Dispute with Britain over Sea MarshalsView(s):
A Rajagiriya-based private security firm operating a floating armoury in Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is at the centre of diplomatic row between Sri Lanka and Britain over the issue of weapons to Sea Marshals who provide security against Somali pirates.
The Ministry of Defence in Colombo wants Sea Marshals, armed men who travel in merchant vessels in danger zones, to obtain their weapons from the Fujairah floating armoury, ‘Sinbad’, owned by the Sri Lankan security firm Avante Guard.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London has requested on behalf of Britain’s Private Maritime Security Companies that employ Sea Marshals, that the Sea Marshals be allowed to bring the weapons issued to them to Sri Lanka.
At present when the Sea Marshals reach Sri Lankan sea ports, their weapons usually an assault rifle must be handed over to the Navy for safe keeping for a fee of US 10 per weapon.
British High Commission spokesperson Sarah Mann confirmed “authorities in London were talking to authorities in Colombo about the matter.” However, External Affairs Ministry Secretary Karunatilleke Amunugama said he was “not aware of any talks between Britain and Sri Lanka.
An official response on why the new move is being made by Colombo came from Major Chinthaka Perera of the Rakna Arakshaka Lanka Limited, the private security firm under the Ministry of Defence (MoD). He said some of the licences given to Sea Marshals had been revoked. He said some of them also did not meet the requirements of the MoD in Colombo. “Apart from that, we also have to address national security concerns,” he said.
Dom Mee, President of Protection of Vessels International (PVI), has reacted angrily to the new move. “Even if the firms were to rent the weapons from the floating armoury ‘Sindbad’, they could not do so. Using third party weapons is an offence,” he was quoted as telling the Lloyds List.
A Colombo official representing PMSC office warned yesterday that continued refusal to allow Sea Marshals to Sri Lanka would compel them to go to the Maldives. He said there were some 2,400 Sea Marshals providing security in the Arabian Sea. He said the Marshals included Britons, Americans, Germans, Greeks, Italians, Ukranians and Sri Lankans.
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