The new government of Sri Lanka will not seek to privatise SriLankan Airlines (UL, Colombo Int'l), Minister of Industry, Export, Investment Promotion, Tourism and Civil Aviation, Prasanna Ranatunga, said while visiting the flag carrier's maintenance facilities.

Ranatunga appealed to management and labour unions at the airport not to repeat the mistakes committed under the previous government which took the carrier to the brink of collapse, the state-owned portal said.

Ranatunga took office as a member of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa's cabinet following the election of his brother, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, as President during the November 2019 polls.

The Sri Lankan flag carrier has been wholly-owned by the government since 2008, when Emirates (EK, Dubai Int'l) sold its 43.6% stake back to the state. In 2017, US-based investment firm Texas Pacific Group (TPG) was in talks to acquire a 49% stake but pulled out after a due diligence revealed the true extent of the airline's debts. The previous government had floated divestment in 2018 and 2019 but ultimately did not launch any formal sale procedure.

During the tour, Ranatunga also instructed officials to work towards the resumption of largescale commercial flights at Hambantota Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport, in the south of the island, The Daily Mirror reported.

The greenfield airport was opened in 2013 by then-president Mahinda Rajapaksa in his home district but has never attracted sustainable scheduled traffic. While SriLankan Airlines, flydubai, Air Arabia, Mihin Lanka, and Cinnamon Air operated from the airport for a time, it lost all scheduled services in 2018 and currently sees a minimal level of general aviation activity.