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US and Sri Lankan Navy conduct naval exercise in Trincomalee

File photograph: US and Sri Lankan forces train together in 2017.

The US Navy, the US Marine Corps, and the Sri Lankan Navy will conduct a bilateral maritime joint exercise from Monday off the coast of Trincomalee where the government's notorious naval complex is located.

In a communique issued by the US Embassy in Colombo, the mission said the exercise is part of the Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) while the Sri Lanka Navy was partnering with a “unit specialized in security and anti-terrorism for naval assets, engaging alongside their Sri Lanka Navy Marine counterparts on a full spectrum of naval capabilities.”

According to the mission, there are 70 US personnel working with the Sri Lankan military. This is cited to be the fifth such iteration of the naval exercise. 

“Since Sri Lanka began participating in CARAT in 2017, it has grown to become the most significant bilateral military engagement between the United States and Sri Lanka, reflecting our shared commitment to the peace and stability of the Indian Ocean Region,” said U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka Julie Chung. 

Meanwhile, a Senior Defense Official at the U.S. Embassy Anthony Nelson said “CARAT aims to enhance the ability of our navies to defend our own nations and uphold the international standards that serve our mutual interests.” 

Senior Sri Lankan Navy Commanders and former Navy commanders stand accused of being complicit in serious crimes including torture, disappearances and murders. A report published by the International Truth and Justice Project (ITJP), details the formerly secret Navy Torture Camp located in Trincomalee, known as the “gun site” or “Gota’s Camp”.

The report, which examines the complicity of the Sri Lankan Navy in torture and enforced disappearances over many years, found that “these violations were part of a wider pattern of systemic torture that occurred over many years and in multiple sites, perpetrated by the Sri Lankan Navy and other units of the security forces”. 

Trincomalee in the North-East is one of the most militarised provinces in the country which has a large garrison of Sri Lanka's army, navy, and airforce. Large swathes of the military continue to occupy land across the North-East despite the armed conflict ending 15 years ago. 

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