As members of the Tamil Tigers' sea division, their mission that day was to destroy a navy vessel delivering arms to a government-controlled area.
Shots were fired and the Tigers prevented the ship from completing its weapons run. But the navy vessel wasn't the only thing to sustain damage as a result of the gunfight - so, too, did the refugee claim of one of the Tigers who later sailed to Canada.
The Immigration and Refugee Board on Tuesday ordered the Tiger's deportation, making him the first of the 492 migrants who arrived onboard the MV Sun Sea to be declared inadmissible to Canada.
The man - whose name, age and identifying details can't be published - admitted to the Canada Border Services Agency that he was a member of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, a terrorist organization banned in this country. The Tigers lost the decades-long Sri Lankan civil war in 2009.
The man - who was a Tiger for more than five years - told border officials he was shot in the leg during the dramatic fight at sea. But he maintained he never wanted to join the organization and only did so because he was tricked by friends when he was a teenager. He said he tried to leave the group at one point, but was caught.
Carla Medley, CBSA's hearings representative, argued the man should be deported under a section of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act that deems refugee claimants inadmissible if they engaged in subversion or terrorism against a democratic government.
"He was, in fact, a member of the LTTE during the height of its terrorist campaign against the Sri Lankan government," she said.
Michael McPhalen, the adjudicator for the case, agreed with that assessment.
"I'm satisfied when I consider all of that there are reasonable grounds to believe that you were a member of the LTTE," he said.
"The law requires that I issue a deportation order and I so order."
The man, who's been held at a correctional facility in Maple Ridge since the MV Sun Sea arrived, wore prison clothes to the hearing - a red shirt and pants with white shoes. He said nothing and showed no emotion as the ruling was translated.
Mr. McPhalen said for months the man told Canadian border officials he wasn't a Tiger. He later admitted he underwent both basic and combat training.
Mr. McPhalen called it "significant" that the man did not attempt to leave the LTTE for several years. Robin Bajer, the man's lawyer, said his client first joined the LTTE because he was led onto their territory by friends and then told he couldn't leave. Mr. Bajer said the man did eventually try to flee, but was caught and punished with months of manual labour. Ms. Medley said the man was not beaten during this time, and was later allowed to leave without consequence.
After the ruling, Mr. Bajer said he would have to speak with his client before deciding whether to apply for a Federal Court review. He declined further comment.
Chris McCluskey, spokesman for federal Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, called the decision "an unmitigated victory for the rule of law."
David Poopalapillai, spokesman for the Canadian Tamil Congress, said it's very rare for a Tamil migrant to be deemed inadmissible because of LTTE membership.
None of the 76 passengers onboard the Ocean Lady - which arrived in B.C. in October 2009 - were deemed inadmissible. All filed refugee claims, as did those on the MV Sun Sea.
Admissibility hearings were scheduled for 33 of the MV Sun Sea migrants. Only one other case has been heard - that migrant was ordered released on the grounds that he did not pose a security risk. The man admitted he worked as a mechanic in LTTE territory, but denied he was a member of the organization.
CBSA said as of Monday, 66 MV Sun Sea migrants remained in custody - 62 men, four women.
Douglas Cannon, a long-time Vancouver immigration lawyer, said even if the man is no longer entitled to make a refugee claim, he does have options.
"What happens to him now is that he will be entitled to remain in Canada if he is claiming a risk of torture or cruel and unusual punishment if returned to Sri Lanka," he said.
"He still has a process available to him in which he can claim he is at risk. I fully expect he has already initiated that."Report Typo/Error