Junior casinos for school children – A testing time for Parents in Sri Lanka
When people vote and elect representatives who throw paper rockets, run around towns with ‘toy’ guns, throw lavish parties to celebrate the number of women they have raped all we can say is they were democratically elected by the people of Sri Lanka. They would not be in office if people had not placed their vote for them. These are the people who end up taking or making decisions on behalf of the country. Not much can be expected from them to view matters logically and to be fair by them they can’t be blamed for we have chosen them not realizing whether they had the mentality to live up to the responsibilities of governance. Are we in a position to rely on them to ensure that the culture and identity of Sri Lanka does not get vanquished by the decisions they take, do not take or are unable to take? In such a scenario, the responsibility of the future generation is left in the hands of the parents who must decide what is best for their children.
A country that suffered 30 years of terror also suffered numerous other ailments none of which politicians in government or opposition have helped solved. While the piling debt remains a burden, any government has to take chances and risks to build up the economy and pay off debts taken. The issue of casinos certainly has pros and cons. When the initial idea to establish casinos to build the economy, it was proposed that these casinos be located in an exclusive area ideally where flights could directly land and depart without access to locals. It was a blueprint on the lines of how Macau functions and would have protected the citizens of Sri Lanka allowing for only foreigners to fly in, gamble and fly out while securing some income to the country. However, decision makers have opted to continue with the already existing casinos located legally and illegally as well as create a zone within Colombo, the country’s capital.
What needs to be said is that gambling and bookies and numerous other vices have been prevalent since time immemorial. These are vices that will always prevail so long as man remains human and subject to human weaknesses and entities that can tap into the vulnerabilities of man.
This is where the role of parents, education, educators play a key role. Most of the elder generation today will say that there is a major decline in the respect children show to adults and the general behaviour of children has certainly deteriorated over the decades. A good idea of the thinking of todays parents can be seen in speaking to trishaw drivers who will have examples of driving home drunk teenage girls, most of whom they say do not know what happened to them, what they drank and once taken home the trishaw driver is told this is the ‘done thing’ in Colombo society. Has raising children come to a level that simply because the neighbour sends his child to nightclubs, allows him/her to drink and smoke, or indulge in drugs and sex, one’s own children should also join the club simply to ‘belong’ to this supposed ‘elite’ group? There are some schools where parents of 10 year olds take their daughters to the salon to put makeup and do a hairstyle before they take them to a kiddies birthday party in a 5 star hotel! The instances of people unable to make out who the teenage daughter or mother is ample with mothers! Is it not for parents to teach the children right from wrong, good from bad the way our grandparents taught our parents after they themselves realize what they are doing is right? Has the vice living actually paid off for these families who find their ‘home’ torn apart once their child becomes a drug addict and his whole life is lost, or a teenage child ends up with a fatherless child and her life is lost as well or children end up pimps or prostitutes. What is the life for them thereafter and what mental agony do these parents have to go through thereafter?
There are choices that parents need to make and simply passing the decisions to others is not the norm to be followed. The parents must show far more concern and accountability especially in the manner they dress their teenage children and the manner they allow half-dressed children to leave their home when preying eyes and mischief makers are lurking in their midst.
The government’s much-hyped campaign to abstain from intoxicants has come a cropper in the light of a startling revelation that the biggest offenders of drugs, in a single segment are school children, both boys and girls.
The National Dangerous Drugs Control Board has highlighted the alarming scenario in the Western province with school children using drugs. Incidentally, it is not only the elite schools but children attending central schools who have fallen prey and parents of these children will know too well the suffering they are going through. While children in elite Colombo schools were smoking and consuming sophisticated narcotics, children of central schools were consuming cannabis. There is no difference in the eventual outcome to the children. While the traders of the drugs include all types of middlemen even the pharmacists dispensing drugs without prescriptions to school children have recorded high numbers. The Drugs Board in their response have attributed the situation to the lack of parental love and care between parent and child. This accusation merits greater attention of parents in view of the realization a child neglected is a child lost forever. It is no different in allowing children to be victims of fast foods and then bemoaning the obesity, cholesterol, diabetic condition of the child thereafter when parents pockets are emptied hospitalizing their children and spending for the medication. Parents today need to play an important role in how they are bringing up their children. Simply sending them to school, paying for tuition is unlikely to deliver the goods.
If a Government has decided to introduce casinos and a far worse decision to allow children’s casinos, it is for the parents to come together and decide not to allow their children to frequent or patronize such. If vegetables are sold far above the market price and people do not buy, the vegetables will automatically come down. There are other ways that prices can be dropped or be completely removed from the shelf. The consumer is powerful in many ways. The consumer needs to show their power.
Junior casinos for kids comes with the ruse that it promises to pay Rs.500million annually to the Mahapola Scholarship Fund which means the license has been given under the Mahapola Fund. Let us not forget that a similar lottery was started in 2004 but had losses of more than Rs800million and was stopped due to public outcry.
Lotteries are nothing new to Sri Lanka. They have been around for decades and there are lottery sellers even outside temples and kovils.
There are many laws in place in Sri Lanka but are they followed is the next question. How many under 18 year olds are found in nightclubs today? How many under 18 year olds line up at bars to buy liquor?
Shocking news surround us. In one corner of the world we hear men marrying men, women marrying women and states and countries legalizing such, we hear of babies being adopted to such same-sex parents and wonder which partner would be called ‘mother’ or ‘father’, we hear of teens giving birth to their first baby and the news hitting global headlines, we hear children taking their parents to court and suing them, we have legal frameworks that allow children to divorce from their parents, we heard recently of a father throwing his 2 small children into a river, we hear ample news of babies found in dustbins or in street corners, we hear of children sold for crumbs, children devoured into prostitution and paedophilia and only one question can be asked – Is this how the world and society has developed? Where are the value systems, the cultures that have kept people, families, and entire communities to live in harmony nurturing the concepts of mutual sharing, caring and good livelihood treating man and animal with the same respect. Where have all these good deeds vanished is what we should now ask ourselves. In so asking we need to now move towards returning to the values that had been lost and taken away through centuries of oppression.
So when Sri Lanka’s cabinet has decided to allow casinos to operate an online lottery under the brand name Ogames, if people are against it they must simply refuse to take part in it or allow their children to participate in such. If the public does not participate in the lottery it would simply have to close shop. There is no requirement for hartals, processions and demonstrations except for people to realize the dangers and repercussions of what addiction of any kind is likely to do and this applies to both child and adult.
The moral authority in society is certainly deteriorating. The major religions of the world all discourage people from gambling. Buddhist’s will have the Sigalovada Sutta : The Layman’s Code of Discipline, wherein Buddha speaks of the 6 consequences of gambling:
- The winner begets hate,
- The loser grieves for lost wealth,
- The loss of wealth,
- His word is not relied upon in a court of law,
- He is despised by his friends and associates,
- He is not sought after for matrimony; for people would say he is a gambler and is not fit to look after a wife.
The Jews in their Talmud holds gambling as a sin and claims that gambling produces nothing of enduring value for any community. Christianity speaks little about gambling but in Mathew 6:24 of the New Testament, Jesus proclaims, “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.” There is also the reference to ‘the love of money is the root of all evil’. In Islam, gambling is considered ‘haram’ or illegal and the Prophet had opposed gambling of any form – card games, horse racing, gambling machines or lottery. Essence of the argument is that gambling takes away someone’s money without actually earning it. Clearly, all the world’s religions have shown that gambling only results in harm to human society. If Governments cannot find avenues other than casinos and gambling to make money, it is for the people to walk away from these vices and not queue up to be party to it.
What needs to be reiterated is that we need to return to fundamentals and go back to our roots and heritage. Functioning as copy cats of other value systems now falling apart and being surrogates of failed values is unlikely to get Sri Lanka or our generation and in particular the future generation anywhere.
There is little point in waiting till old age to bemoan what could have been done. We have come to a stage where we should as a country now realize where we are going wrong and instead of expecting a Government to solve matters we need to set society right and to set society right we need to start from our own home by setting examples and drawing rules for our children and being close to them. We need to again build up a value-based society and the foundation has to built in the home and by parents.
– by Shenali D Waduge
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