At least 9 Sri Lankan soldiers jumped ship and deserted the military whilst in the United States this week, after they travelled to the country to train alongside the American troops and pick up a US navy vessel that was gifted to Colombo.
“A big crew went to the USA to bring in a ship that was donated to the Sri Lanka Navy,” an official source told Economy Next. “From that crew 9 people have gone missing.”
The reports were confirmed by a US Embassy spokesperson who said the matter “has been referred to U.S. law enforcement”.
“We understand that several sailors have absconded from the training,” the spokesperson added.
The group of soldiers were reportedly in the US to take part in the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) Exercise 2022 and to receive a former US Coast Guard cutter that was being gifted to the Sri Lanka Navy.
The troops were due to return back to Sri Lanka on the cutter.
The cutter would be the third such vessel that the US gifted to Sri Lanka through the Excess Defense Articles program. US military assistance to Sri Lanka has been under criticism due to Colombo’s record of human rights violations, and also came under fire by US Republican Senator Rand Paul. The senator slammed US coronavirus relief bill for a “bunch of socialist spending” and highlighted how US$15 million has allegedly been allocated to “buy high speed boats for Sri Lanka”.
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