Navy chief wants US help

by Shamindra Ferdinando
Navy Commander Vice Admiral Daya Sandagiri wants US help to strengthen the navy on a priority basis.

Sandagiri was recently in the US to attend the 16th international seapower symposium and took advantage of the opportunity to discuss the navy’s requirements with US Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Vern Clark.

"I was given a one-to-one meeting with Admiral Clark to explain the navy’s growing requirements," he said, adding that the US Admiral responded positively and promised to get back to him soon. He declined to specify Lanka’s requirements.

He also met several other senior US navy and Coast Guard officers including Admiral Thomas H. Collings, Commander of the US Coast Guard.

Early this year, the US offered a Coast Guard vessel to the Sri Lanka Navy. "We’ll be taking delivery of this vessel soon," the navy chief said.

Sandagiri left for the US shortly after accusing Major General (retd) Tryggve Tellefsen of jeopardising a recent navy operation to track down an LTTE arms ship in international waters east of Mullaitivu. Tellefsen subsequently admitted that he inquired from the LTTE about the presence of a vessel after receiving a call from a naval monitor on board a navy ship engaged in the operation.

Replying to questions, the navy chief said Nordic naval monitors continued to come on board navy vessels deployed in the north-east. Cease-fire monitoring mission spokesperson Agnes Bragadottir yesterday confirmed. "It is business as usual," she said. Hagrup Haukland, the mission’s number two functions as the acting head in Tellefsen’s absence. He is back in Oslo for consultations with his government consequent to President Chandrika Kumaratunga’s demand for his removal.

"The incident forced us to review existing procedures. We are determined to take steps to maintain secrecy of special operations," the navy chief said. "The naval monitors would not be allowed on board ships deployed on special assignments unless there was no guarantee their presence would not jeopardise the operation and place the lives of the officers and men in danger."

"I have made my position clear to all," he said, stressing the importance in abiding by the cease-fire agreement and the document on rules of engagement.

Since the cease-fire agreement came into effect in February last year, the LTTE lost two ships in eastern waters due to navy action.