Captain of ship with 492 Lankan migrants continues testimony

A prosecutor suggested Tuesday that a man accused of helping smuggle 492 Tamils into Canada in 2010 was “ripped off” when he ended up being the captain of the vessel that brought the migrants across the Pacific Ocean, the Vancouver Sun reported.

Lesly Emmanuel, one of four men on trial, on Monday testified that he had paid US$15,000 as a deposit to be a passenger aboard the MV Sun Sea when it left Thailand for Canada in July 2010.

The Sri Lankan man claimed that he feared for his life if he returned to his home country, where a war had been raging.

And he told a B.C. Supreme Court jury that he only ended up being the captain after the other passengers on the vessel asked him to take them to Canada.

“You must have been very angry when you ended up being the captain of the ship,” Crown counsel Charles Hough said during his cross-examination of Emmanuel on Tuesday.

“More than angry, I was deeply concerned about the people on the ship,” said Emmanuel.

“You got ripped off by the organizers of the ship, didn’t you?” said Hough.

“I cannot understand what you mean,” said Emmanuel.

“You must feel you were taken advantage of by being charged US$15,000 to get on the ship,” said Hough.

“The situation was such that my life was in danger in Sri Lanka and I was a refugee and I needed to go to a safe place,” said Emmanuel.

The accused testified that he got the US$15,000 from an uncle, who travelled to Bangkok to hand the money over to him. Under questioning from Hough, he said he initially kept the money in a room where he was staying.

Asked whether he was concerned about having so much money in his room, he said it wasn’t a problem because the students he was staying with went to school and he would stay at the home.

When he left the home, he took the cash with him, carrying it in a backpack, on a trip to the library, he said.

Earlier Tuesday, Hough suggested that Emmanuel was motivated to come to Canada by a desire to make more money.

“You wanted to go to a western country so that you could make a lot more money than you could make in Malaysia or Thailand, isn’t that correct?” said Hough.

“That’s a completely wrong statement,” said Emmanuel.

Hough also suggested that Emmanuel wasn’t facing any persecution when he got on-board the MV Sun Sea in 2010 for the voyage across the Pacific.

Emmanuel, 42, said that the political situation in Thailand was bad, but Hough pointed out that he wasn’t being mistreated in Thailand.

“If anybody suspected me, there was a possibility of anything happening,” said Emmanuel.

“But you had a six-month tourist visa, you were there legally in Thailand,” said Hough, who added that Emmanuel wasn’t being mistreated in Malaysia, where he was living before moving to Thailand.

“I would have been mistreated,” said Emmanuel.

“When you got on the MV Sun Sea, you hadn’t set foot in Sri Lanka in nine years?” said Hough.

“In 2006, war started all over again,” replied Emmanuel, who eventually agreed he had not been in Sri Lanka since 2001.

The accused, who made a refugee claim when he came to Canada and is currently working at a restaurant in Vancouver, is expected to continue his testimony Wednesday. (Colombo Gazette)