This letter is directed to any opposition party, religious bodies and other organizations who intend opposing the above Bill the Government hopes to introduce.
Opposing whatever the Government is trying to introduce comes in two forms. One form is ‘opposing for the sake of opposing especially to gain political mileage’. This form we have experienced from the time we had our first Parliament. The next form is ‘opposing for a reason or some reasons’. The reason or reasons can be for the betterment of the country and its people which will cover religion, culture etc. Therefore, this letter is written for the latter category and not the former who opposes something for the sake of opposing, because this category has no followers amongst the present politically educated masses of the country.
Those who intend opposing the above Bill have in their minds the following simple general thoughts:
1) They think this Bill will corrupt the people, especially the youth. These foreign habits they would argue, are not for us, not good for our country. Some will get addicted to these habits and a string of such thoughts will pass through their minds.
2) They also will think that if gaming is allowed it will conflict with religion and culture. They will be obsessed with these thoughts that they think will be the end of Sri Lanka. They will then go among the people and expound only the seamy side of the Bill. People who do not think with an open mind or rationally will soon agree with what these people are preaching.
Now I wish to tell these opposing categories my point of view. Gaming in a country has to be looked at in a broad-minded perspective, especially in the modern times. If this was opposed for example about 50 years ago, I too would have concurred. However, to oppose it today would be inappropriate, especially when Sri Lanka is marching forward to boost its economy and trying to bring prosperity to its people.
Tourism is an important sector among the many others with which the Government is planning to boost the economy. When Sri Lanka is so strategically located and blessed with all the beautiful things and beaches, we will only be shutting the door to prosperity, if we do not make use of them and take steps to boost tourism in the country. When some countries are trying hard to boost their tourism industry, but lack these opportunities, and if we, having all these opportunities do nothing it would be a shame. I would disagree with any Government who will ignore boosting the tourist industry. I therefore think the present Government is doing the right thing right now.
Now those who intend opposing the Gaming Bill must carefully think on these lines. They must realize that the tourism industry is vital for Sri Lanka. If we can develop this industry to the standards of Male or Singapore just imagine the income we can generate. It will create jobs for the youth, thus bringing a better standard of life for the millions. The opportunities are endless. If we are to expand the tourism industry, as every educated man would know, many things have to be done in Sri Lanka. Hotels have to be built, beaches cleaned, places of interest and beauty created, roads improved and many more things. Among these are gambling, freedom to drink and smoke and promote night life. It will be futile to think a country can boost tourism without these basics that a tourist would expect.
Here lies the crux of the whole matter. We want tourists but we do not want gambling. We cannot do this. Those opposing gaming must now understand simple logic. Having gaming in Sri Lanka is simply like having computers, internet, TV, CD players, CDS and all other modern facilities. All these as one is aware, have ill effects on the population. Yet, we cannot just oppose them saying they will corrupt our youth, religion and culture, and pour out all the arguments against gaming.
I believe the Gaming Bill will not do much harm to society as some would imagine (not as much as computers, internet etc.) especially the way the Government intends going about it. Therefore, if one is opposing the bill, he is against tourism, against the country prospering and against people improving their standards of living.