Editorial-Are we that naive?

25 April 2014 08:08 pm - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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‘Mislead and distract’ appear to be the operational mechanism of the government of late, though some may suggest that those two words reflect only a fraction of what is really taking place in this country.
Let us leave aside the pros and cons of having casinos since the matter had been debated for some time and many arguments have been presented to defend both opinions. In any case casinos are nothing new to the country as there are many that are operating openly since the 1980s.  

However, President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Thursday told the print and electronic media editors that the government had no plans to permit casinos to operate in the luxury resorts that were going to come up in the heart of Colombo. He insisted that the regulations that were passed in Parliament did not permit the setting up of casinos.
 “I can assure that there is nothing about casinos in these regulations. We are only giving permission to put up a hotel” a newspaper quoted him as saying.

However, a gazette notification was passed in the parliament amid severe opposition to allowing the setting up of a luxury hotel with what was called “associated facilities”.
During the Parliamentary debate to pass the gazette, opposition party Parliamentarians urged the government to define what the so-called “associated facilities” were and enquired as to why a clear clause was not included in the gazette, stating that the said luxury hotel would not have a casino since the President had clearly said that the government was only giving permission to set up a hotel.
However, amid all these arguments the gazette notification regarding businessman Dhammika Perera’s Queensbury Leisure Limited was passed. The entire country knows that apart from operating regular tourist hotels and resorts, Perera operates a couple of casinos in Colombo.

Meanwhile, the other two gazettes dealing with gambling tycoon James Packer’s Crown Resorts and John Keells’ Waterfront Properties—which were issued in December last year—also had the term “associated facilities.” These two were also to be approved by Parliament.

James Packer needs no introduction. Since his father’s death, he has moved away from his family’s traditional businesses and has focused on setting up a worldwide gambling empire for him. Therefore  it is naïve to think that the proposed US $ 400 million Crown Resort in Sri Lanka is just going to be a super luxury hotel project with conference halls, shopping malls etc.

On the other hand John Keells raised Rs.40 billion through a rights issue to set up an integrated resort—an euphemism for casinos used by the Singaporeans—and not to build just a luxury hotel.
Therefore it is obvious that the government is carrying out its plans undeterred by misleading the public and distracting them through various sideshows such as the recent ugly incident in Hambantota.
So the question that should be asked by the general public is “Are we that naïve?"
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