Parliament urged to oppose proposed Red Sea mission
Posted on January 8th, 2024

By Shamindra Ferdinando  Courtesy The Island

FSP questions feasibility of bankrupt country joining US military project

The Frontline Socialist Party (FSP) yesterday (07) urged political parties in Parliament to oppose the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government’s decision to join a US-led multinational coalition to protect commercial shipping in the Red Sea against continuing attacks by Yemen’s Houthi group.

Senior FSP spokesperson Pubudu Jagoda said that the move, announced by President Ranil Wickremesinghe on January 03 at an event at the BMICH, had taken all political parties by surprise.

The former JVPer questioned the rationale behind bankrupt Sri Lanka joining a costly operation. He pointed out that the US recently launched ‘Operation Prosperity Guardian’ in response to Houthi attacks.

The Houthis have declared that attacks on Red Sea commercial shipping were in response to the current Israeli military campaign against Palestinians in Gaza.

The breakaway JVP group said that President Wickremesinghe’s declaration should have been publicly opposed immediately by all political parties represented in Parliament. Unfortunately, they remained conveniently silent, Jagoda said, urging Parliament to take up this issue without delay.


The US recently asked Sri Lanka to contribute to the Red Sea mission. The Foreign Ministry didn’t respond to The Island query in this regard.

How can the President, in spite of being the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces and the Defence Minister, make such a declaration without consulting the Parliament?” Jagoda said. We would like to know whether the Cabinet of Ministers discussed the issue at hand or the National Security Council took it up.”

Jagoda pointed out that Sri Lanka couldn’t under any circumstances join a controversial Western military operation at a time the global community, including some of its members, were hesitant due to growing global public opinion against indiscriminate Israeli attacks. Don’t forget a year ago this government indefinitely put off Local Government polls claiming it didn’t have sufficient funds,” Jagoda said.

Gaza health authorities have placed the number of people killed in the besieged territory at 22,722 up to January 06, 2024, since the cross border Hamas attacks on Israel on Oct 07, 2023.

Former Navy Chief of Staff Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera said that he intended to inquire about the proposed deployment from the Navy and the Ministry of Defence.

The former Public Security Minister said so when The Island sought his opinion as the Chairman of the Sectoral Oversight Committee on National Security.

MP Weerasekera said that joining a special naval operation such as ‘Operation Prosperity Guardian’ at a flashpoint was quite a foreign policy challenge. We should also be concerned of our capacity and capability to deploy a vessel fully-equipped to meet the challenging task,” the former minister said.

Houthis launched operations against Red Sea commercial shipping on 19 Nov., 2023. In spite of repeated warnings, Houthis aligned with Iran have mounted a spate of attacks. Last week, they deployed an armed unmanned surface vessel though it failed to reach the intended target. Houthis launched the attack just hours after the United States, Australia, Bahrain, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Singapore and the United Kingdom issued what the international media called a final warning.

Authoritative sources told The Island that at the moment the Navy didn’t have a vessel equipped to meet the US-led coalition in the Red Sea. In case, the government wanted to go ahead with the mission, regardless of the consequences, one of the Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs), formerly of the US Coast Guard, would have to be equipped with proper weapons systems which Sri Lanka didn’t have nor the wherewithal to acquire.

Obviously, we are in a dilemma. The truth is even if we have no other issue to be concerned with, the SLN didn’t have a suitable vessel. American OPVs with SLN and Advanced OPVs acquired from India are not equipped to fight drones and unmanned surface vessels,” a source familiar with SLN capabilities said. Responding to another query, the source explained ideally a country that undertook such a mission should have at least one other vessel with similar capabilities and strong support base.

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