Dangerous trek in search of Dinars
By Chris Kamalendran
Dinesh Rajaratnam, the Sri Lankan abducted almost a month back in Iraq, was one among many Sri Lankans who undertook several risky trips from Kuwait to war-torn Baghdad, and still continue to do so to earn an extra buck, a co-worker of the captive revealed.

T.Pavaz, a trailer driver employed by the same transport company as Rajaratnam who returned to Sri Lanka two weeks ago told The Sunday Times that Rajaratnam was planning to send a mobile phone and some money to his family through him as he was coming home for Ramazan.

Relating the events that led up to Rajaratnam's abduction he said, "We were planning to travel in the same convoy transporting electrical cables to Baghdad International airport. Our scheduled date of departure from Kuwait was October 11. But due to delays in loading, the trip was postponed," Pavaz said.

"Usually the journey takes five days and as things were getting delayed Rajaratnam left with three other vehicles. The other three vehicles were driven by foreigners including a Bangladeshi," he said.

"I eventually left with another convoy on October 18. As usual we were given an armed escort when crossing the Kuwaiti border. After an eight hour journey as we were approaching Baghdad airport I saw two vehicles belonging to the company parked along the road. The vehicles were stripped of their cargo and tyres. On these long trips we are provided with satelite phones, so I immediately informed the company of what I had just seen. I was instructed to unload the cargo and return. There was no trace of Rajaratnam nor the Bangladeshi. It was only after we returned to Kuwait that we learnt that Rajaratnam and the others had been taken hostage. Two of the truck drivers had reportedly been killed, while Al Jazeera TV had shown Rajaratnam and the Bangladeshi being held captive.

Pavaz said an official of the company they worked for, Jassim Transport had gone to Iraq to seek help to get the two hostages released. He said the company had been prepared to pay money for their release.

Pointing out the plight of these truck drivers including Sri Lankans he said they take the risk of the journey because they earn only 30 Dinars (Rs. 10,000) back in Kuwait but if they take the five-day journey to Iraq they could earn 150 Dinars (Rs. 50,000).

He said many truck drivers from the company including Sri Lankans still continue to make the risky journey even after the abduction of Rajaratnam. He also said Rajaratnam had made many trips to Iraq, before that fateful one. Pavaz said soon after the abduction he and four other Lankans had called over at the Sri Lankan Embassy in Kuwait to look into the kidnapping.

Meanwhile, when we visited the Rajaratnam household his wife said many politicians had promised to secure the release of her husband, while the Kuwaiti company had sent them some money. However, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry said they have not been able to make any breakthrough.

Top  Back to News  

Copyright © 2001 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd. All rights reserved.