Sunday August 15
marks a red letter day for Sri Lanka with the first waters the
Hambantota Port being filled, signifying a watershed in the
development sphere of the country. Up to now the Colombo Port
was the only commercial port in the country. The Hambantota port
is the first port to be constructed in post-independence Sri
The Port, the brainchild of the native son of Hambantota
President Mahinda Rajapaksa could be considered a gift to the
people of the South who had for long years been living on the
fringes while Colombo was the focus of all economic development
Now they will not only receive a new lease of life but also
lay claim to recognition in their own right as proud people set
to receive the economic bounties denied to them all these years.
Every Southerner who had nothing to call their own in terms
of economic endowment can now walk with their head held high.
For the implications of the Hambantota Port scheme cannot be
overemphasized for a people who had not known any development
let alone a gigantic project such as a fully fledged harbour
right in their midst.
Tens of thousands of people have already visited the site of
the new Hambantota Port which will have its first water filling
on Sunday where unprecedented crowds are expected.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa will grace the occasion with his
Cabinet of Ministers and Foreign dignitaries. This indeed would
be a historic occasion not just for Hambantota but the entire
South which has been languishing in hibernation all these
The new Harbour as well as the airport in Mattala would give
the South not just a massive facelift but a whole new dimension
in terms of development and prosperity.
The Hambantota Port development scheme no doubt would be the
showpiece in the renaissance of the South, the epicentre of two
rebellions due to its marginalization by the Colombo centric
administrations of the past.
With the completion of the port and the Airport Hambantota
will be converted into a commercial hub offering the youth of
the South the economic opportunities they were deprived of all
these years giving rise to the slogan Kolombata Kiri Apita
The massive infrastructure development that would accompany
the port development scheme and the ancillary structures would
herald an employment boom in the South. Besides the new harbour
would also usher in a change in the demographic pattern of the
South in the form of reverse migration.
While earlier it was Southerner who came to Colombo in search
of the pot of gold now it will be the turn of the Colomboite to
settle down in the South. Such will be the openings and
opportunities that would emerge with the completion of the Port.
Not only that. Big business, foreign investors and banks are
bound to move into the new commercial hub in Sri Lanka to avail
themselves of the economic bounties that will open up.
The economic activity surrounding the Colombo harbour will
now be transposed in rural Hambantota, from the massive cargo
clearing and container business to the well known harbour lunch
packet trade. Land values too are bound to escalate in this one
time backwoods with property developers cashing in on the
On the international front Sri Lanka will be in the limelight
with the coming up of the Hambantota Port which is indeed an
achievement for a country which is only just emerging from the
economic bruises suffered by a debilitating war.
No doubt the economic bounty to the country by the new port
would be incalculable. The Hambantota Port is set amidst a busy
sea lane navigated by rich commercial vessels and its advantage
is bound to accrue to the country. It is ideally sited for
transhipment and bunkering facilities more than the Colombo
The Government should take steps to obtain the maximum
returns from the Hambantota facility with a mega plan drawn up
to tap the multiple opportunities that would be thrown up by the
Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa who is familiar
with the terrain should appoint a team of experts to come up
with ideas to obtain the full potential from the project.
The area could also be transformed into a popular tourist
destination with resort planning. The abundant wildlife in the
area too should be included in a well coordinated program for
tourism development to maximize gains from the Hambantota Port
The project no doubt is going to awaken the entire South from
its isolation to display its traditional enterprise and drive.
They are bound to be grateful to President Mahinda Rajapaksa and
the Chinese Government for providing this opening to afford them
an opportunity to realize their true potential.