Nine Navy sailors jump ship in US

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The US Embassy said that several Sri Lanka Navy (SLN) personnel who had travelled to the United States (US) to train alongside their US counterparts before returning to Sri Lanka on the P 627 (former US Coast Guard Cutter Douglas Munro), the third ship gifted to the Sri Lanka Navy from the US, have absconded from training.

According to local sources, nine among 50 SLN personnel who had travelled to the US had disappeared, missing the scheduled training they were supposed to attend. The US Embassy Spokesperson said in October 2021, a crew of Sri Lankan sailors travelled to the US to train alongside their US counterparts. The Embassy said the matter has been referred to US law enforcement. Individuals who break US immigration laws can be subject to arrest, detention, and deportation, and those who accrue unlawful presence in the US can be prevented from returning to the US for up to 10 years, the Spokesperson further said.

The Embassy stressed that the US has a long history of cooperation and cross-training with the Sri Lankan military, a partnership which supports their shared commitment to a secure, stable, and democratic Sri Lanka. The US values their continued partnership with the Government, military, and people of Sri Lanka, and will continue to provide generous humanitarian assistance, ongoing development assistance, and military training during this difficult time. The SLN Spokesman did not comment on the incident, however, the SLN on its official web portal said a contingent of 50 SLN with two Special Boat Squadron personnel had left for Australia on 4 June, to take part in the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) Exercise 2022, hosted by the US Pacific Fleet. They had left on a special flight arranged by the Royal Australian Air Force. The Rim of the Pacific Exercise was conducted for the 28th time and it is the world’s largest international maritime warfare exercise, the SLN website said. There they were with the crew of HMAS Canberra of the Royal Australian Navy for a two-week acclimatisation programme and later left for Hawaiian Islands and Southern California, US onboard HMAS Canberra for RIMPAC 2022. From June to July, they undertook the 2022 edition of the exercise featuring surface ships, submarines, and aircraft and over 25,000 armed forces personnel including ground troops from a number of countries.

By Sulochana Ramiah Mohan