MV Sun Sea migrants screened for Tiger suspects:
Canada shuts out human traffickers, terrorists
by Manjula Fernando
As Canadian authorities began screening the 490 migrants on board the
MV Sun Sea for suspected LTTE terrorists, a Canadian Minister said
Canada should close its doors to terrorists and human traffickers. “We
are very concerned that there are elements of the LTTE on board this
vessel, and indeed may be co-coordinating this activity as part of a
larger enterprise,” Canada’s Public Safety Minister Vic Toews told
“We believe it is essential that our border and law enforcement
agencies have the physical and legal means to prevent illegal migration
and human smuggling and to identify those individuals coming to Canada
who have been involved in terrorist activities or are members of a
terrorist group,” Minister Toews was quoted as saying by Canadian media.
At CFB Esquimalt, where the MV Sun Sea was docked after being
intercepted by the Canadian Navy on Thursday, the Minister said the ship
was part of a larger operation that was closely watching Canada’s
“We must ensure our refugee system is not hijacked by criminals,” he
told reporters in Victoria. He also added that this is not an isolated
case, but the product of a sophisticated ring of criminals.
“I don’t view this as an isolated, independent act,” he said,
responding to a question about whether more migrant ships are coming.
“We believe that there are others who are watching this particular
situation to determine the reaction of Canadian authorities,” Toews
“Human smuggling is a despicable crime and any attempted abuses of
our nation’s generosity for financial gain are utterly unacceptable.
As officials move forward with this investigation, the government
will consider whether further improvements are needed to disrupt and
deter criminal organisations and enterprises such as smuggling,” he
added. “Any individuals who endanger national security or who have
engaged in the criminal enterprise of human smuggling will be prosecuted
to the full extent of the law.”
In addition to re-examining whether Canadian law was “sufficiently
strong,” he said the government would look at improving international
co-operation and intelligence sharing.
“What this case demonstrated is the need to work on an international
basis with our allies, rather than viewing this as a problem that
Canadians can solve on their own.”
Initial efforts to determine the identities of the asylum seekers, as
well as any criminal connections or security threats they might pose,
are expected to take 48 to 72 hours, said Rob Johnston, regional
director for Canada Border Services Agency.
The 59-metre MV Sun Sea with 490 illegal asylum seekers (400 men, 60
women and 30 children) was escorted to Vancouver Island by the Canadian
Navy on August 13. The Canadian Border Services Agency, Royal Canadian
Mounted Police and National Defence officials boarded the ship as it
entered the 12 mile exclusive economic zone, Canadian media reported.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police, is searching the vessel for
evidence and LTTE links. It is also trying to identify the captain and
crew. “We’re doing those interviews and we’re trying to determine what
happened and what roles individuals played on the vessel,” said
Inspector Tracey Rook.
Meanwhile, the Foreign Ministry said the Sri Lankan mission in Ottawa
was continuing its dialogue with the Canadian authorities over the
handling of the MV Sun Sea, a ship believed to be operated by the shrewd
LTTE human smuggling network.
“Our high Commissioner had held several rounds of discussions on the
ship and the dialogue is continuing,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson
Sithara Khan said.
Asked if Sri Lanka would initiate an extradition request if former
LTTE leaders were found to be on board the human smuggling venture, she
said that was too premature to say. The Sunday observer exclusively
reported the ship was heading Canada following its thwarted voyage to
Australia. The story was immediately picked up by Canadian press.
MV Sun Sea was turned away by Australia in June following a tip off
from Sri Lanka that it was on a money making human smuggling venture
manned by the LTTE and that it was carrying several leaders of the
terrorist outfit disguised as innocent civilian. The exact course and
duration of the Thai-owned ship’s voyage is unknown. The Sun Sea, until
recently known as the Harin Panich 19, went missing from its berth at
Songkhla, a Thai harbour city, in the spring, according to media
International terrorism expert Prof. Rohan Gunaratna told the Sunday
Observer yesterday the LTTE had collected US$ 40,000 from each non-LTTE
passenger on board MV Sun Sea and allowed the half a dozen LTTE members
mingling among ordinary passengers to travel free.
He said the ship had been exclusively purchased by the LTTE in March
this year for human smuggling operations.
Gunaratna said the biggest concentration of the LTTE members
including those who fled Sri Lanka was in Canada. “If Canada does not
crack down on the LTTE in Canada immediately, these remnants will use
the country as a safe haven to regroup,” he said.
This is more so as India and Malaysia had become very hostile towards
When asked the reason for Canada’s lax attitude towards the ship,
Prof.Gunaratna said the Canadian law enforcement, military and
intelligence services have built a vast understanding of the LTTE human
smuggling network after MV Ocean Lady reached Canada.
“However, due to LTTE infiltration and manipulation of Canada’s
political system, some Canadian politicians who are reliant on minority
votes are reluctant to take a decisive stand.”
Diplomatic sources who wanted to remain anonymous said the Canadian
Tamil Congress which had been very vociferous in its defence of the
illegal immigrants who arrived on Princess Easwary in October 2009 and
now MV Sun Sea, was the premier LTTE front organization in Canada. The
sources said “CTC is the successor to the World Tamil Movement which was
listed as a terrorist front organization by the Canadian law enforcing
authorities for its fund raising activities on behalf of the LTTE.”
Despite their attempts, State officials have already sent signals
that MV Sun Sea may not be given the same lax treatment the Princess
Easwary received. Canadian media said the 400 men from Sun Sea are
expected to be held at the Wilkinson Road jail for processing before
being moved to the Lower Mainland. The women are reportedly being taken
to Alouette Correctional Centre for Women, also in Maple Ridge. Once the
mothers and children have been processed by the federal government, they
will be released into the care of British Columbia’s Ministry of
Children and Family Development and kept at a “secure and safe
facility,” the ministry said yesterday.