Move to shift LTTE base to Canada prompted by KP’s arrest

by Shamindra Ferdinando

A top LTTE operative, deeply involved in the LTTE arms smuggling operations throughout the war, is believed to have taken MV ‘Sun Sea’ from Thailand to Canada. The voyage took three months while several navies in the region watched allowing the 59-metre vessel, modified for the purpose, make its way to Canadian waters.

Military sources identified the LTTEer as Vinod, widely considered to be among an elite group of cadres responsible for perhaps one of the biggest clandestine arms smuggling operations in the past few decades.

Sources say Vinod and two of his colleagues, identified as Kamal and Gaya, played a pivotal role in the arms smuggling operation, which facilitated transfer of weapons of Chinese origin and other armaments to north-east Sri Lanka.

The infamous North Korean route remained a key mode of clandestine movement before the Sri Lanka navy took the war to the high seas during Eelam War IV.

While Gaya is believed to have been killed in a confrontation with the navy on the high seas, Kamal is now in Canada.

Sources say Kamal, one of the most experienced LTTE operatives involved with arms smuggling operations took MV Ocean Lady from Mundra (an Indian port) to Canada last October. MV Ocean Lady carried 76 persons.

Canada declined to give Sri Lanka access to any of the 76 passengers.

‘Harin Panich 19’, now renamed the MV ‘Sun Sea’ carried 492 Sri Lankan Tamils to Canada. Sources say Canada is yet to share information regarding the illegal immigrants with Sri Lankan intelligence services, though there is irrefutable evidence of LTTE involvement in the operation.

Although ordinary LTTE fighting cadres are unlikely to be among the passengers of MV Sun Sea, there can be some key LTTE intelligence operatives, including some of those who escaped from military detention after the end of war in May last year.

Responding to a query by The Island, an authoritative official said that the vast majority of passengers could be those who had supported the LTTE over the years. ‘They’re not ordinary fighting cadres, but the elite, who spearheaded operations in South East Asia," he said.

According to him, they had acquired ‘Harin Panich 19’ immediately after the extradition of Kumaran Pathmanathan aka ‘KP’ from Malaysia to Sri Lanka in the first week of August 2009 and the handing over of Rajan, another key LTTE operative to Sri Lankan intelligence services. Fearing the Sri Lankan government would go after key operatives and their families living in Malaysia, Thailand and the neighbouring countries, the LTTE rump had launched MV ‘Sun Sea’. The bottom line is that Canada could become the major operations base for the LTTE rump in the wake of Sri Lanka’s success in curbing LTTE activity in South East Asia.

Foreign Ministry sources told The Island that Canada had become their automatic choice due to Australia in April imposing a moratorium on processing asylum claims from Sri Lanka citing much improved security conditions in the wake of conclusion of the war in May last year.

Military sources said that the LTTE always favoured Canada due to what it perceived as soft Canadian approach towards illegal immigrants. Apprehension of LTTE owned MV Princess Krishanthalast December by the navy confirmed an abortive plan to rescue top LTTE leadership before the army overran Puthumathalan in May. The LTTE went to the extent of organizing a bogus relief ship to divert navy’s attention to facilitate the rescue operation, sources said.

Sources identified the main man allegedly involved in organizing the latest Canadian adventure as the only one to receive a Gold medal from LTTE leader Prabhakaran for carrying out clandestine transfer of armaments from big ships to Sri Lanka waters in the face of the navy. Based in Canada (name withheld), the operative is a Master Mariner, who runs a shipping training school. He is assisted by a UK based operative (name withheld) and Nidiyawan, widely believed to be the most influential LTTE operative in the wake of KP abandoning the eelam cause.

Sources said that the passengers carried by MV ‘Sun Sea’ could not be likened to any other lot as the LTTE had never tried a similar stunt before. "Of course they had no other option but to shift base from South East Asia to the safety of Canada, where a section of the politicians and officials were close to the Tamil Diaspora," sources said.

Sources pointed out that the Tamil Diaspora had got the London headquartered Amnesty International to issue a statement in support of their Canadian adventure. Sources recalled how a visit by senior Amnesty International representatives to Kilinochchi during the CFA was used to build the Tigers’ image.

On Aug. 9, 2010 The Washington Post published a letter from James McDonald of Amnesty International suggesting that a shipload of Sri Lankans should be given asylum because they faced persecution if they returned to Sri Lanka.

Sri Lankan officials said that this was part of the LTTE propaganda. The Canadians could accept the entire shipload if they really wanted to accommodate them and encourage asylum seekers, they said. It was Canada’s choice, sources said, emphasizing Canada could accommodate as many illegal immigrants not only from Sri Lanka but other countries, too, as it pleased. In the wake of Australia tightening its immigration laws, any country giving into MV Sun Sea could attract smugglers, they said.



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