Navy Commander Vice Admiral Travis Sinniah said the Onboard Security Operations was handed over to Avant Garde on a platter by the previous government. Elaborating on the Avant Garde issue yesterday, during his first press briefing since taking office as the Navy’s 21st Commander, he said long before Avant Garde came into the equation, the Navy was running this operation for nearly two years.
“We ran this operation completely by ourselves. We had a small company called Avant Garde which was a small security company which somehow managed to convince the government that they could do a better job and the whole operation was then handed over to them.
He said it was the Navy that initially came up with the concept of providing onboard security operations for commercial vessels.
“The Avant Garde operation is just a theory. This was a Naval operation and plan. You have to be very clear that Onboard Security Operations (OBS) was brought up by the Navy at the end of the war. After the war when the SL Navy went to various countries, especially the UN, they asked us whether we were capable of going out there and defeating the Somali pirates because we were the most robust small boat fighting team in the world. The SL Navy is ranked No. 1 as the most experienced and robust teams.”
He said that when the Navy was asked us how they managed to get their convoys to the North through 30 years and be attacked so few times by the enemy that was so much stronger than the Somali pirates, the Navy had said they had a concept of convoys and a concept of small boats when they fought and had a concept of onboard security teams.
“Then they asked us if this cannot be used for commercial shipping and we said of course it could be used. So the concept was drawn up by the Sri Lanka Navy and they bought it. At that time they wanted the SL Navy to come up with a concept and we wrote a paper and sent it to the UN and also had the plan that we could protect commercial shipping all the way from the Malakka straights to the gulf of Aden while providing onboard security teams from Sri Lanka. This was the plan that we had after the war and we implemented it,” added the Navy Commander.
Responding to media queries, he denied allegations that the Navy was using weapons seized from the Avant Garde vessel as the Navy have their own weapons.
Avant-Garde Chairman Nissanka Senadhipathi speaking to the Daily News said at the time the Onboard Security Operations were being handled by Avant Garde, it made Rs.320 million per month in profits while under the Navy it had dropped to Rs.100 million, a decline of 70% of the profits. However, according to the Navy Commander, in the Avant Garde operation the Navy only protected the weaponry that went in and out. They were stored in the Navy’s armouries. All the other services such as boats from and to the ships, entertainment; transport accommodation etc was operated to all other companies.
“Today although we are accused of making losses, you must understand that we have only taken back our component of this operation while others are handling the other components,” he said.
Senadhipathy while admitting that he had great regard for the current Navy Commander, challenged him to an open debate on the Avant Garde issue and said he had the documentation to prove that the Onboard Security Operations was not handed over to Avant Garde on a platter as alleged by the Commander.
“Today, all the Sea Marshals serving in this operation are left unemployed. I ask the Navy if they have provided a single job since taking over this operation. I had provided employment to around 430 Navy personnel and today they are all without a job,” added Senadhipathy.
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Source URL: The Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Ltd.