ECONOMYNEXT – Nine Sri Lankan navy sailors who were among personnel due to return to a ship donated by the United States have left the ship, official sources say as the country reels from a currency meltdown which triggered an increase in the number of boat people.
The nine sailors are aged 27 to 36 and belong to several ranks.
The incident comes as Sri Lanka is suffering the worst currency crisis in the history of the island’s middle regime central bank. Many people had been arrested by authorities as they attempted to leave the country and were heading to India and Australia on fishing boats.
“A large crew traveled to the United States to bring back a ship that was donated to the Sri Lankan Navy,” an official source said.
“Of this crew, 9 people have disappeared.”
The US Embassy said a group of Sri Lankan sailors had traveled to the United States to train alongside their US counterparts before returning to Sri Lanka on the P-627, a former Guardsman cutter -American coasts offered to the Sri Lankan Navy.
“We understand that several sailors ran away from the training, a matter that has been referred to US law enforcement,” a US Embassy spokesperson told Economy Next.
“Individuals who violate U.S. immigration laws may be arrested, detained, and deported, and those who accumulate an unlawful presence in the United States may be barred from returning to the United States for up to 10 years.”
“The United States appreciates our continued partnership with the government, military, and people of Sri Lanka, and will continue to provide generous humanitarian assistance, continued development assistance, and military training during this difficult time.”
The former US coast guard Douglas Munro, renamed P-627 after its return to Sri Lanka, could accommodate more than 180 people on board. It was undergoing a refit before coming to Sri Lanka.
Sri Lankan military personnel had traveled to the United States with increased cooperation between the two countries.
The missing sailors were part of a 50-member Navy contingent to participate in Exercise Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2022, hosted by the U.S. Pacific Fleet and they departed June 4 for Australia from the Bandaranaike International Airport by a special flight. organized by the Royal Australian Air Force, another defense source said.
In Australia, they went through a two-week acclimatization program before leaving for the United States. The RIMPAC 2022 exercise takes place from June 29 to August 04. (Colombo/July 27, 2022)