10 Sep 2005

Easter Island's former chief conservationist leads protest against planned casino

12:11 pm on 10 September 2005

The former director of conservation on Easter Island has organised rallies to protest against the Chilean government-backed idea to build a casino in the remote territory.

Jose Miguel Ramirez Aliaga has organised simultaneous marches, on Rapa Nui and in the Chilean cities of Vinya del mar and the capital, Santiago.

Mr Ramirez says gambling isn't an innocent business, because it's associated with money, drugs and prostitution.

He says the island is already a tax-free paradise but the tax-free Cayman Islands aren't the best model for the development of Rapa Nui.

Mr Ramirez says most of the casino's 1-hundred and 50 staff will come from off-island with their families.

He says native communities are much more susceptible to gambling addiction and native groups which run casinos don't transfer the profits to their people.

The protest organiser says the rise of gambling could signal a decline for the industry which is based on Easter Island's archaeological heritage.

Mr Ramirez urges supporters not to let Chile neglect Rapa Nui's cultural values in the world of globalisation.