Mar 05, Colombo: Sri Lanka Navy has strongly rejected the allegations leveled against them by an Australian media report which said that some Sri Lankan Navy personnel are complicit in people smuggling operations.
Australian media report alleged that Sri Lanka's navy is a major player in the island's people-smuggling operations, helping asylum seekers to leave the country in boats bound for Australia.
Sri Lanka Navy Spokesman Commander Kosala Warnakulasuriya has said that allegations of naval complicity were baseless.
''I categorically deny these allegations, no Sri Lankan naval personnel are involved in this illegal migration activity,'' he has been quoted as saying.
The Navy Spokesman pointing out that Sri Lankan navy has stopped more boats than any other country, has said that claims of naval complicity were made to discredit Sri Lanka's government for political advantage.
Last year the Sri Lankan navy prevented over 3,000 asylum seekers sailing to Australia although the report claims that another 6,428 made it to Australia.
The Tamil National Alliance parliamentarian M. A. Sumanthiran has said that navy's involvement was common knowledge and the Navy brings back one in 10 boats they catch and announce it to the country.
The report quotes a returned asylum seeker who has said that he paid 1.2 million rupees to the smugglers for his passage to Australia and the fee included pay offs to ''authority people, the navy and police''.
The returnee was quoted as saying that the government fearing another insurgence by the remnants of terrorists is happy to let Tamil men of fighting age to leave.
Australian government has however said that although they were aware of the allegations there is no evidence to support the allegations.
''There is currently no specific evidence that we are aware of to support these claims,'' a spokeswoman for the Australian Minister for Home Affairs Jason Clare has said.
During his visit to Sri Lanka, Australian Foreign Minister Senator Bob Carr promised AU$ 45 million aid over the next five years to assist Sri Lanka to boost the fight against people smuggling on boats from the island nation to Australia.
Under a plan announced by the Foreign Minister, Australia will provide Sri Lanka with additional surveillance and electronic equipment to expand the island's capacity to target smuggling operations and better identify vessel departure times and locations.
Australia will assist to strengthen the Sri Lankan navy's on-water disruption capacity and supply the Navy with search and rescue equipment to help recovery of passengers from intercepted and unseaworthy vessels. Also, Sri Lankan naval officers will receive Australia-based training in maritime air surveillance.