Sri Lanka is seeking access to a group of Sri Lankan Tamils held in Canada following intelligence reports that some of them are members of the LTTE [Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam].
The suspected LTTE cadres, including some of those believed involved in the group’s clandestine shipping operations, were apprehended recently while approaching the Canadian coast in an LTTE-operated ship.
A senior government spokesman told The Sunday Island that representations had been made to the Canadian High Commission in Colombo in this regard. He said that the Sri Lankan mission in Canada, too, called for access to the detainees as this would help Sri Lankan intelligence services to track down remaining LTTE operatives based abroad.
An intelligence official said that the Canadians have been fully briefed of the presence of LTTE cadres on board the seized vessel. Sri Lanka has also alerted Interpol.
Government sources said that the Canadian government may find it difficult to allow Sri Lankan officials an opportunity to question suspects though some of them could be hardcore terrorists. They said that the Sri Lanka could not ignore the fact that most of the 78 persons now in Canadian custody had boarded the vessel in Indian waters.
Responding to The Sunday Island queries, they said that there was irrefutable evidence that the vessel had been to India in August/September several months after the final battle on the banks of the Nanthikadal lagoon killed Velupillai Prabhakaran.
India too should be involved in this investigation for several reasons, they said. The vessel could have carried LTTE cargo at the time it had entered Mumbai and then moved to a second port.
Sri Lanka had every right to seek access to persons held in Canada as there was absolutely no doubt of their involvement in terrorism, the sources said.
The migrant smuggling ship that arrived off the West Coast on the weekend carrying 76 Sri Lankans departed from India early last month, according to international shipping records.Foreign Ministry sources stressed the need for an international investigation to establish a possible link among the ship intercepted by the Canadians as well as about 370 Sri Lankans recently held by Indonesia and Australia.
After a stop in Mumbai on Aug. 31, the Princess Easwary sailed from the northwest Indian port of Mundra on Sept. 8. That was its last recorded port of call until it entered Canadian waters.
Meanwhile, a source familiar with the investigation said at least one of the men on board the ship had the logo of the Tamil Tigers, the Sri Lankan rebel group, tattooed on his body.
Sri Lanka is yet to receive access to them despite evidence that LTTE cadres can be taking refuge among civilians.
(This article first appeared on The Island. Republished here with permission from Prabath Sahabandu, Editor, The Island, Upali Newspapers LTD. Photos courtesy of Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Ian Smith, Vancouver Sun.)