A private security company is engaged in setting up a floating armory in the seas off Galle, sources from the Navy headquarters said.
Avern Guard Offshore Services (Pvt) Ltd has requested for permission from the Defence Ministry to set up this armory. The company is owned by retired Army Major, Nishshanka Senadhipathi. During the tenure of the UNP government, the Major built close ties with government ministers and got contracts to provide security to state institutions. He had even provided security personnel working for him to attack university students at the time.
After President Chandrika Kumaratunge assumed office, he had built a link with the President’s security head, SP Nihal Karunaratne and got contracts to provide security to several state institutions. However, he had become a millionaire after getting to know Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa under President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s tenure.
A senior naval officer who spoke to us about the project proposal presented on the setting up of the floating armory gave a lot of information about it.
He explained that if the project is given the green light by the Defence Ministry, it would scrap the revenue generating means of the Navy and people in Galle.
Over a thousand ships sail daily on the seas off Galle. Somalian pirates had threatened the ships that sail in the area from the South Asian region. Several private international security companies have come forward to provide security to these vessels and these companies operate from Galle. Therefore, about 35 such companies have set up their offices in the area surrounding the Galle harbor. Weapons and storage facilities to these companies had been provided by the Sri Lanka Navy.
The Navy has earned a revenue of US$ 12 million from such transactions last year. A large number of people have also arrived in the country to work in these companies and they have found lodging in hotels and houses in the Galle area. The companies have also got around 15,000 tourists to visit Galle in their vessels.
Thousands people residing in Galle have found a livelihood by providing food, lodging and other facilities to the people from these companies. The navy officer said that there are currently about 55 such companies established in Galle.
Therefore, he said the Navy expects to double its earnings by facilitating these companies this year.
Senadhipathi has given the project proposal to the Defence Secretary to set up a floating armory when the Navy and people in Galle were earning an additional income through the current system.
Senadhipathi has also informed that the retiring Navy Commander Somathileka Dissanayake would be employed by his Avern Guard Offshore Services (Pvt) Ltd paying him a monthly salary of Rs. 1 million.
Most foreign security companies operating in Galle have shifted their offices to the Maldives and Bangladesh after learning that this floating armory project has received state patronage.