Nine Sri Lankan Navy sailors leave ship in United States

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Sri Lankan marines (in blue camouflage) join their Australian Army colleagues during an airborne assault exercise, RIMPAC 2022 (USN)

Posted on July 29, 2022 at 12:39 a.m. by

The Maritime Executive

Nine Sri Lankan navy sailors who traveled to the United States to participate in the Rim of the Pacific exercise have decided to jump ship and stay, according to Sri Lanka’s Economy Next.


The sailors were part of a 50-person team deployed from Sri Lanka in June to join RIMPAC 2022, the world’s largest international naval exercise. After RIMPAC, they were to help man a new Sri Lankan navy ship: the former USCGC Douglas Munro, which was recently decommissioned and transferred to Sri Lanka under a foreign military aid agreement. The former Munro has undergone a major refit in the United States and is expected to return to Sri Lanka soon.


Her crew may now be understaffed as “nine people are missing”, a Sri Lankan official told the outlet.


The US Embassy in Sri Lanka confirmed the incident and said it had been reported to law enforcement for follow-up.


“Individuals who violate U.S. immigration laws may be arrested, detained, and deported, and those who accumulate an unlawful presence in the United States may be barred from returning to the United States for up to 10 years,” noted the spokesperson.


Sri Lanka is in a state of political and economic upheaval, and the number of its citizens choosing to leave (legally or illegally) is increasing.


After years of political mismanagement, the country is facing the worst economic crisis in its history: it defaulted on its foreign debt for the first time in April, and its economy went into freefall. With few government resources to pay for imported goods, the population experienced power outages, severe fuel shortages and runaway inflation.


In early July, then-president Gotabaya Rajapaksa was ousted from office by a popular uprising. The demonstrators broke through the barricades and occupied the presidential palace, forcing Rajapaksa and his family to flee.


The Sri Lankan navy has confirmed that it evacuated the former president on board a training ship, the SLNS Gajabahuand allowed him to remain safely aboard the ship in Sri Lankan waters.

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