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US praises Sri Lanka’s navy despite concerns over human rights violations

The SLNS Gajabahu, formerly the USCGC Sherman, delivered in 2019 under the Excess Defense Articles program (U.S. Department of State photo)

The US State Department has issued a statement applauding the Sri Lankan Navy in tackling regional drug trafficking despite increasing concern over human rights violations.

In their statement, they note that the SLNS Samudura was successful in capturing close to 300 kilos of heroin and 50 kilos of crystal methamphetamine valued at over $17 million. The Sri Lankan Naval crew, formerly known as the USCGC Courageous, were also responsible for the largest seizure in Sri Lanka’s Navy’s history of 400 kilos of heroin and 100 kilos of crystal methamphetamine worth an approximate $33.5 million.

The State Department notes that the SLNS Samudura was transferred to Sri Lanka under the U.S. Excess Defense Articles (EDA) program through which the US transfers over military equipment in support of capacity building and deepening alliances.

They describe such a decision as a “smart investment” which contributes “more effectively toward our shared vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific for all nations”.

Such sentiments were shared by US Ambassador Alaina B. Teplitz who tweeted:

“Impressive results by the @srilanka_navy to help secure #SriLanka’s sovereignty and a free #IndoPacific. We support Sri Lanka's border and maritime security through ship donations, counter-narcotics, & bomb disposal training and equipment modernization”.

In the US State Department’s 2019 Country report they stated that Sri Lanka suffered from:

“Significant human rights issues included: unlawful killings by the government; torture by government agents; sexual abuse; arbitrary detention by government entities; restrictions on freedom of expression, including unjustified arrests of journalists and authors, and limited social media blocking; widespread corruption; violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons, and the criminalization of same-sex sexual conduct”.

Navy personal were directly involved in the harassment of several journalists including Tamil Guardian correspondents, Shanmugam Thavaseelan and Kanapathipillai Kumanan. More recently Navy personal were identified in attacks against Tamil civilians.

Read the US State Department's statement on Sri Lanka here.

Read the Ambassador’s tweet here.

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