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Rajapaksa pilots Sri Lanka's airlines

The future plans of Sri Lanka's national carrier, Sri Lankan Airlines and the 100% government owned, low-cost airline, Mihin Lanka, were discussed during a meeting chaired by the President at Temple Trees on Thursday.

Instructing Mihin Lanka to grant concessions to Buddhist pilgrims travelling to South India, President Rajapaksa also urged officials at Sri Lankan Airlines to work with Sri Lanka's overseas missions to improve its reputation.

Plagued with accusations of corruption and financial mismanagement from its outset, Mihin Lanka was recently said to cost the economy Rs. 13 billion from 2007 to 2010.

In an interview with the Sunday Observer in February, Piyankara Jayaratne, the minister for aviation, defended the airlines losses.

"We have minimised losses incurred by Mihin Lanka. Mihin Lanka is rendering a service without considering profit."

"The Opposition never asks poor mother or father in the village about facilities provided by Mihin Lanka. Mihin Lanka has given the opportunity to public servants who go on pilgrimage to India and settle payment in 10 instalments. However, Mihin Lanka has been able to reduce losses incurred."

The name, 'Mihin', according to some reports is derived from the name 'Mihindu' - the Sanskrit word for Mahinda.