Wed, Jul 11, 2012 - Page 3 News List

Group says Matsu casino referendum was rigged

CARROT DANGLING:The anti-gambling group said the developer that plans to build the casino bought residents’ votes by falsely offering future casino benefits

By Rich Chang and Chris Wang  /  Staff reporters

Anti-gambling campaigners protest in front of the Agency Against Corruption in Taipei yesterday.

Photo: Chang Wen-chuan, Taipei Times

The Alliance Against the Legalization of Gambling yesterday protested in front of the Agency Against Corruption following the results of a referendum last weekend which favored the construction of a casino resort on Matsu and said the agency must investigate the possibility of vote-buying during the referendum campaign.

The alliance’s executive director Ho Tsung-hsun (何宗勳), accused Weidner Resorts Taiwan — the developer behind a planned casino resort on the island — and Lienchiang County Government of deceiving residents by making unrealistic promises, such as promising monthly subsidies of NT$80,000 for Matsu residents, saying the promises were tantamount to vote-buying.

Ho said Lienchiang County Commissioner Yang Sui-sheng (楊綏生) published several articles in local newspapers to promote the casino proposal before the referendum took place and he even used public funds to buy ad space in newspapers which were designed to promote the proposal, which Ho said violated the administrative neutrality principle.

Ho also said Yang used the Matsu Daily, a mouthpiece of the county government, to promote the alleged advantages of the establishment of casino resorts and to influence the residents’ decision.

Ho described the popular poll as a “cheating referendum.” The alliance delivered a letter of complaint to the agency, urging it to launch an investigation.

Ho added the alliance would also file a suit with the Central Election Committee requesting that the referendum be nullified

Residents of Matsu on Saturday voted in favor of the construction of casino resorts on the outlying islands. Fifty-six percent voted in favor of the initiative, while 42 percent opposed it.

The groups said they planned to launch another referendum in three years to keep the gambling industry out of Matsu.

“In fact, the result of the referendum was not surprising,” said Buddhist Master Shih Chao-hui (釋昭慧), convener of the Alliance Against the Legalization of Gambling.

“If not for the effort of the alliance to raise anti-gambling awareness on the islands, the opposition would have secured less than 20 percent of the total votes,” she said.

The referendum and the project are not only meaningful to the residents of Matsu, but also to people in other parts of Taiwan, the master added.

If a casino resort is allowed to be established in Matsu, more casinos would be built in other regions in the country in the future, she said, adding that is why the alliance is planning to stage an anti-gambling referendum in three years.

The Referendum Act (公民投票法) stipulates that, whether a referendum proposal is adopted or vetoed, no more proposals may be raised on the same matter within three years.

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