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Sunday, 25 July 2010

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LTTE ship sighted off US coast

The vessel carrying over 200 illegal immigrants under the LTTE’s human smuggling network is expected to arrive at the Canadian shores within the first week of August, Defence sources said yesterday.

The sources said the ship may arrive at British Columbia (BC) most probably by the first week of August and it is being monitored via satellite by a number of countries.

“There has been a sighting of the ship near Guatemala last week,” he said.The Globe and Mail reported on Friday that the US coast guards Pacific division has confirmed a sighting of the suspected ship MV Sun Sea and they have said the ship seems to be heading towards BC.

The MV Sun Sea which was earlier known as the Harin Panich 19 a cargo ship used by the LTTE to smuggle arms, ammunition and explosives from Korea to Sri Lanka during the conflict was first spotted in the Bay of Thailand in April this year. The Ship’s captain Vinod, allegedly a hardcore LTTE leader has threatened the Thai Navy when their patrol craft tried to intercept the unidentified vessel.

Intelligence gathered by the Sri Lankan defence officials at the time indicated the ship was heading for the Australian shores and a warning was issued promptly to its counterparts in Australia.

The Aussies heightened their surveillance and put their boarder guards on alert.

Subsequently the International Terrorism Expert Prof. Rohan Gunaratne said the LTTE crew had shifted their destination to Canada perhaps due to the lax attitude the authorities adopted when dealing with the 76 illegal immigrants that came on board Princess Easwary (Ocean Lady), also an ex-arms ship of the LTTE.

Although all the inhabitants of this voyage were arrested immediately by the Canada Border Services Agency and held in detention for three months, their applications are now being processed on a case by case basis.

Foreign Ministry sources said strong LTTE front organisations in Canada were working tirelessly to get these illegal immigrants which include hardcore LTTE members, asylum status. A report from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees early this month highlighted greatly improved security in Sri Lanka and said that Tamils are no longer automatically eligible for asylum.

It is believed that at least 24 LTTE cadres and hardcore leaders fleeing Sri Lanka are onboard MV Sun Sea.

Canadian Foreign Affairs spokesperson Ambra Dickie said it is aware of media reports about the vessel, but was unable to confirm the ship’s current whereabouts, the Montreal Gazette reported quoting the Sunday Observer exclusive - the ship was heading for Canada.

 

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