in Jaffna in 2003 May
I had read many reports about a gold coin issued by the LTTE but had never seen even an image of one. All of my inquiries had produced nothing except that I would only have any hope of finding one in Jaffna. This was part of my motivation to travel to Jaffna.
On the first day of my visit, we visited the jewelry shops on Kasthuria Road. This was like Sea Street in Colombo, a concentrated row of gold shops. We picked one at random and asked for gold sovereigns and then asked specifically for the LTTE issue. We were told that they had passed through their hands into the melting pot. It seemed that for security reasons they did not keep any in stock for sale. The owner sent a messenger out to the LTTE gold shop and we were informed they needed to be obtained from the LTTE headquarters in Kilinochchi. Since I did not have the time to visit, we asked that someone go out and get two coins for us. When we returned the next day at the appointed time we were first told there was a delay in the messenger returning from Kilinochchi and was later told that the LTTE would not sell to a middleman and we would need to go personally and justify our request to the LTTE.
We then visited the LTTE gold shop down the same road to directly negotiate with them. They were the only shop with the name not written in English in addition to Tamil but they seemed friendly. One of them spoke English and I explained that I had an Internet website on Lankan coins including those from the medieval Tamil rulers like Rajaraja Chola. They said they did not have any and maybe able to get some in a few days. This was too late for me since I would have by then left Lanka.
I expected that if they were available in any of the other shops down that row, the word of our enquiry would have passed along and we would have got word of availability. Disappointed we almost left when I decided to ask all of the shops and leave the guest house phone number for them to contact us if any turned up. We had about one hour to spare before needing to return to catch my flight to Colombo. The first few shops turned up only a few common gold sovereigns each. The fourth shop was very small, hardly five feet across and with just enough room for a counter and room for customers to sit. They were however probably the largest gold dealers. I was shown a bag that may have had fifty British sovereigns. When we asked for the LTTE gold coins the dealer remembered that he might have two, but said they were of lower fineness. I contained my excitement, and when I had the two in hand even, bargained down the price in view of the 20-karat gold.
The dealer from whom I purchased the coins did make a phone call during the transaction. I suspect this call was to seek approval to sell from maybe the LTTE Gold Shop. Our direct talks with them shortly before probably helped.
No other LTTE gold coins were located in Jaffna despite asking many shops. I have yet not got any replies to my numerous E-mail queries, to various Tamil websites to find out more about the issue of these gold coins.
According to a report dated 2003 Nov 20th, the LTTE summoned gold jewellers to its office on Potpathy Road, Jaffna and warned them that no jeweller should bring gold jewellery from Colombo without prior permission from the LTTE. The LTTE also told them that jewellery brought by air from Colombo would be wholly confiscated, if permission had not been obtained. The LTTE has intelligence agents on every civilian flight between Colombo and Jaffna with the connivance of the airline concerned.
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