Preventing Financial Fraud in North Sri Lanka

A proud people, the Tamils of the North, now begging for a living, seeking every way possible including robbing from tourists and visitors, including Tamils visiting their homeland, is a pathetic state of affairs.

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Young girl in the window of her father's Tuk-tuk (traditional taxi) in Jaffna, Sri Lanka. [ Photo: Natalia Davidovich /World Bank]

I hardly can think of anyone who will have the guts to admit how they can be fooled after living a life being a control freak in an expatriate country, but throwing caution to the winds on holiday, in my own homeland. Was it wonder lust or being foolhardy?

I thought I had the experience, the knowledge, the capacity to deal with anything living abroad, able to cope with any adverse situations, and take good care of myself. But, it was not to be, as I fell into the trap of being mesmerised, cajoled, or perhaps, even been so gullible? Could it ever happen to me in my home country, in Jaffna, Sri Lanka, was on my mind all the time? Was I was perceived as being a helpless and an aged person, an easy target and be cheated of my bank cards and holiday foreign currency, in my homeland? I now find difficult to accept?

Living a sham life, poverty survival in Jaffna, Sri Lanka?

That it happened is history and now being scrutinised in every way to find answers. But, was it my callousness or was it done by the locals in Jaffna, craftily and a drama, a pretence, with a show of being mindful to me as an elderly individual, or as a matter of culture courtesy? 

To attribute the new way of survival, with the escalating cost of living in the North and all over Sri Lanka is to accommodate the unbearable lifestyle.

It can be summed up by the sham of only being able to be heard, to get redress by speaking in the Sinhala idiom with officialdom in Jaffna.

A proud people, the Tamils of the North, now begging for a living, seeking every way possible including robbing from tourists and visitors, including Tamils visiting their homeland, is a pathetic state of affairs.

To seek a decent life. Is a very difficult choice today without deception, corruption, robbery of all sorts, in the Tamil homeland.

I find it unimaginable to portray the nuisances of the fraud that was committed on my person, perhaps, due to my vulnerability of age, more so due to my frailty. I was unwittingly deceived to surrender my guard, because of the masked polite sham of care and concern for my welfare and wellbeing.  I had never encountered such behavioural stance, before, thus never contemplated, or expected it could happen in the way it happened?

But that is how the old cookie crumbles, and that’s how the new modus operandi of survival amongst all odds in today’s Sri Lanka.

It is hard to recount...

There is no morality in how to succeed in living in today’s Sri Lanka. Man is an enemy to fellow man, the only available way to secure and act in every known way is to protect oneself, in fact to act as if every person you encounter, is out to commit a crime.

This is no holiday at all but robbery has become an art form, especially in the town called Jaffna, Sri Lanka.

To be craftily cheated of foreign currency left inside a hotel room in Jaffna, without the custodial protection by Hotel management is atrocious, and untrustworthy in the extreme.

Further, to be fastidiously hoodwinked by courteously and kind hotel staff and be robbed by hotel receptionists who meticulously follow the movements of tourists, is hard to believe. But, it is today the norm not the exception, in many hotels in Jaffna.

Courtesy to guests comes hidden with a cost price, not only for the room and service charge, but for careless behaviour by happy go lucky tourists.

Hotel Receptionists usually have access to keys to hotel rooms and they also act as security officers in most hotels in Jaffna. Although they are generally known to be the epitome of trust, some staff strangely have become noted fraudsters. This is due to the poor wage of S.L. Rupees 1000.00 per working day paid for unsocial hours for a tedious variety of workload.

My hotel room at Jaffna, had no provision of a Room Cash Safe for safekeeping, neither a room service phone inside. The end game, was to rob foreign currency notes in tandem and piecemeal, in small unnoticeable amounts, but the total robbery was not tracked until I checked out of the hotel.

Tourists and visitors hoodwinked

Further, it seemed, crafted with precision, when I was literally robbed of my Bank Cards, with payment for goods and services to value of over UK Sterling £1,500, at Liquor shops, stores.  The Banks in UK have evidence that it was obtained without my knowledge or permission, as it now appears by hotel staff, who had “cloned” my debit cards for cash and payments by fraud. These payments have been tracked by the three UK Banks and investigations are being pursed and robbed funds refunded by UK Banks.

First, it was cash, foreign currency, which I had in my wallet stolen from my hotel room, while I was out of the premises and which I had secured in the double locked room.

Then it was the fraudulent purchases by use of Bank Debit Cards

The Sri Lanka then and now as I know?

The life as I knew in Sri Lanka in my youth and the life today is beyond comprehension.

The most affected people in the island today are the population in Northern Sri Lanka.

The country has hardly recovered from the near 30 years’ war of attrition, but the most noticeable motive for the above reported robbery is perhaps living beyond their means, not poverty,

Whilst one assumes there is malnutrition among both young children, and students,

Paradoxically, the middle aged and old are noticeably obese.  Prices of goods and services are not within the reach of ordinary citizens, in northern Sri Lanka, if not all Sri Lanka.

Robbery seems to be a way of living for the foreseeable future, and tourists beware.

Victor Cherubim

Victor Cherubim is a London-based writer and a frequent columnist of the Sri Lanka Guardian

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