United against Casinos
Nov 7, 2013

Leading members of the Buddhist clergy and a cross section of political and civil representatives came onto a single platform for the first time yesterday, to denounce the government’s proposal to open two mega casinos in Colombo.

The Ven. Maduluwawe Sobitha Thera (the chairman of the People's Movement for Social Justice), the Ven. Omalpe Sobitha Thera (the leader of the Jathika Hela Urumaya .JHU), the Ven. Athuraliye Rathana Thera (the general secretary of the Bodu Bala Sena, BBS), The Ven. Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara Thera, Cabinet Minister Champika Ranawaka and a host of the other Government and Opposition politicians and civil society activists made representations against the government’s move at the New Town Hall yesterday.

The Ven. Maduluwawe Sobitha Thera, speaking at the seminar, urged President Mahinda Rajapaksa “to refrain from participating in sinful activities”. “I urge the President not to take part in the sinful and dastardly deed of introducing casinos,” he said.

Taking a forceful and vociferous stance against the proposed Casinos to be opened in Colombo, Mr. Champika Ranawaka said casinos were a ‘Trojan horse’ through which the country’s entire socio-economic and political systems would be caused to gradually collapse.

“These are the worst white collar criminals, smugglers and other wheeler dealers -- who are attempting to bring in and establish two mega casinos in the heart of the country’s financial and administrative capital. The establishment of such casinos will not only harm the economy but will have a greater and more dangerous impact on the country as a whole,” he said, addressing the seminar which was organised by the National Intellectual Council ( NIC). Making a fiery speech in the presence of Bhikkhus and civil society representatives, Mr. Ranawaka further said that the mega casinos would pave the way for the crippling of the socio-political dynamics of the country.

“These are not fears that we have made out of thin air, Rupert Murdoch and other mega businessmen all over the world have controlled the political destiny of the people. It won’t be people’s power but rather the power of these businessmen, Joe Sim, during the time of President Premadasa, is a good example,” he said. Responding to allegations against ‘nationalist forces,’ Ranawaka said that the JHU was against any form of gambling.

“However you can’t equate the damage of a mega casino with the damage that a small betting centre would cause. Those betting centres cripple an individual’s earnings; but a mega casino cripples the entire socio- political- economic structure of a country,” he said.

He further said that the Strategic Development Act, under which the casinos are to be introduced, is a façade.

“The act is specifically aimed at the social, economic, technical and employment development of the country. The two mega casinos would not do any of these things. What are the developments that the Sri Lankan society would enjoy with their introduction?” he asked.

JHU leader the Ven. Omalpe Sobhitha Thera said that instead of Sri Lanka seeking to advance the ‘five pillars’ (pancha maha balawegaya), it was currently engaged in the promotion of social vices.

“This is to be a hub for casinos, prostitution, blue films, drugs and moonshine” the Thera said. Speaking at the event, JHU MP the Ven. Athuraliye Rathana Thera said that the dismissive attitude of certain ministers towards the stance of the JHU on casinos was a cause for concern.

“Today the government has taken a step back and we have proved to be a force to reckon with even on this issue. The introduction of these two casinos will pave the way for Sri Lanka being a centre of gambling in Asia” he said.

Source: Daily Mirror - Sri Lanka

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