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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 1586

Tamil Migrant Ship M/V Sun Sea will arrive Canada by Aug 14th

By Gamage Bandulahewa

The 59-metre Thailand registered 767 Ton Macgregor type cargo ship "Harin Panich 19", now renamed as MV Sun Sea with over 200 Tamil migrants on board, destined for Canada from Maldives is expected to arrive the Canadian Coast close to Victoria in Province of British Columbia by August 14th but depending on the conditions of high seas of Pacific Ocean it may arrive few days early or few days late.

The vessel was spotted in the Gulf of Thailand by the Philippine Coast Guard in May. The Asian Tribune reported in July that MV Sun Sea was seen near Guatemala heading north towards Canada 10 days ago.

The U.S. Coast Guard Pacific Division based out of San Francisco confirmed a sighting of the MV Sun Sea. “All I can say is that it is carrying the Thai flag and it is believed to be travelling towards British Columbia,” Adam Stanton of the Coast Guard’s Pacific area public affairs office said, but would not comment on its exact whereabouts. Many aboard the ship are members of the terrorist group Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

Movement of a large number of high-value combatants and intelligence officers aboard MV Sun Sea may be part of an effort by surviving members of the LTTE to reconstitute from a base of operations in Canada. The ship is captained by Kamalraj Kandasamy a.k.a Vinod, a senior member of the LTTE who conducted North Korean arms procurement voyages for the LTTE and manned by a 24-member crew.

The LTTE’s shipping and procurement staffers are highly skilled. They are masters in clandestine and compartmentalized operations. Today, they want to survive and people smuggling is one of their most lucrative businesses.

The Thailand Navy sea patrols spotted MV Sun Sea, a vessel previously used for gun running, near the Exclusive Economic Zone of the country in April. When the sailors tried to intercept the vessel, ‘Captain Vinod’ threatened that several illegal immigrants will throw themselves overboard if anyone tried to board his ship.

These are illegal migrants who are trying to come into Canada illegally. This is part of the international activity to smuggle in people. Once the ship enters Canadian waters, a 20 kilometre jurisdiction off the British Columbia coast, it will be protected by the international Refugee Convention and its passengers will be processed as refugees.

The MV Sun Sea have been originally headed for Australia before changing course en route. Australia, which has already processed more than 80 boat-loads of asylum seekers this year, has begun clamping down on suspected people smuggling ships, boarding them on the high seas to turn them away. As a result, Canada has emerged as safe haven for LTTE.

MV Ocean Lady also known as MV Princess Easwary turned up in October 2009 off Canada's British Columbia coast with 76 Tamil asylum seekers from Sri Lanka. The vessel was controlled by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. All of the 76 were initially jailed while their lawyers fought terrorism allegations.

But in January 2010, the migrants were released. The Canadian response to MV Ocean Lady was perceived as weak and Canada is seen as an easy target by the Tamil Tigers. As long as MV Sun Sea is on the international high seas and proceeding with peaceful intent, there is no legal framework for inhibiting its journey.

Canadian Navy is the only entity that could stop MV Sun Sea from entering Canadian territorial waters. Canadian Navy cannot board or reroute the ship until it can demonstrate the ship poses a security threat to Canada. Any such decision would have to come at the highest ministerial level. The most important ingredient a government needs to fight terrorism and crime is political will. The political leaders in Canada lack that political will to act. The Canadian Defense Minister Peter Mackay said, his government had made arrangements to care any passengers of MV Sea Sun, who are sick after potentially they have spend months at sea.

There is no war now in Sri Lanka, and this is definitely not a humanitarian exercise. In 1999, cargo ships carrying more than 600 Chinese migrants arrived on the north coast of British Columbia and claimed refugee status. Only two dozen of those claims were granted and nearly half of the migrants who arrived were deported back to China.

- Asian Tribune -

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