If wealth, property and possessions are giving us security, success, prestige and power in life, then it means we are worshipping money in the end. Indian writer and social activist Arundathi Roy has described this present trend as the fifth major religion in the world.
It is in such a global backdrop that plans to set up integrated resorts with casinos had stirred the pot in Sri Lanka in the last few months.
Amid protests, pressure, conflicts and controversy over such plans, Senior Minister Sarath Amunugama said on Monday that despite strong opposition by Buddhist prelates, the Rajapaksa regime should and would go ahead with plans to set up big casinos.
The minister bluntly said that the prelates and others did not fully understand development goals and if casinos were necessary to reach tourism targets then casinos should be there. There would be some rationale behind the minister’s speech if seen from a certain perspective, but is it the only viewpoint that should be considered?
Besides James Packer’s mixed development project and another similar project planned by a blue chip company, the Rajapaksa regime is also reported to be planning to turn Katana into a ‘casino city’ with as many as five such resorts. Though Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa denied that there would be gaming business in the so-called integrated resorts, Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe revealed in Parliament last week that casinos would also be set up by a foreign company in collaboration with a local firm.
Ven. Maduluwawe Sobitha Nayaka Thera, who has been leading a courageous campaign against social evils and injustices, has called for a public rally to “Say no to casinos” on Thursday, December 5. The main Opposition United National Party (UNP), other parties and civic action groups are expected to join the protest over what they see as an evil trend which will promote related vices like prostitution, massage parlours, drugs syndicates and money laundering.
Yesterday Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, the Archbishop of Colombo, in a strongly-worded statement said the moves to set up casinos would threaten the spiritual mores of even the rural and traditional village of our motherland. He condemned the move to sell the spiritual and cultural dignity of Sri Lanka for financial gain. “The Sri Lankan soil fed by the religious traditions of the four world religions is not on sale, it must be told. And I call upon all those who cherish that to protect and oppose this move strongly and call upon the Government not to go ahead with these plans. Development, yes, but not at the price of our dignity,” the Cardinal said.
If the Catholic Church, the leaders of Hinduism and Islam would join Ven. Maduluwawe Sobitha Nayaka Thera’s protest next Thursday it would be an all-religious demand to the government. A demand that Sri Lanka’s hallowed culture and civilisation which has carried this country to great heights during two and a half millennia should not be put on the gambling table.
Mr. Amunugama and the others in the ruling alliance must be aware that for more than 2,000 years, it is the Maha Sangha that has given guidance and direction to the rulers of our country. Rejecting such advice would not be in the best interest of the country.