COLOMBO: The Maithripala Sirisena government is investigating an allegation that the Rajapaksa regime had misused personnel and weapons belonging to a government-owned maritime security company during domestic elections, including the recently held Presidential election.
According to The Sunday Times personnel of the Defense Ministry-owned maritime security firm Rakna Arakshaka Lanka Ltd (RALL) and its overseas partner, the Middle-East based Sri Lankan company Avant Garde Maritime Services Ltd (AGMSL), were deployed to campaign for the then President, Mahinda Rajapaksa, in the Presidential election. Earlier, they had been pressed into service during the Uva Provincial elections.
The vast majority of those who were deployed were retired military and police personnel working for RALL. Others were from the AGMSL.
The weekly said that the campaigners were reporting regularly to a team of retired Lankan army officers. These officers were grouped into segments by former Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Express learns that the ex-military campaigners were spreading the fear that the country would be divided if the opposition won.
The Sunday Times said that RALL received weapons like T-56s, AK-47s and machine guns from the Lankan army, which were, in turn, passed on AGMSL. The Guardian of January 10, 2013 quoted AGMSL’s Lankan chairman Nissanka Senadhipathi as saying that the company’s vessels had “thousands of weapons.”
RALL-AGMSL personnel were functioning as a “private army” at the service of a political master, posing a “serious threat” to Lanka’s legitimate security apparatus, The Sunday Times said.
Raids on RALL’s installations at Galle and Colombo revealed that many weapons were unaccounted for, leading to suspicion if there had been any illegal subcontracting of “security work”.
Given the proliferation of Private Maritime Security Companies (PMSC) following the need to battle Somali pirates, and the possibility of misuse of the facilities, there have been calls for national and international regulation of the business.
Indian Navy chief Adm.R.K.Dowan expressed concern over the possibility of terrorists hijacking the “floating armories”, after Al-Qaida tried to hijack Pakistani naval vessels PNS Aslat and PNS Zuklfikar with a plan to use them against Indian and US vessels.
In August 2014, India complained to the International Maritime Organization that it felt “threatened due to the presence of largely unregulated floating armories with large amounts of undeclared weapons and ammunition.” India has sought Lanka’s cooperation in this regard.