result in economic disaster as the Western countries have
the money to invest, and their non-cooperation as a result of
what’s perceived as our non-cooperation (!) would eventually
stymie all of this country’s plans.
This is the conventional wisdom of the flat-earth theorists.
These people see the world one dimensionally. They refuse to
consider that the old order changeth -- and that it yieldeth
place to the new, (and if you believe in god) that god fulfills
himself in many ways. Time will tell, of course, but suffice to
say the developers of Mattala airport however, have history on
their side. For instance, when they said some years ago that the
war will be over soon, nobody believed them either!