Where Vengeance kills its Best Practice Ventures: The Story of Avant Garde

C. A. Chandraprema, whose two-part essay in The Island, is entitled “The Avant Guard Affair: SL’s foray into the maritime security industry” … Emphasis via highlighting is the work of The Editor, Thuppahi.

Though much has been said and written in the past two years about the opaque operations of Avant Guard Maritime Services, most people know little or nothing of what it was all about – a classic case of a controversy creating more confusion than enlightenment. In this article, The Island staffer C. A. Chandraprema traces how Sri Lanka got drawn into the murky world of maritime security and the roles which the Rajapaksa government and the private sector played in the operation.  If the world of maritime security was murky, the murkiest part of it was the floating armouries. In the second part of this essay The Island staffer C. A. Chandraprema examines the controversy surrounding the Galle floating armoury of Avant Guard Maritime Services.  

avant-garde  avant-garde-22

In 2006 as the war intensified, the Defence Ministry set up Rakna Lanka Ltd, a fully government owned limited liability company to provide security services to important government installations and institutions such as the Mahaweli dams and the Petroleum Corporation etc. Made up entirely of ex-armed forces personnel this special security service was meant to eliminate the need to deploy army and police personnel to guard infrastructure and to release them for duties in the war zone. Rakna Lanka provided security services to 49 government institutions during and after the war. While Sri Lanka remained preoccupied with the war, a new development that took place in the Indian ocean region was the rise of piracy off the coast of Somalia.

In December 2008 the UN Security Council issued Resolution No: 1851 expressing grave concern at the dramatic increase in the incidents of piracy off the coast of Somalia and noted that these attacks had expanded over a wide area in the Indian Ocean. The resolution called upon all states to take part actively in the fight against piracy. The Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia was created on 14 January 2009. When this threat first manifested itself, the shipping companies expected the navies in the region to protect their vessels. However even the combined strength of all the navies in the region was not able to guarantee the security of shipping in the Indian ocean and ships started carrying armed security guards. By May 2009, the United States Coast Guard had issued a directive to all US-flagged ships sailing around the Horn of Africa to have armed guards.

avant-garde-1133 Avant-Garde has Defence Ministry clearance to provide security to ships against Somali Pirates –Daily News, 2 March 2015

The UK was an early leader in deploying armed ‘sea marshals’ on board merchant shipping in the Indian ocean. The British House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee in a report on ‘Piracy off the coast of Somalia’ observed that the UK sits at the centre of the global shipping trade and aside from direct shipping interests, the maritime sector constitutes a major component of the UK insurance, banking and legal sectors and a very large proportion of ships travelling in the Indian ocean are insured in the UK, and that therefore piracy was very much a British problem. They further observed that ‘the evidence in support of using private armed security guards is compelling and that ship owners should be allowed to protect their ships and crew by employing private armed security guards’.

A British dominated industry  

Noting that over 50% of the armed security on board ships is provided by UK nationals or foreign companies run by UK nationals, the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee concluded that “…the Government should take a more proactive approach to facilitate an effective and safe legal regime for the carriage and use of weapons for the purposes of deterring piracy. We recommend that the Government actively engage with port and coastal states surrounding Somalia to establish an agreement on the carriage and transfer of weapons by private armed guards so that they can be securely removed from vessels once they have exited the high risk area”.

One of the countries that the British government (through their High Commissioner in Colombo) and the maritime security industry approached very early on in this regard was Sri Lanka which at their request began storing the weapons of private maritime security companies at the navy armoury in Galle from December 2009 onwards. The first weapons stored in this manner were those of sea marshals on board a ship belonging to the Norwegian shipping conglomerate Wilhelmsen Company. Galle, being located just outside the high risk area in the Indian ocean soon became a hub for private maritime security personnel to embark and disembark from ships.

When the sea marshals of these foreign private maritime security companies were to arrive in Galle, the local agent of the relevant maritime security company would inform the Defence Ministry and obtain the necessary clearance for the storage of the weapons. When the ship nears Galle, the local agent would go to the ship in a hired boat along with a navy representative who would make sure that the sea marshals were disembarking from the ship mentioned in the documents and they would all return to the Galle harbour where the navy would help the foreign sea marshals through customs. Then their weapons would be deposited in the navy armoury and the local agent would take the sea marshals to Katunayake and send them home by plane. Every such transfer was approved separately by the Defence Ministry. When embarking on ships for duty, the process would be reversed. All the international maritime security companies operating in the Indian Ocean soon had agents in Sri Lanka to look after their sea marshals. The navy earned an itemised fee per day for storing the weapons and equipment such as the body armour of private maritime security companies.

At this early stage, none of the numerous land based security companies in Sri Lanka was involved in the maritime security industry. The ‘maritime security companies’ in Sri Lanka were actually shipping companies acting as the agents for foreign maritime security companies and didn’t have security personnel and weapons in Sri Lanka. As the maritime security industry burgeoned, in July 2010, several foreign private maritime security companies led by Protect Risk Management Solutions Ltd and Varic Security Offshore suggested to Rakna Lanka that they should hire out armed sea marshals to be deployed on ships. The private maritime security companies were attracted to Rakna Lanka because it was a government owned enterprise operating under the Ministry of Defence and all its guards were ex- service personnel well trained in handling firearms and fully vetted by the authorities.

Furthermore, the weapons used by Rakna Lanka belonged to the government of Sri Lanka and there were no problems about the legality of those weapons. The Maritime Security arm of Rakna Lanka was established in March 2011 and they became the first land based security company in Sri Lanka to have a maritime security arm. However, Rakna Lanka depended on the foreign maritime security companies to bring business to them. When the latter makes a request for sea marshals, Rakna Lanka provided the men and weapons and obtained a fee for their services based on a written agreement. On 19 March 2011 Rakna Lanka provided its first on board security team to Inter Ocean Services Ltd to deploy onboard MV Emerald.

IMO formulates industry guidelines

In the meantime, the International Maritime Organisation had formulated regulations for private maritime security companies and sea marshals. On 16 September 2011, the Maritime Security Committee of the IMO issued Circular No: 1408 giving its recommendations to member states on the use of privately contracted armed security personnel on board ships where they had said that:

“The use of privately contracted armed security personnel on ships is a very recent and still evolving development. Existing national legislation, policies and procedures may not have been developed taking into account or to cater for the various scenarios related to the embarkation or disembarkation of privately contracted sea marshals or their firearms. Member Governments, should have in place policies and procedures to facilitate the movement of privately contracted sea marshals and of their firearms…. The recommendations contained in this document are not intended in any manner to override or otherwise interfere with the national legislation of a State. However, at the same time, they recognize the concerns and interests of the owners of ships navigating through the high risk area.”

On 25 May 2012, the IMO Maritime Security Committee Issued Circular No: 1405 laying down guidelines to ship owners on the use of privately contracted armed security personnel on board ships. This circular sought to advise ship owners on the criteria to be applied when selecting private maritime security companies to provide security for their ships. They were advised to check on the registration of the security company, its ownership, its annual accounts and bank references, the extent of its insurance cover, the experience of its senior management etc. The private security companies were also required to produce evidence of actual maritime security experience as against land based security, and proof of the legal possession of firearms etc.

On the same day the IMO Maritime Security Committee issued circular No: 1443 to private maritime security companies stressing that they needed to perform thorough checks on the criminal background, history of employment, military background, physical and mental fitness, drug and alcohol abuse, competence in the use of firearms etc when recruiting sea marshals. The private maritime security company also had to ensure that the sea marshals it recruited had adequate training to carry out their duties. Sri Lanka had joined the IMO (a UN body) in 1972 and its directives constitute a part of Sri Lanka’s international obligations. By 2011, there were more than two dozen companies in Sri Lanka acting as the Sri Lankan agents of international maritime security companies. On 13 September 2011, Avant Guard Maritime Services became the twenty fifth private maritime security company to register with Rakna Lanka to obtain the services of sea marshals.

Avant Guard hits the ground running

At that time Avant Guard was one of the largest land based private security firms in the country and had done an extensive study of the maritime security industry before entering it. No other private land based security company in Sri Lanka had entered the maritime security industry by that time. In 2011, As they signed up with Rakna Lanka, Avant Guard hit the ground running by signing a separate agreement to provide sea marshals for fishing vessels in the Indian ocean – a business that they had on their own canvassed and brought to Sri Lanka. None of the foreign maritime security companies that had agents in Sri Lanka were involved in this niche business.  The difference between an ordinary sea marshal and a fishing trawler sea marshal was that the latter had to spend more than six months at a time on board the trawler. Rakna Lanka sea marshals were reluctant to take up these jobs and Avant Guard looked for recruits on their own who were then vetted, registered and provided with weapons and equipment on hire by Rakna Lanka.  At this early stage, Avant Guard established several ‘forward operational bases’ along the coast of Africa and in the Middle East, to look after their fishing trawler sea marshals.

The way sea marshals were hired out to the numerous clients Rakna Lanka had was either to send the send the full complement of three or four guards with weapons and equipment or to hire out just three or four assault rifles and equipment accompanied by a Rakna Lanka sea marshal who would look after the weapons given on hire. These weapons would then be used by the foreign sea marshals of the private maritime security company with the Rakna Lanka custodian also functioning as a member of the security team. Handing the weapons back to Rakna Lanka was the responsibility of the respective private maritime security company. Rakna Lanka kept a cash deposit against losses and damages for weapons and ammunition issued in this manner. Each such deployment would be approved by a specially designated Additional Secretary of the Defence Ministry.

In Sri Lanka, many land based private security companies had authorisation to use firearms. The license for the firearms was granted to the owner or director of the security firm (who had to be a retired armed forces or police officer above a certain rank) and he would assign the weapons to his guards who would have the necessary police clearances and a ‘watcher’s permit’ issued by the District Secretariat.  In similar fashion, Rakna Lanka had authorisation from the Defence Ministry to own firearms which could be assigned to their guards. On occasions when foreign sea marshals of private maritime security companies used Rakna Lanka firearms on ships, the regulations that applied were firstly, the legal clearance and registration of that private maritime company in an IMO member country as per the IMO directives, secondly the registration of those foreign sea marshals in an IMO member country in accordance with their domestic laws and the guidelines of the IMO, and certification of their competence to bear arms and thirdly, the internationally binding agreement the private maritime security company had with Rakna Lanka.

The Baltic and International Maritime Council or BIMCO – the world’s largest ship owners’ association had stated in a Security Advisory that the onus was on the ship owners to check the licences of the weapons used by the private maritime security companies they chose. If the latter are hiring their weapons and equipment from third parties, the ship owner had to ensure that those weapons had the required licences and permits issued by state authorities so as not to be in violation of Clause 10 of GUARDCON – the standard contract entered into between ship owners and private maritime security companies for the deployment of sea marshals.

Rakna Lanka had an armoury located in the BMICH premises under police supervision for its sea marshals using the Colombo port and another armoury in the Galle navy camp for those using the Galle harbour. According to UN Security Council document No: S/2012/544 of 13 July 2012, the Security Council considered the question of the lack of oversight by an international regulatory authority over the weapons used by private maritime security organisations and said that this loophole enabled some private maritime security companies to use illegal or unregistered weapons which could be obtained cheaply from dealers in Yemen and Egypt. In this context, the Security Council observed that weapons can be officially leased from certain Governments such as Sri Lanka, Djibouti, and Comoros and that this is an option ‘when strictly regulated, probably provides the greatest degree of oversight’.

Hiccups in UNSC endorsed system

However, renting out weapons and equipment even to well-recognised maritime security companies did not go well at first. This was a matter that came to the notice of the UN Security Council as well. They stated in document No:S/2012/544 that  in 2011, the Sri Lankan Government reportedly lost track of a large number of government-owned weapons that it had rented out to various private maritime security companies. (These were subsequently recovered by Avant Guard on behalf of Rakna Lanka.) In one case, three T-56  assault rifles leased to the UK-registered company Marine Risk Management  were taken on board a Finnish ship at Galle on route to Gibraltar and when the Rakna Lanka custodian accompanying the weapons flew back to Sri Lanka from Gibraltar, the UK company had neglected to send back the weapons and they were found only after the ship reached its next port of call in Poland.

As a solution to this problem of weapons being misplaced, a ‘closed network’ system was devised by Rakna Lanka in collaboration with Avant Guard by expanding their network of forward operational bases to eight in such locations as the Seychelles, Maldives, South Africa, Mauritius, Djibouti, Kenya, Tanzania and Oman and also by  establishing land based armouries in Muscat, Dar Es Salam, Mauritius and Durban (run by the police or army in those countries) as well as two floating armouries in the Red sea and Gulf of Oman to handle the weapons of Rakna Lanka sea marshals ending their tours at that end of the high risk zone. This created a closed system where Rakna Lanka weapons, equipment and sea marshals embarked or disembarked from anywhere in the high risk zone of the Indian Ocean would be collected and looked after by this network without the likelihood of any weapons being misplaced.

This operation became the most comprehensive maritime security system in the Indian ocean and no foreign maritime security company could match it. The investment in the floating armouries, land based armouries and the ‘forward operations bases’ on the other side of the Indian ocean were all done by Avant Guard without Rakna Lanka or the Sri Lankan government investing any money. The international marketing aspect of the operation was also handled by Avant Guard. Rakna Lanka was from the beginning dependent on the private maritime security companies to bring business to them. The partnership between Rakna Lanka and Avant Guard took the maritime security industry in the Indian ocean to new level.

avant-garde-44

II. Questions over the floating armouries

By 2012, the number of firearms of foreign maritime security companies coming into the Galle naval armoury for storage had increased exponentially. What started with just 12 firearms as a temporary measure to help in the fight against piracy soon became a flood with well over one thousand foreign owned weapons lying in the Galle naval armoury at any given time. The Navy was at one point making around Rs. 80 million a month from storage fees. In October 2012, a report by the UK based Security Association for the Maritime Industry (SAMI) observed that the SL government has for some time been concerned about the increased movement of large quantities of foreign owned arms and ammunition through Galle.

There was the possibility of some of these weapons finding their way into the hands of the underworld as some foreign private maritime security companies never claimed their weapons after depositing them in the naval armoury and a stock of non-moving items had rapidly built up. Even though Sri Lanka was obliged to facilitate the measures taken to combat piracy in terms of the UN Security Council resolutions and the IMO Circulars, and the foreign maritime security companies and their sea marshals were all duly registered in their home countries, the weapons they used were not always legal and some lacked ‘end user certificates’ which indicate the country that is authorised to use the firearms. This was discussed in the Sri Lankan security council and the Defence Ministry was instructed to look for alternative ways of storing these firearms without disrupting the international anti-piracy effort.

It was as a solution to the build up of foreign owned weapons in the Galle navy camp that Avant Guard at the request of Rakna Lanka, prepared a proposal to set up a floating armoury outside Galle as a joint venture so that these weapons are taken out of Sri Lanka into a privately administered armoury without the Sri Lankan navy having to store such weapons. The navy would provide protection for this government approved but privately administered floating armoury, and see to it that foreign owned unregulated floating armouries were not allowed in SL territorial waters. Various foreign parties were at that time trying to set up floating armouries outside the territorial waters of Sri Lanka to cash in on the weapons storage business. On one occasion, the Sri Lankan navy had come across an unregulated floating armoury and had ordered it to sea dump its weapons and leave Sri Lankan waters. A formal request had also come in from Iran to station one of their warships close to Sri Lanka to function as a floating armoury.

Around October 2012, Avant Guard set up MV Mahanuwara a floating armoury outside Galle in collaboration with the Navy and Rakna Lanka. When a ship requires to disembark their sea marshals while leaving the high risk zone, the local agent of the maritime company hires a boat and with representatives from the Navy and Rakna Lanka picks up the sea marshals in mid sea and takes them to the floating armoury where they deposit their weapons and then they proceed to Galle and from there on to Katunayake to fly back to their countries. When embarking from Galle, the same process takes place in reverse.  Avant Guard, the Navy and Rakna Lanka all shared the profits from the operation. Avant Guard charged 3500 USD per transfer from its Galle floating armoury – this covered the cost of storing a ‘set’ of weapons which would be up to four assault rifles and the accompanying body armour and helmets etc. Of the total revenue, 17% was paid to the Navy and another 18% was paid to Rakna Lanka as royalties. However the government did not spend any money in setting up the operation. The Galle floating armoury was given permission to operate from Sri Lankan territorial waters and to come into the Galle harbour when necessary.

Britain takes the lead again

To a question put to him by the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery and Corruption whether he had given Avant Guard Maritime Services an opportunity to enrich themselves by authorising them to store the weapons that had earlier been stored by the Navy, Gota had replied that if he had wanted to enrich a private company, all that he needed to do was to simply ban the weapons of foreign maritime security companies from being stored in the Galle naval armoury so that any private party could have set up a floating armoury off Galle and reaped the full income from the storage operation without sharing anything with the Navy or Rakna Lanka. Furthermore he had explained that the reason why Avant Guard was chosen to run the Galle floating armoury was that they were already operating two floating armouries in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Oman which were being used by Rakna Lanka. Furthermore Avant Guard was the only Sri Lankan security company in the country with that kind of expertise.

Having privately contracted sea marshals on ships plying the high risk area of the Indian Ocean had become the accepted practice by 2012. However, there was no such consensus on the use of ‘floating armouries’ by these private maritime security companies. The International Maritime Organisation at the 95th session of the IMO Maritime Safety Committee held in June 2015 observed that “Whilst more merchant ships use privately contracted armed security personnel, many costal states in the region are not prepared to provide armoury, magazine and storage facilities for their weapons in their port areas. Consequently a number of floating armouries were set up by private companies providing a service around the high risk areas where weapons, ammunition and security related equipment could be stored on vessels outside territorial waters of coastal states. The Maritime Security Committee 95…could not agree on how to approach this issue…”

According to the Council of the European Commission, the same situation prevailed at the European Firearms Experts (EFE) meeting held in April 2015 in Helsinki where the participants had been unable to come to a conclusion but had observed that ‘the use of floating armouries will go up for practical reasons’. In this situation of indecision, the main force backing the use of floating armouries was once again the British government which was always prepared to look after the interests of the global maritime security industry which was dominated by British operators. Paul Gibson the Director of the British security industry body the ‘Security in Complex Environments Group’ (SCEG) told the Inter-Governmental Working Group on Private Military Security Companies of the Human Rights Council on 28 April 2015 that: “Floating armouries are a feature of maritime security operations in the Indian Ocean and the industry represented by SCEG were determined to have appropriate licenses authorising the use of these maritime platforms for the storage of weapons…without these licenses British Companies had a stark choice either to cease trading or run the very serious risk of being in breach of UK trade laws… After several months of engagement… the Department for Business Innovation and Skills announced that it would issue UK trade licences authorising the use of floating armouries for the storage of controlled equipment including firearms.”

What everybody wanted was somebody to take responsibility for these floating armouries. For instance, on 19 August 2014 the Indian government made representations to the 94th sessions of the Maritime Security Committee of the IMO stating that on 12 October 2013 a floating armoury by the name of ‘Seaman Guard Ohio’ was intercepted within Indian territorial waters with 35 assault rifles and 5,680 rounds of ammunition. They complained that terrorist attacks had been launched in India with weapons brought in by sea particularly in Mumbai on 12 March 1991 and 26 November 2011 and that as of mid-2012, approximately 18 floating armouries were operating on the high seas. India considered the presence of these unregulated floating armouries to be a matter of serious concern and requested that the details of floating armouries that transit the exclusive economic zone of coastal states be mandatorily shared with the coastal state authorities so that they would be fully informed about merchant ships that carry weapons in their waters.

Request to regulate, not ban floating armouries   

It should be noted that India did not call for the banning of the floating armouries but requested the IMO to develop guidelines for regulating the operation of these floating armouries. Thus even India seemed to be thinking on the same lines as the British, wanting recognition and regulation. In this regard, Sri Lanka along with the British government was right on the cutting edge with regard to the development of regulated and supervised floating armouries. On 7 July 2013, the British House of Commons Committee on Arms Export Controls was formally informed by the Business Minister Michael Fallon, that the government will soon begin issuing UK trade licences authorising the use of floating armouries for the storage of firearms on a case by case basis after assessing a range of criteria. The Minister informed the British parliament that his government will be granting approval initially to a floating armoury called the MV Mahanuwara, which is operated by a company called Avant Garde Maritime Services of Sri Lanka, which is operated under the authorisation and the protection of the Sri Lankan Ministry of Defence. Thus a Sri Lankan floating armoury became the first to be approved by the British government.

Among the criteria applied by the British government, were details of the legislation and regulations the vessel is subject to, including details of any inspections of the floating armoury. In this regard, the fact that MV Mahanuawara functioned as a joint venture between Avant Guard Maritime Services and the fully government owned Rakna Lanka under the protection and supervision of the Sri Lanka Navy was obviously the reason why the British government decided to licence this floating armoury first. No other floating armoury had such credentials and this tripartite link between a sophisticated private security company, the government’s own security company and the Sri Lanka Navy’s authority over the operation represented the most cutting edge public-private partnership in maritime security at that time.

The benefits of having government approval and backing for a floating armoury was demonstrated quite early on in October 2012 when the UAE government detained the ‘Sinbad’, a floating armoury belonging to Avant Guard Maritime Services operating off the Gulf of Oman which had strayed into their waters.  Once this floating armoury was proved to be a joint venture with a government owned enterprise in Sri Lanka, and storing mostly Sri Lankan government owned weapons, the ship was released in about a week after the checks were completed. Nobody was arrested and the UAE authorities only questioned the men on board. One could say that what the Indians were also looking for was that kind of guarantee with somebody taking responsibility for the weapons in the floating armouries. According to the report of the Business, Defence and Foreign Affairs Committees presented to the British Parliament in October 2014, all three of the floating armouries operated by Avant Guard in Galle, the Red Sea and the Gulf of Oman, were approved by the UK government to be used to store the weapons of British private maritime security companies.

Streamlining the Galle floating armoury operation

There were several agreements between Avant Guard and Rakna Lanka. One of these was the agreement to transport weapons between the Galle harbour and the Katunayake airport. This was for instances where the weapons of private maritime companies would end up in far off destinations and had to be brought back to Sri Lanka by air to be used for another deployment. Transporting weapons by air was a difficult and expensive process and would be resorted to only under compelling circumstances. Being able to carry out the transfer of weapons from the Katunayake airport to the Galle harbour and vice versa streamlined the operation of the Galle floating armoury project.

There was also another agreement for the training of foreign sea marshals at the Katukurunda firing range – another income generating project which provided a service to foreign private maritime security companies by providing their sea marshals with the refresher training that was needed to retain their licenses. Often, the weapons used for firing practice belonged to the security company concerned, since many foreign private security companies used weapons that were very different to the ones used in Sri Lanka. In such instances the weapons belonging to the foreign security company were sent from the Galle harbour to Katukurunda under navy escort and brought back in the same manner after the training.  The trainees were given a certificate signed by the CEO of Rakna Lanka, the Navy area commander, and an Additional Secretary of the Ministry of Defence. These courses were organised when a private maritime security company makes a request through their agent in Sri Lanka.

There was also an agreement between Avant Guard and Rakna Lanka to have a bonded warehouse at the Colombo harbour to store the weapons of the sea marshals in vessels that call at the Colombo port. So long as the vessel remained in the Colombo harbour, the weapons of its sea marshals was stored in the bonded warehouse. When the ship was leaving the weapons would be returned to the sea marshals and a fee charged for the storage.  The services offered to the international maritime security industry in Sri Lanka was both comprehensive and cutting edge. Nowhere in the world were such well regulated and closely supervised services provided to the maritime security industry with a streamlined system to hire out sea marshals and firearms for on board maritime security and a system of looking after the men deployed and collecting the weapons issued throughout the high risk area in the Indian ocean.

India upholds the Sri Lanka model

At the international maritime conference called the Galle Dialogue hosted by Sri Lanka in November 2013, the Chief of Naval Staff of the Indian Navy, AdmiraI D. K. Joshi praised Sri Lanka for carrying out the business of having private guards on board ships and operating floating armouries in ‘an entirely regulated fashion’ and regretted that others were not doing it in the same way.  He acknowledged that floating armouries were providing an essential service for the private maritime industry but said that these should be regulated. In October 2015, Alok Kumar, the head of a diversified Indian shipping services company in an address to the Indian defence policy think tank ‘Forum for Integrated National Security’ (FINS) suggested that the Indian government should allow weapons of private maritime security companies to be stored in land based armouries in ports like Tuticorin and that they should also allow floating armouries be set up by the private sector under the supervision of the navy, coast guard and defence authorities following the examples of Djibouti and Sri Lanka.

Atul Kulkarni an Advisor to the Indian Ministry of Shipping in another address to the Forum for Integrated National Security on 12 July 2015 stated that the government of India should have guidelines and policies for floating armouries and they need to have maritime security personnel drawn from among men retiring from the navy and other armed services. There appears to be an unacknowledged consensus throughout the Indian government and private sectors that what they needed was a public-private maritime security service modelled on that of the Avant Guard-Rakna Lanka-Navy operation in Sri Lanka. The sophistication and cutting edge innovations of the public-private maritime security set up created by the previous government is not however appreciated by the present powers in Sri Lanka.

The ‘Avant Guard’, a floating armoury belonging to Avant Guard Maritime Services which had been in the Red Sea and was returning to Sri Lanka with a load of 800 Rakna Lanka weapons along with Rakna Lanka guards was impounded and the Ukrainian captain of this floating armoury was arrested and remanded even though this floating armoury was approved by the Sri Lankan government and even had Defence Ministry permission to enter the Galle harbour. Contrast this with the courteous treatment that the other Sri Lankan owned floating armoury got in the UAE in October 2012. Having started with seed capital of just Rs. five million, Rakna Lanka was able to grow into a successful government owned business undertaking with over 3400 employees and a turnover of nearly Rs. 2.3 billion and profits of over Rs. 1.1 billion by 2013/14 mainly because of its maritime security arm. A successful public-private partnership that was a trail blazer and an inspiration for the maritime security industry the world over, now lies in ruins due to the politics of envy and vengeance.

***   ***

HOT NEWS: 15 November 2016 :  “Navy earns 2.3 billion rupees after taking over Avant Garde – Hiru News – http://www.hirunews.lk/147554/navy-earns-2-3-billion-rupees-after-taking-over-avant-garde

Sri Lanka Navy has earned over 2.3 billion rupees for the Government from providing maritime security services within a year after taking over from Avant Garde Maritime services. Accordingly, from 13th November 2015 until 13th November 2016 the Navy had earned an income of 2.33 Billion rupees for a total of 6,646 ship movements.  Galle and Colombo operation centres have carried out 6150 and 496 movements respectively averaging approximately 554 moves per month. The earnings generated through Onboard Security Team operations are directly deposited in the Consolidated Fund of the Sri Lanka Government. With the annulment of the previous agreement, Sri Lanka Navy was entrusted the task of providing security to merchant vessels and supplying services to Security Firms involved in providing onboard security for merchant ships.

ADDENDUM, 2 December 2016: “Gotabhaya reveals a secret of minister Mangala”- Hiru Newshttp://www.hirunews.lk/148732/gotabhaya-reveals-secret-minister-mangala
https://cdnjs.cloudflare.com/ajax/libs/html5shiv/3.7.2/html5shiv.js

The travel ban imposed on 7 suspects including former defence secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa was lifted today by Colombo Chief Magistrate Gihan Pilapitiya. He showed no objection when asked about the opinion of the state counsel before the order was given.
Later, the chief magistrate fixed the Case for February 13th.

Former Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa and 6 others have been sued by the Bribery Commission for maintaining a floating armoury for Avant Garde Maritime Company thereby incurring a loss of 11.4 billion rupees to the government.  The second suspect of the Case was not present in Courts today but a medical report was produced instead.

Journalists who met Gotabhaya Rajapaksa outside the Court room, inquired him as to whether there is any truth in the statement made by the Foreign Minister. Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera recently told in parliament that Gotabhaya Rajapaksa’s son has houses in the United States.

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Filed under accountability, economic processes, governance, Indian Ocean politics, island economy, landscape wondrous, law of armed conflict, performance, power politics, Rajapaksa regime, security, self-reflexivity, sri lankan society, the imaginary and the real, transport and communications, UN reports, vengeance, world events & processes

3 responses to “Where Vengeance kills its Best Practice Ventures: The Story of Avant Garde

  1. Dickie Bird.

    Vengence unlimited.
    Yahapalanaya has killed the ghesse that lay the golden egg.
    It takes a lot of pain & time to establish an operation but destroyed overnight.
    If the Yahapalanaya was of the view certain irregularities had taken place, they should have appointed a panel to monitor the operation instead of killing it.
    It appears, None in the Yahapalanaya has sense and are full of idiots.

  2. Pingback: High Sea high Jinks: Somali Pirates and Tanker with Sri Lankan Seamen | Thuppahi's Blog

  3. Pingback: Captives!! Drama on the High Seas for Lankan Seamen | Thuppahi's Blog

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