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Wednesday, 1 December 2010

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Did you know what ‘contextomy’ meant?

I must confess I did not. At least not until last week, when I dug into the idea of what I thought was ‘quoting out of context’. This has now become a favourite pastime of many among us in our country, where only headlines and highlights are read and only bits and pieces of what is said here and there, is heard.

Not bothering to understand or hear out concepts and ideas in full, these ‘readers’ and ‘listeners’ arrive at or rather ‘jump’ to conclusions, about what they imagine has been said or have been heard. Often than not, these selected ‘quotes’ are far from what the writer or the speaker, had intended to present or portray. Often than not, the opinions formed also represent ‘party lines’ and/or prejudices, embedded in the minds of those that form them.

I had to search for what to call this ‘disease’, having read a comment in an Internet Blog referring to an interview I had given and an article I had written a few months ago. Interestingly, I learnt that the terminology used to describe the phenomenon is ‘Contextomy’.

An integrated resort

The intent of what I said and wrote about, was to suggest to decision makers for Sri Lanka Tourism, to use the concept of an ‘Integrated Gaming Resort’ in a specific area (a limited portion of the over 4,000 acres of land, it had acquired at Kalpitiya).

My contention is that some of this land can be spared for such activity, without touching other areas of it there and elsewhere, which are in a relative sense, ecologically, culturally and socially more sensitive.

A proper plan is required to attract more tourists. File photo

The fact is that most land in these areas is threatened by the impact of rising sea levels as a result of ongoing global warming. This is because the location contours of most of Kalpitiya peninsula and the adjacent islets are similar to that of the Maldives and may have a span of about 50 to 60 years for its productive utilisation, before it will begin to feel the heat of inundation by rising sea levels.

The other was the proximity of the area to the International Airport at Katunayake. Access to Kalpitiya by sea (including fast-ferries), rail and road is easy and the time spent in rapid transportation is reasonable. It also offers routes that do not take gaming custom all over the country but specifically from the airport to the resort area and back, upon entry and exit.

Pragmatic model

The idea was to suggest a pragmatic and rational model for Sri Lanka Tourism to achieve its stated objective of having several millions of tourists and earn foreign exchange rapidly, which in turn can be used for the country’s development and for conservation of the country’s sensitive and valuable resource base.

It was to ensure that any denudation of resources will be contained within a presently barren designated area, without imposing negative impacts on all our other rich cultural, natural and heritage resources. It was to prevent millions of tourists roaming all over our beautiful country threatening the thresholds and carrying capacities at existing and other new sites and the resources therein.

My intent was to present a practical option to what Sri Lanka was seeking in earning much needed forex through tourism development, focussing on a market segment of tourists who are avid gamers or casino-goers that mainly consist of the affluent East, Southeast Asian and Indian tourists. My experience observing operations in areas like Genting Islands in Malaysia, Sands Resort in Singapore, City of Dreams in Macau or at Hotels in Kathmandu, Nepal is that it is possible to contain several millions of gamers in limited areas and within buildings where artificial environments are created for them specifically for that activity. It was not to be the models of Vegas or Reno in the USA, or at reservations where native inhabitants of that land, were providing concessions to operate gaming resorts.

Managing resources

The Blogger referred to earlier, had picked on my thoughts at random in bits and pieces or without reading it in full and had excelled in the practise of ‘contextomy’. He or she had presented it to justify what he or she wanted to achieve, in passing judgement on what was to be a pragmatic solution on how to handle millions of visitors to Sri Lanka, while ensuring that we are otherwise able conduct an upmarket, high yielding and quality tourism operation.

The position taken was that my proposition would lead to the destruction of an ecologically sensitive area, without understanding the rationale behind it, ignoring that it indeed is an attempt at preserving and better managing our resources. In ‘contextomy’ terms, it was an attempt to discredit its real intent and to serve as justification of a ‘position’ the Blogger wishes to hold; i.e. that the government’s recent legislation to regulate gaming activities was undesirable.

Drawing room gaming

In my article and at several other forums where this proposition was discussed, I touched on what hypocrites we can be as a nation, when it comes to dealing with such issues. While, huffing and puffing on the ills of regulated and contained integrated casino resorts for tourism, most among us, sit together each night in front of our television screens, often with children by our side, taking on the gaming pursuit we know as the lottery.

Coming in all forms, names and colours, with sponsors and advertisers’ messages supporting the events, the spinning of numbered ping-pong balls by bilingual presenters, make both the ‘sweep’ ticket purchaser and the dealer win hundreds of thousands and even millions worth hefty cash prizes. The sellers of these game sweep tickets are all over public places and often come door to door. In effect, it had become a national past time, as much as the ‘Turf Accountants’ outfits and ‘Bookies’, that enable locals punters day in day out, to seek fast riches by betting on horses that run races in other countries.

End the trap

What was proposed by me was to limit gaming at exclusive Integrated Resorts to visitors and not to nationals and to have them, contained in an area where there are no schools, places of worship and other local community activities, where our children get exposed to them. The incomes we generate from these activities can support Sri Lanka end the trap we are in, where most of our hundreds of thousands of our mothers and sisters in low income groups are taking on employment as house-maids and in other menial jobs in the Middle-East and other countries at huge social and personal cost to themselves, their families and the nation. Please do not get me wrong, I am not suggesting that they all be employed in the gaming resorts. What I suggesting is that incomes generated therein, be utilised for providing alternative opportunities for them, so they do not need to leave our shores for these pursuits.

In my opinion, it is time that we in Sri Lanka take on this new phase of our development shunning prejudices, taking on ‘party lines’ in evaluating and understanding options before us. But do it with deep study, avoiding ‘contextomy’ and think and act rationally and pragmatically to build a nation that we all can be proud of, where we can seek true reconciliation and lasting peace.

 

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