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Protesters keep up pressure on government over casinos

Activists and faith groups unite against Sri Lankan gaming projects

Protesters keep up pressure on government over casinos

A number of protests have taken place against the casino proposals

ucanews.com reporter, Colombo
Sri Lanka

October 24, 2013

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After a series of protests, the government has suspended final approval for two casino projects, including one backed by Australian tycoon James Packer.

Packer's group, Crown Ltd, proposes to invest US$ 400 million in a luxurious casino and hotel complex, while a local firm is planning a similar development in the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo.

The government bill which would give a green light to both projects and grant them a 10-year tax break was due to be passed this week. But concerns raised by opposition lawmakers, religious leaders and civic right activists led to its suspension.

It will be tabled again with amendments in the first week of November.

Dissatisfied that the suspension is only temporary, opponents urged a complete halt to the bill at a hastily assembled rally in Colombo yesterday.

“We urge the government to bury this bill forever,” Buddhist leader Ven.Maduluwawe Sobhitha Thero told the gathering.

Sri Lanka’s Congress of Religions has also condemned the casino projects.

“Investments should be encouraged in the country’s agriculture sector,” said Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, co-chairman of the congress, in a statement.

“We should not allow foreign investors to exploit the country’s resources.” 

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