Defections from Lanka: Commonwealth Games Athletes and SL Navymen in USA

Item in Sunday Times, 7 August 2022 …/ taken from AFP and sent to me by Jayantha Somasundaram of Canbera

It is no secret that these days Sri Lankans are trying all sorts of ways to leave the country whether legally or illegally as the economic crisis drags on. The latest is a group of nine Navy sailors who reportedly jumped ship in the US.

The 50-member crew was to join the world’s largest international naval exercise — RIMPAC 2022. Following the exercise, they were scheduled to organise return passage home in a new Sri Lankan Navy vessel, the former USCGC Douglas Munro, which was recently decommissioned and transferred to Sri Lanka under a foreign military aid agreement.

Not only the sailors, but even athletes decamped while on an official mission overseas. At least three Sri Lankan athletes, including a male wrestler and female judoka, were reported to have fled the athletes village while in Birmingham, UK attending the Commonwealth Games. 

On Friday, 47 Sri Lankans were brought to the Colombo Port onboard an Australian Border Force (ABF) vessel “Ocean Shield” after an unsuccessful illegal journey to Australia. These people aged between 17 and 49 were from Valachchenai, Batticaloa, Ampara, Pasikudah, Muttur and Bibile. According to the ABF about 183 Sri Lankans had been repatriated since May last year after six unsuccessful border crossings to Australia.

Ten members of Sri Lanka Commonwealth team in UK missing  ………………. Colombo Gazette 7 August 2022

Ten members of crisis-hit Sri Lanka’s Commonwealth Games contingent in Birmingham have disappeared in a suspected attempt to remain in Britain, a top sports official from the island nation told AFP on Sunday. The nine athletes and a manager vanished after completing their events, the official said, requesting anonymity.

Three of them – judoka Chamila Dilani, her manager Asela de Silva, and wrestler Shanith Chathuranga – had disappeared last week. That prompted a police complaint by the Sri Lankan officials. “Since then, another seven have vanished,” the official said, without identifying them. “We suspect they want to remain in the UK, possibly to get employment.”

The 160-strong Sri Lankan contingent’s management possessed the passports of all members to ensure they returned home. That failed to deter some from leaving.

British police located the first three that disappeared, but as they had not violated local laws and held visas valid for six months, no action was taken, the Sri Lankan official told AFP. “In fact, the police got us to return the passports that we were holding as a deterrent against defections,” the official said. “The police have not told us about their whereabouts.”

Sri Lankan athletes have been reported missing from international events in the past. In October last year, Sri Lanka’s wrestling manager abandoned his team and disappeared in Oslo during a world championship tournament. During the 2014 Asian Games in South Korea, two Sri Lankan athletes made a run for it and were not found.

And in 2004, when Sri Lanka did not even have a national handball team, a 23-member group pretending to represent the country conned their way to a tournament in Germany and disappeared. ,,,,  Courtesy AFP

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