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Canada backs possibility of Tigers among boat people

9 December 2009 10:48 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


A Singapore-based terrorism expert who warned that Tamil Tigers were among the 76 migrants who arrived in a boat nearly two months ago has been given a stamp of credibility by an Immigration and Refugee Boarddjudicator in Canada.

Rohan Gunaratna, who was grilled for hours under cross-examination by lawyers for the migrants, is “credible and trustworthy,” Lynda Mackie said in a nine-page ruling released Monday.

Mr. Gunaratna heads a terrorism think-tank at Nanyang Technological University and has advised the Canadian government on the thorny issue of how to proceed with the Tamil migrants.

The migrants' lawyers claim the men are refugees fleeing the aftermath of the two-decade civil war between separatist Tigers and the Sri Lankan government.

But Mr. Gunaratna alleges that some of the men are members of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). He told the Canadian government they planned to move to Canada to re-establish the separatist movement and raise funds.

He also claims that their ship, the MV Princess Easwary (which was renamed MV Ocean Lady), was a gun-running vessel that transported weapons to Tamil Tigers during the war.

But Mr. Gunaratna's assertions were called into question by lawyers for the migrant men, all of whom plan to make refugee claims.

They claimed Mr. Gunaratna was biased in favour of the Sri Lankan government and demanded to cross-examine him.

However, after hearing the cross-examination, Ms. Mackie ruled the Mr. Gunaratna's conclusions aren't unreasonable.

“I am satisfied that some weight must be given to Dr. Gunaratna's assertions concerning the LTTE's connections to the MV Easwary and find that it is possible that it is still an LTTE-controlled ship,” Ms. Mackie said.

“It is possible, even probable, that some of the men on board have links to the LTTE,” she wrote.

The ruling means that the Tamil migrants likely won't be getting out of custody any time soon. The migrants' lawyers had hoped the cross-examination of Mr. Gunaratna would poke holes in his claim that the men are potential terrorists. The LTTE is listed by the Canadian government as a terrorist organization.

All but one of the 76 migrants remain in custody nearly two months after their boat sailed into Canadian waters off Vancouver Island.

While Ms. Mackie's decision isn't binding on the other IRB adjudicators presiding over the migrants' detention hearings, her ruling on Mr. Gunaratna's credibility will likely be considered by other members. (The Globe and Mail)


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