US to beef up SL’s maritime
surveillance capability
Admiral Robert F. Willard

by Shamindra Ferdinando

President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s government expects the Bush administration to further enhance Sri Lanka’s maritime surveillance capability as part of US efforts to fight global terrorism. This would include the required training provided by the US apart from small scale joint exercises undertaken with the navy, particularly its Special Boat Squadron (SBS), an elite force.

An authoritative governmental spokesman yesterday said that the recently concluded three-day visit to Colombo by Admiral Robert F. Willard, the chief of the US Pacific Fleet, underlined the growing US-Lanka relationship and the US commitment to support Sri Lanka’s battle against LTTE which listed as a terrorist organization by both the US and the British.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the official asserted that the US wouldn’t ignore Sri Lanka’s call for assistance to curb both arms smuggling and human trafficking.

"In fact, we are fully confident the US wouldn’t turn its back on us as the war against the LTTE enters a decisive stage," he said.

He expressed confidence that despite efforts to internationally isolate the Sri Lankan government on the ‘human rights issue’ the world community wouldn’t let Sri Lanka down.

The US delegation, during a visit to Trincomalee was briefed of the ongoing operations undertaken by the SLN, particularly its battle against suicide attacks.

Another official said that the October 2000 attack off Yemen on guided-missile destroyer USS Cole killing 17 personnel, wounding 39 others and leaving extensive damages had highlighted the serious threat posed by terrorists even on the world’s solitary superpower.

The destroyer was refueling in the port city of Aden when two suicide bombers crashed their explosives laden small boat into the vessel. USS Cole was lifted aboard the Norwegian heavy transport ship M/V Blue Marlin and towed back to the United States.

During Friday’s banquet at Navy Headquarters, Admiral Willard congratulated the SLN for operations carried out on the high seas last September and October which caused the destruction of four LTTE ships. The US Pacific Command had monitored the action throughout the operations and there had been a lot of excitement, the US official had acknowledged.

The banquet followed a meeting Admiral Willard had with Navy Commander, Vice Admiral Wasantha Karannagoda, at SLN headquarters where discussions centered on bilateral relations.

The US and Sri Lanka agreed that maritime surveillance and security would be of critical importance in the battle against the LTTE, the Sri Lankan military said. Destruction of eight LTTE ships carrying arms, ammunition and at least three fixed wing aircraft on the high seas (from September 2006 to October 2007) had brought the LTTE under immense pressure, they said.

The success of the ongoing multi-pronged assault on the remaining LTTE strongholds in the Vanni would entirely depend on their capability to prevent fresh stocks of ammunition from coming in, particularly through the Gulf of Mannar supply route, they said. They said that the US recently donated maritime surveillance equipment worth USD 11 million and this would be of critical importance to this effort.



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