I was at a dinner last night where former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunge was the guest speaker, and one thing that was clearly etched in my mind, that I came away with was how she believed that our society as a whole has fallen into a state of MORAL DECAY. Those words are still ringing in my ears, and in my attempt at getting it out of my head, I wish merely to illustrate this by using JUST ONE example of what I believe she meant by this.
Living in Minneriya in the forest, I am always reminded of the stories by the locals of how the tourist are fleeced by the Jeep Operators, who charge excessive fees, over and above that which is reasonable, and once the tourist realizes after the fact that they have been double charged, gets a bitter taste in their mouths of their whole safari experience. They will then never recommend Sri Lanka to another friend, saying that the people just cannot be trusted. Of course the fleecer does not care, and he only wants the cash for the day, as much as he can squeeze. He is simply NOT interested in the tomorrows and the day afters etc.
So on that vein, I asked heads of five of the biggest high-end hotel chains in Sri Lanka, about this problem, and quite smugly, they all said, that it does NOT happen to the tourists staying in their hotels, as they have very high standards, and they only use accredited jeeps at pre-arranged rates, and they usually also provide the services of a resident naturalist to further enhance the wildlife experience they give to their customers, be it bird watching, or other wildlife. This way they are published rates, and the tourists will NOT feel they are fleeced, and more important, they have such a wonderful experience that their friends also make this journey upon their recommendations, which is free publicity.
The problem is they have NOT investigated the actual rates paid, and the deals their own staff organize with the Jeep Owners, to supplement their own incomes. Those with the responsibility to agree rates, and use only accredited operators, ALSO resort to doing side deals with the Jeep Operators, who upon hitting certain targets of hires, receive kickbacks that are HUGE in comparison to their salaries and service charge payout they get from their employment.
These naturalists, NOT ONLY cheat their employers of money for their hotels, they ALSO cheat the tourists who they take on safari rides into National Parks, and sometimes, on the main roads, that may yield better wildlife, by over charging for the service! They are obviously also cheating their hotel bosses in Colombo too, who are blissfully unaware of what is happening under their noses.
THIS THEREFORE IS AN EXAMPLE OF THE MORAL DECAY INGRAINED IN OUR SOCIETY THAT SHE REFERS TO