ECONOMYNEXT – Nine Sri Lanka Navy sailors who were among personnel expected to return on a vessel gifted by the United States have jumped ship, official sources said as the country reels from a monetary meltdown which has triggered a spike in boat people.
The nine sailors are aged between 27-36 years belonging to several ranks.
The incident comes as Sri Lanka is suffering the worse currency crisis in the history of the island’s intermediate regime central bank. Many people had been arrested by the authorities attempting to leave the country and heading to India and Australia in fishing boats.
“A big crew went to the USA to bring in a ship that was donated to the Sri Lanka Navy,” an official source said.
“From that crew 9 people have gone missing.”
The U.S. embassy said a group of Sri Lankan sailors traveled to the United States to train alongside their U.S. counterparts before returning to Sri Lanka on the P-627, a former U.S. Coast Guard cutter gifted to the Sri Lanka Navy.
“We understand that several sailors have absconded from the training, a matter that has been referred to U.S. law enforcement,” a US Embassy Spokesman told Economy Next.
“Individuals who break U.S. immigration laws can be subject to arrest, detention, and deportation, and those who accrue unlawful presence in the United States can be prevented from returning to the U.S. for up to 10 years.”
“The U.S. values our 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 former U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Douglas Munro, re-named P-627 after its handover to Sri Lanka could house over 180 personnel on board. It was undergoing a re-fit before coming to Sri Lanka.
Sri Lankan military personnel had been travelling to the US with increased co-operation between the two countries.
The missing sailors were part of a 50-member Navy contingent to take part in the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) Exercise 2022, hosted by the US Pacific Fleet and they left on June 4 for Australia from the Bandaranaike International Airport by a special flight arranged by Royal Australian Air Force, another defence source said.
In Australia they underwent underwent a two weeks acclimatization program before they left to the US, . The RIMPAC Exercise 2022 is being held from June 29 to August 04. (Colombo/July 27/2022)