Camelia Nathaniel, in The Sunday Leader, 27 April 2014
A team of Australian officials had arrived in Sri Lanka earlier to investigate claims made by illegal migrants that they could not live freely in Sri Lanka and cited this reason for them illegally migrating to Australia. The Australian team, upon conducting investigations, had revealed that they found no basis for these claims and that the real reason for them migrating illegally was not due to political reasons but for economic betterment.
Based on the feedback of the fact finding team, the Australian government has decided not to grant asylum to any Sri Lankan illegal migrant. Last week, one of the two Bay Class P 350 petrol vessels donated by the Australian government to the Sri Lankan Navy to assist in human smuggling operations arrived in Colombo. The vessel, yet to be named, travelled 4800 nautical miles from Cairns Australia to reach Colombo via Darvyn and Singapore. The long range petrol boat is 38.2 metres in length and the beam is 7.2 metres while the boat has a maximum speed limit of 24 knots and a range of 3000 nautical miles.
Aussie High Commissioner Robyn Mudie leaves the new patrol boat after it docks in Sri Lanka
Addressing a gathering at the handing over ceremony of a vessel at the Colombo port the Commander of the Sri Lanka Navy said that this vessel was received in appreciation of the work done by the Sri Lanka Navy in preventing irregular migration by sea, which is also a huge problem for Australia. “This commitment by the Sri Lanka Navy was a long and dedicated commitment which commenced in 2009 but it really blossomed in 2011 when we started apprehending illegal migrants to curb this maritime crime. We, as a source country, I believe, are the only country in this region that has acted in a responsible manner in preventing people leaving our shores illegally. The figures speak volumes of our commitment and we have arrested more 84 boats and over 4400 personnel and we have also rescued at sea on three occasions more than 250 Bangladeshis, Rohingias and some Indian and Sri Lankan nationals as well. This is the reward we have received from Australia for a job well done,” he said.
A group of 10 Navy crew headed by the commanding officer Commander P G J C Samaranayake went to Australia and underwent a familiarisation process prior to bringing this ship home. The second team of Navy personnel has already left to Australia to bring the second vessel which is expected by late June.
NOTE: responding to the highly innovative LTTE sea operations including swarm attacks by speed boats and suicide boat hits, the Sri Lanka Navy also built up Special Boat Squadrons and build its own fast attack craft. These were far more effective than the Israeli “Dvora-class” vessels in shallow water. There is a story waiting to be told in greater detail on the Navy operations which aided in the crippling of the LTTE and the final victory though some essays do exist (see below). The point here is that the SL Navy has the capacity to handle the tough and in certain respects insurmountable job of patrolling an extensive coastline — a few bad eggs notwithstanding (and now apprehended). Michael Roberts
Chandradasa, Malaka n.d. “Learning from our enemies: Sri Lankan naval special warfare against Sea Tigers,” https://globalecco.org/learning-from-our-enemies-sri-lankan-naval-special-warfare-against-the-sea-tigers.
De Silva-Ranasinghe, Sergei 2009f “Maritime Counter-Terrorism and the Sri Lanka Navy,” Asia-Pacific Defence Reporter, November 2009, 35: 32-33.
Fish, Tim 2009 “Sri Lanka learns to counter Sea Tigers swarm tactics,” Jane’s Navy International , March 200, pp. 2025.
Perera, Amantha 2007 “Sri Krishna guides Navy to Big Kill,” 16 September 2007 http://www.thesundayleader.lk/archive/20070916/defence.htm.