Transport Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva wants paddy stored at the Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport (MRIA) removed and the airport maintained at international standards.
Speaking to reporters after visiting the airport, the Minister said that the environment at the airport had been damaged as a result of paddy being stored at the airport premises.
He said that birds had begun to flock around the airport after paddy was brought to be stored in one of the stores in the airport by the Paddy Marketing Board.
The Minister, under who the subject of civil aviation now operates, said that he will give the Paddy Marketing Board time to remove the paddy in stages.
He said that he will also inform cabinet of the decision and take measures to ensure the airport is maintained at international standards.
Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva, who was a member of the former Government and is now in the National unity Government, stressed that Sri Lanka needs a second international airport.
He said that by having MRIA operational Sri Lanka does not need to depend on India in the event of an emergency if passenger planes cannot land at the Katunayake airport.
Usually flights landing at Katunayake are diverted to Chennai if they cannot land at Katunayake but now those flights can land at MRIA.
Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva said that measures will be taken to ensure the airport operates 24 hours a day even if there are no flights.
He said that talks will be held with the foreign employment bureau and other agencies to encourage Middle Eastern flights to use MRIA as most Sri Lankan domestic workers are from the South and can travel via MRIA.
The Minister also said that more hotels are expected to be constructed in and around Hambantota which will help the MRIA attract more flights in the future. (Colombo Gazette)