Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena inaugurates Jaffna international airport
Colombo: President Maithripala Sirisena on Thursday inaugurated the country's third international airport in the Tamil-dominated Northern Province's capital city Jaffna, upgraded with India's assistance.
An Alliance Air flight from Chennai was the first to land at the new international airport.
The ATR 72-600 AIR craft was accorded water salute as it landed. Alliance Air is a subsidiary of Air India.
The Jaffna International Airport was earlier known as Palaly airport which was used as a military air base and for domestic flights.
The inauguration ceremony was attended by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and Indian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, Taranjit Singh Sandh, among other senior dignitaries.
Sandhu said that with the inauguration of the Jaffna airport the bilateral relations between India and Sri Lanka have now truly touched the sky.
"Air Alliance will operate short haul flights between Chennai and Jaffna," an official statement said. Sandhu added that the inaugural flight was yet another example of India's commitment to continue with people-oriented development projects in Sri Lanka.
He recalled the words of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during his visit to Sri Lanka in 2015, in which he said: "The future I dream for India is also a future that I want for our neighbours. As part of the redevelopment of the airport, the first 950 meters of the runway was repaved to accommodate C100 Bombardier planes with a seating capacity of 72.
"Under the second stage the existing runway will be further extended. Under the third stage of expansion the runway is to be expanded to 2.3 kms in order to handle large passenger aircraft such as Airbus AL320 and AL 321, officials said.
The airport would add to the socio-economic welfare of the Tamil dominated Northern province, whose capital Jaffna was the base from where the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) ran their military campaign for a separate Tamil homeland for nearly 30 years before its collapse in 2009 after the Sri Lankan Army killed its supreme leader Velupillai Prabhakaran.