Fears of duplicate inquiries into crisis

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 23 July, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 23 July, 1998, 12:00am

The Ombudsman was considering whether to scale back his inquiry into the airport crisis yesterday to avoid duplicating the work of the Woo Commission.

But he declined to comment on the possibility of scrapping his parallel investigation altogether.

Ombudsman Andrew So Kwok-wing said: 'My concern is that there are two statutory investigation proceedings going side by side. I will study carefully the legal implications, my legal position and how to economise efforts and resources.' He expected his inquiry to last about six months - the same time-frame set for the independent commission announced on Tuesday.

Mr So said no one could order him to terminate his inquiry unless Tung Chee-hwa wrote to him, proving his investigation could jeopardise internal security, national defence and international relations. His inquiry would also have to be halted if the Chief Secretary for Administration sent him a notice proving that his investigation involved criminal elements or would lead to the disclosure of Executive Council information.

Mr So saw no need to liaise with Mr Justice Woo Kwok-hing, chairman of the commission. Asked if he felt the Government wanted to sideline his investigation by setting up the commission, he said: 'I don't have such feelings . . . It's not a blow to me.' Mr So said he would compare the Ombudsman Ordinance, which empowers him to conduct the investigation, with the Commissions of Inquiry Ordinance which empowers Mr Justice Woo to carry out the investigation.

He said one of his guidelines was to avoid duplication, and his eight-strong investigation team would try to avoid affecting the normal operation of the airport.

Mr So did not say how much time he would need to review the scope of his inquiry but he said his investigation was continuing and he was waiting for the Airport Authority to reply to questions today.