US keen to strengthen defence ties with SL despite alleged accountability issues

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The US is keen to further strengthen defence relations with Sri Lanka while calling for a probe into alleged accountability issues. Army Commander General Shavendra Silva, who is also the Chief of Defence Staff, has been blacklisted as an unwelcome visitor to the US.

In line with the US strategy, Sri Lanka Navy this week took delivery of Douglas Munro, the second Hamilton Class High Endurance Cutter formerly of the US Coast Guard at the U.S. Coast Guard Base in Seattle, Washington. Altogether, the SLN has received three vessels from the US with the first in 2005 during the war. The vessel was deployed in operations during the then SLN Chief Vice Admiral Wasantha Karanangoda’s time to hunt down the LTTE’s floating warehouses. Sri Lanka took delivery of the second vessel in 2018.

Chief of Staff of the Navy, Rear Admiral Y.N. Jayarathne led the SLN delegation to the event. Navy headquarters said that the vessel formally joined the SLN fleet on Oct. 26 under the pennant number P 627.

Authoritative political sources told The Island that the continuing US support for the SLN should be examined against the backdrop of ‘Quad’ security alliance comprising the US, India, Japan and Australia battling China for supremacy in this part of the world. Sources pointed out the increase in visits by Japanese warships since 2015 to Sri Lankan ports in the wake of the two countries entering into a Comprehensive Partnership Agreement.

Sri Lanka also re-entered ACSA (Acquisition and Cross Servicing Agreement) with the US in August 2017.

Designed for 187-member crew, Douglas Munro, measures 115m in length and is capable of achieving maximum speed of 29 knots and endurance of 14000 NM at cruising speed.

The designated SLN crew for the US vessel would undergo training and carry out necessary restoration of the vessel. The crew would be attached to the U.S. Coast Guard Base, Seattle over the next seven months as scheduled, and the vessel scheduled to sail in 2022. According SLN HQ, the voyage beginning from the Port of Seattle across the Pacific and Indian oceans to Sri Lanka will possibly be the longest ever sea voyage a Sri Lankan naval vessel has ever sailed in SLN history.

The SLN delegation included Captain Nimal Ranasinghe, Commanding Officer Designee P-627 and Captain Lanka Dissanayake, Commanding Officer Base Seattle.

At the behest of the US and its allies, Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) recently ordered a fresh investigation into accountability issues during the war and after.

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