By Prof. S. Ratnajeevan H.Hoole
Last Thursday (16 October) was a great day for Sri Lanka; the Jaffna International Airport was opened. It offered a great opportunity for integrating Jaffna with the rest of Sri Lanka; for tourists from Tamil Nadu (the largest number of tourists coming in from India) to hop over to Jaffna and visit – besides Jaffna – Anuradhapura, Sigiriya, Polonnaruwa, Trincomalee, etc.; and for industrial collaboration with India and industrial powerhouse Tamil Nadu.
It was an event I could not miss. Being from Jaffna, I felt elated that the old airport I had used long ago in the 1960s and late 1980s and 1990s would soon be an international airport. I felt grateful to all those who had made it happen.
‘Doing it for the Tamils’
However, instead of seeing the airport as having national importance, the airport project fell victim to communal jealousy. The Air Force Commander failed to cooperate. When an Indian technical crew on 16 September, after a hard day’s work, asked for tea, he retorted that the Indians were doing it for Tamils and demanded, “Do you expect me to serve you tea?” The Indians, exhausted by 2 p.m., sent a jeep to Kankesanthurai to fetch refreshments.
The problem is that a project to advance the nation, national unity, and our economy, fell afoul of communal passions. It was a project that the Prime Minister had put together with the TNA. Now cast as a favour to Tamils, few Sinhalese, it seems, want to claim ownership.