Sat, Sep 26, 2009 - Page 2 News List

Casino activists stage last push

OUTSIDERS? Proponents of building casinos in Penghu are accusing opponents of being outsiders and campaigning with Democratic Progressive Party funds

By Shih Hsiu-chuan and Loa Iok-sin  /  STAFF REPORTERS

Handing out flyers, parading and staging sit-ins, supporters and opponents of Penghu County’s casino plan put in a last-minute effort to mobilize support for their cause yesterday on the eve of today’s casino referendum.

On Thursday, anti-casino activists launched a 30-hour sit-in against casinos in Magong City (馬公), the seat of the archipelago county’s government, urging people to vote “no,” while the Penghu Chamber of Commerce, a prominent group promoting casino resorts in Penghu, organized a parade with 200 vehicles through the three major islands of the county, calling on the public to vote “yes.”

From village to village, at the airport, and in front of temples, casino supporters and opponents distributed flyers promoting their ideas to passersby.

“Tourism is the main industry in Penghu, but its development is restrained due to strong winds in fall and winter,” Chamber of Commerce president Lan Chun-yi (藍俊逸) said. “Casino resorts are another chance for prosperity for Penghu, that’s why I’m urging everyone to vote for the casino plan.”

But anti-casino activists were worried that casinos would bring criminal activities and the destruction of the local ecology.

“Only a very few people, politicians and big corporations would benefit,” said Ho Tsung-hsun (何宗勳), spokesman for the Alliance Against Legalization of Gambling, adding that with only two casino permits planned, it was hard to envision massive prosperity for Penghu.

An amendment to the Offshore Islands Development Act (離島建設條例) passed by the legislature in January allows outlying islands to construct casino resorts if a majority of residents support casinos in a referendum.

Meanwhile, Penghu’s Non-­Partisan Solidarity Union Legislator Lin Ping-kun (林炳坤) accused anti-casino activists of “twisting facts” about casinos and accused outsiders of opposing casinos.

“I’ve never heard my constituents oppose the casino plan,” Lin said in a press conference. “However, some people from Taiwan proper have recently been using the Democratic Progressive Party’s [DPP] resources to launch an anti-casino campaign.”

“I would like to ask those anti-casino activists if they’ve lived in Penghu. If they had, they would understand the suffering of the Penghu residents,” he said.

However, Penghu Alliance Against Casinos executive director Yen Chiang-lung (顏江龍), a Penghu native, rebutted Lin’s accusations.

“All the members of my organization are Penghu natives — we’re at the core of this anti-casino campaign,” he told the Taipei Times. “There are also anti-casino groups in Taiwan proper. We welcome their support as friends, but we’re separate groups.”

Yen said it was ridiculous to accuse them of campaigning with DPP resources.

“Yes, DPP chairperson Tsai Ing-wen [蔡英文] announced her support for our campaign, and we welcome it, but how can you say we’re in cahoots with the DPP because of that?” he asked, adding that Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Wu Yu-sheng (吳育昇) and Lai Shyh-pao (賴士葆) did not vote for amending the casino clause, while Control Yuan president Wang Chien-shien (王建煊) and presidential advisor Lee Chia-tung (李家同) had also spoken out against casinos.

“Would you say that we also used resources from the KMT and the government for our campaign?” Yen asked.

Meanwhile, nearly 20 people from the Anti-Gambling Legislation Alliance, a group composed of ­several civil groups, yesterday filed a petition with the Penghu District Prosecutors Office calling on prosecutors to launch an investigation into vote-buying allegations.

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