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US to send yet another vessel to Sri Lankan navy, confirms senior official

A senior US official confirmed that Washington will be looking to send yet another vessel to the Sri Lankan navy – its fourth so cutter so far – despite the military’s history of human rights abuses, as ties with Colombo grow even closer.  

US Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources Richard Verma made the announcement on February 23, aboard the SLNS Vijayabahu, one of three former US Coast Guard cutters transferred by the United States to Sri Lanka.

The US Department of State has notified Congress of its intent to transfer a fourth medium endurance cutter to Sri Lanka, he said, with USD 9 million in Foreign Military Financing allocated to support this effort.

“We look forward to offering the cutter, pending the completion of Congress’ notification period,” said Verma.

“If completed, this transfer would further strengthen defence cooperation between the United States and Sri Lanka. The ship would increase Sri Lanka’s ability to patrol its Exclusive Economic Zone, monitor its search and rescue area, and provide additional security for ships from all nations that transit the busy sea lanes of the Indian Ocean.” 

“The eventual transfer of a fourth vessel would be just one more point in a long history of cooperation between Sri Lanka and the United States in preserving a free and open Indo-Pacific region.”

The Deputy Secretary met with civil society, business leaders, and government officials during his two-day visit to Sri Lanka, as well as the site of the West Container Terminal (WCT) which the US and India’s Adani corporation will be jointly constructing.

He also met with Sri Lanka’s president Ranil Wickremasinghe and Foreign Minister Ali Sabry to discuss Sri Lanka’s IMF program, including economic and governance reforms.

In a statement on the US Embassy’s website, they also discussed “opportunities to deepen defence and maritime cooperation between the United States and Sri Lanka, including strengthening the Sri Lanka Navy’s capabilities to safeguard national security and promote a more stable Indo-Pacific region”.

He reportedly also “stressed the vital need to protect human rights and fundamental freedoms, including freedom of expression”.

Verma is the most recent high-ranking US public official to visit the country. Currently the third highest ranking figure within the State Department, he previously served as the US Ambassador to India.

Despite Sri Lanka’s record of human rights abuse, the United States continues to hold cordial relations with Sri Lanka’s military.

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