Poverty drove Dinesh to Iraq
By Frances Bulathsinghala & Asif Fuard
When 36-year-old Dinesh Dharmendra Rajaratnam left for Kuwait on June 9, 2003 for a two-year contract as a truck driver, his family did not think that he would end up working in Iraq. Later when they heard that he was asked to work in Iraq by the transport company based in Kuwait (Tassim Transport) they had no option but to accept fate.

"When the company forced Dinesh to work in Iraq he accepted. The agency in Colombo that he obtained employment from totally severed connections with him once he went to Kuwait," said Doree Rita, Dinesh's wife seated in her scarcely furnished plank house in Wattala.

Pointing out that the main reason he undertook to work in Iraq was because of his three school-going children, she said the Sri Lankan job agency Al-Quareem in Grandpass Road, Colombo-14 chased her out of the premises when she and her farther-in-law went there to inquire after Dinesh.

"Their justification was that they didn't send him to Iraq. They refused explanation when we asked them why they ignored two notifications by the Foreign Employment Bureau to inquire into our complaints that the agency cheated us on the work contract," she said.

According to Dinesh's family members although 60 Dinars per month had been promised by the company not even 15 Dinars had been paid. His monthly earnings had therefore been less than Rs. 10,000. Dinesh's duties had been to drive truckloads of food items on journeys spanning over four days.

"It is only three weeks ago soon after taking over work in Iraq that he wrote to us to consult a lawyer to see if we could get his two-year work contract annulled" said his father K. Rajaratnam.

The Sri Lanka Foreign Employment Bureau had not made any effort to contact them even though the news of the hostage -taking was released here on Friday, said Mr. Rajaratnam.

"They had all the details with them. There was no question of having any doubts about the identification", added Mr. Rajaratnam, a former clerk in a leading Tamil newspaper, who says that his son was forced to take up risky employment as a last resort.

He said his son accepted his working in Iraq as his fate. "He wanted to bear the risk of working in Iraq until the contract was completed", said Dinesh's mother adding that her son chose to work in a foreign land after working here for ten years as a truck driver for a paltry salary.

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