The Jaffna Airport, constructed as a regional airport by the previous regime, for connections from Jaffna to India, will fly to other global destinations as an international carrier while other international carriers would also be invited to operate through it, he said.
He said there were shortcomings in the Jaffna Airport at present in its functioning as an international airport, such as in landing facilities and others.
The Jaffna Airport which was originally built by the Royal Ceylon Air Force was subsequently taken for the operations of the Sri Lanka Air Force in which they transported and airlifted military personnel to Colombo.
The Minister was addressing officials of the Ministry of both Tourism and Aviation comprising Secretaries, Additional Secretaries and other officials.Healso said the Indian High Commissioner to Colombo Tharanjeet Singh Sidhu has donated Indian Rs. 300 Million for the expansion/ upgrade of the emerging Jaffna International Airport. The Indian envoy has also requested Minister Ranatunga to reduce the airport levies on passengers flying through the Jaffna Airport
Minister Ranatunga has also directed the officials to upgrade the Mattala International Airport to a fully fledged and functioning airport within a year from now.
The 2018 performance of the Mattala Airport despite being 50% less than that of 2017, saw the arrival and departures of 709 aircraft, of which 334 were international flights and the remainder 375 local.
The Minister has also alleged at the meeting that the malicious intention of the Maithripala Sirisena/ Ranil Wickremesinghe Government was to see the Mattala Airport dying a natural death merely because it was named after the former President cum incumbent Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa. That was why they used the Airport to store paddy and to treat it with scant respect where attempts were made to sell it to the Indian Government under the guise of a joint venture, he explained.
The Minister said that he would shortly appoint an Audit Committee to probe the losses which were intentionally made and the damage caused to equipment and other operational areas.