Ambassador Julie J. Chung’s Remarks at the Closing Ceremony for the Maritime Law Enforcement Training Program

July 25, 2023

Officials of the Sri Lankan Coast Guard, Sri Lankan Navy and Sri Lankan Police Narcotics Bureau, dear colleagues, and friends.

It is a great pleasure to be here with you as you graduate from this training program regarding Integrated Maritime Skills, and to have subject matter experts from the United States Coast Guard here to deliver this training in Sri Lanka.

Last weekend I was hosted in Trincomalee by the Sri Lankan Navy to develop maritime skills of my own….in that case by scuba diving with the Navy’s women cadets.

I’m especially happy to be here today with the Sri Lankan Coast Guard and police counterparts to learn more at this timely program.

As we mark the 75th year of bilateral relations, this training reflects the longstanding and steady cooperation between the United States and Sri Lanka on promoting justice and the rule of law. These are absolutely essential in all countries.

I want to thank everyone for being here today, and particularly to our host colleagues from the Sri Lankan Coast Guard, Rear Admiral Pujitha Vithana and his command staff and operations personnel, from the Sri Lankan Navy, Rear Admiral TSK Perera, and from the Sri Lankan Police, Senior Deputy Inspector General of Police Mahesh Senarathna. Also, I would like to recognize those who have helped organize this event to include our Department of Justice ICITAP staff members. I also warmly welcome our primary instructors from the United States Coast Guard, Lieutenant Chasse Sodermann and his team, who have been visiting Sri Lanka to share their expertise, wisdom, and enthusiasm, with you all.

Sri Lanka has been facing one of the most serious economic challenges it has ever faced, and I know how difficult this past year has been for the people of this country. The U.S. is committed to supporting our Sri Lankan partners through these challenging times, especially through our ongoing efforts to promote economic prosperity, food security, and inclusive governance. Strengthening Sri Lanka’s criminal justice and maritime sector is also a critical component of these efforts. The rule of law, equal access to justice, accountability and victims’ rights are pillars of all democratic legal systems and are essential to the safety and well-being of all Sri Lanka’s citizens.

Effective law enforcement in the maritime arena is essential to stop the proliferation of criminal activities. Today, we see transnational organized criminal groups using vessels to move illegal cargoes to include, human trafficking, smuggling of weapons, smuggling of restricted goods, and increasingly, narcotics and the chemicals that are used in their manufacture. That’s why the United States is proud to have donated three Coast Guard cutters to Sri Lanka over the years to counter these crimes at sea. Criminals do not respect national borders and in so many cases, we have seen suspects involved in narcotics trafficking commit crimes in multiple countries. Our governments and our law enforcement agencies must cooperate to hold these suspects accountable.

Drug abuse and human trafficking have devastating consequences for individuals, families, communities, and all of our societies. The key to preventing the spread of these activities lies with all of us. Specific to the maritime arena, our military services, our law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, judiciary, and the public must work together. We need everyone to do their part and help educate our youth about the dangers of human trafficking and the dangers from narcotics use. We also need to hold those accountable who are engaged in criminal activities and seize the assets they have collected through illegal means. We face many of these same drug challenges in the United States.

We must increase the capabilities of our maritime law enforcement agencies in collaboration with our governments to address key areas which includes providing the necessary resources, equipment, and training to improve our intelligence gathering, our interdiction efforts, our investigations, and our prosecutions.

We must raise awareness to prevent drug abuse and reduce demand by engagement through public awareness campaigns at all levels of our educational systems. By promoting a culture of awareness and prevention, we can empower individuals to resist the lure of drugs and criminal behavior.

We must recognize that providing rehabilitation and support services to those who have become addicted or are drug abusers is also important. We want everyone to be a productive member of society and helping them to recover and providing alternatives is part of our social responsibility.

We must collaborate with other countries to increase our effectiveness against transnational criminal organizations. Through cooperative efforts, we can pool our resources, intelligence, with our regional partners, international organizations, and others to hold criminals accountable and reduce the negative effects on society from narcotics proliferation and human trafficking. Earlier this month, the State Department launched a Global Coalition to address Synthetic Drug Threats including fentanyl which has devasted many communities in America.

We must ensure that our laws and policies are up to date and effective to deal with the threats we are now challenged with. This is an ongoing effort to avoid criminals escaping through loopholes or gaps in the law.  By being more proactive  in each of the areas I have mentioned, we can serve our citizens more effectively.

In conclusion, the fight against maritime crime in Sri Lanka requires a united front, with our citizens, private industries, and institutions all working together. We must recognize that this fight cannot be won overnight, but with determination, cooperation, and sustained effort, we can make a difference. Let us come together, empower our law enforcement agencies, educate our youth, and support all of our citizens. Together, we can build a future where our children and grandchildren are free from the effects of transnational crime, and our nations can prosper in peace and prosperity.

The United States always welcomes the opportunity to share the expertise of our experts and practitioners with you. Our goal was to provide you not only with the most up-to-date information regarding “Integrated Maritime Skills,” but, also, to facilitate the creation of relationships that will serve our countries’ mutual interests for years to come. We are also looking to learn from our Sri Lankan partners, all of you. I hope we have achieved our goal.

And of course, none of the work here would have been possible without help from the dedicated Military and Law Enforcement professionals representing Sri Lanka here today. From one public servant to another, thank you for your service.

I also want to say thank you once more to everyone here, to our distinguished colleagues from the Sri Lankan Coast Guard, Navy and Police, and our United States Coast Guard members, for your hard work, dedication, and continued partnership.

Thank you.