Sun Sea– one of its journalist Tamil migrants granted entry into Canada

Stewart Bell, National Post, published under different title

A Sri Lankan newspaper reporter who worked for a publication controlled by the Tamil Tigers rebels was among the 492 refugee claimants who arrived in Canada last summer aboard the smuggling ship MV Sun Sea, according to a court ruling released on Thursday. The Canada Border Services Agency is alleging he was a member of the Tamil Tigers and that his refugee claim should therefore be denied but his lawyer said the government was casting too wide a net in its attempt to identify former rebels among the passengers of the Sun Sea.

Identified only as B188, the man wrote for Eelanatham, or People’s Daily, in the rebel capital Kilinochchi. The Tigers controlled the newspaper but the reporter told CBSA officials he thought the rebels were “violent” and “greedy,” the court ruling says.

“The Tamil tigers, they controlled everything in that area. They were the de facto government and so they controlled the newspaper that he worked at,” said his Vancouver lawyer, Gabriel Chand. He said the man was a “low level” reporter and only wrote a single story about the Tigers, also known as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, or LTTE. The article was critical of the war taxes the rebels collected from impoverished Tamils, he said.

“It was a very minor article but it showed that he wasn’t in support of the LTTE, he was exercising, to a limited extent, his journalistic ambitions. He was trying to be an independent journalist where it was almost impossible for him to be an independent journalist.”The case is the latest indication that Ottawa is labeling some of the Sun Sea passengers members of the Tigers, a banned terrorist organization under Canadian law. If the Immigration and Refugee Board agrees they are members, they would be ineligible for refugee status.

Those the government is alleging are Tigers include a man who underwent weapons training and a rebel karate instructor who appeared in a Tamil Tigers propaganda film. Another used his tractor to transport people and supplies to sites where the rebels were building military fortifications.

“I think they’re saying that 70 of them were members. Some of them were combatants, some of them were clearly members and then other ones — I have a guy who was a waiter in a restaurant owned by the LTTE and they’re saying that was enough,” Mr. Chand said.

The reporter known as B188 was injured by an artillery shell in 2009 during the final weeks of the Sri Lankan civil war. He fled to Thailand and his brother in France paid $8,000 to get him on the ship. He still owes another $5,000. He has been held in custody since the Sun Sea was intercepted off the B.C. coast last August.

The Refugee Board ruled on Nov. 1 that he could be released, but federal officials appealed to the Federal Court of Canada. In the judgment released on the Federal Court website on Thursday, Justice Elizabeth Heneghan upheld his release order.

As of Thursday, however, he remained at the Fraser Regional Correctional Centre in B.C. Asked why, the CBSA declined to comment on the specifics of the case. The lawyer said he was preparing to sue the government in B.C. Supreme Court for wrongful imprisonment.

Mr. Chand said he believes the Sun Sea passengers are being treated more severely than other refugee claimants because the government wants to send a message. “Maybe if you keep people in jail for a long enough period of time, the next ship, the people on that ship might think twice about coming to Canada, whereas if we release them all … then maybe more ships are going to come. That seems to be what the philosophy is.”

National Post

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Filed under asylum-seekers, LTTE, Sinhala-Tamil Relations, terrorism

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