Airport inquiry goes down the tubes

PUBLISHED : Monday, 30 November, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 30 November, 1998, 12:00am

Toilet humour was full to overflowing on Friday at the Woo Commission of Inquiry into July's Chek Lap Kok-ups.

Not surprisingly, its sudden appearance was sparked by evidence being given on the airport's amenities.

Guffaws erupted all around the Commission as hard-nosed counsel tried to get to the bottom of the airport opening debacle.

At times during the cross-examination of lavatory experts, they had trouble keeping a straight face.

Some of the lines subsequently delivered were - no pun intended - real stinkers.

When the issue first arose, Airport Authority counsel Robert Ribeiro SC interrupted proceedings: 'Mr Chairman, before my learned friend asks his questions in the toilet . . .' At this point, he was interrupted by commission counsel Benjamin Yu SC: 'No, I'll be asking questions on the toilet.' Even Mr Justice Woo's normally serious demeanour was washed away for a brief moment after the luncheon adjournment by the issue.

'I'm not sure whether it is appropriate to ask this question right after lunch - but regarding these toilets . . .,' he said to general laughter.

We've heard some outlandishly optimistic sales pitches from property agents in our time.

You know, spiels about 'stunning vistas' when there's an obscured view of a solitary tree.

Or references to 'interesting aromas' when there's a rubbish dump next door to the development in question.

Difficult material to beat when it comes to putting the best possible face on things.

But a spiel from Vigers in a new brochure - sent in by reader Bruce Walker - was definitely right up in the same league.

In a plug for the Garden Terrace No. 3 in Old Peak Road, the brochure doesn't only note features like a 'large swimming pool' and 'spacious layouts'.

It also advertises that the development has a 'fireworks view'.

Whatever could be next? Smog view? Traffic view? Our pieces recently suggesting Hong Kong civil servants have been overdoing it by working five-hour days could be a bit misleading.

We hear there are still pockets of 'seat-warming' going on.

A staff member in one Government department told a spy for Lai See on Thursday that workers there like to keep the number of hours they actually work to under two each day.

This is apparently to ensure superiors do not expect too much.

The rest of the time is spent shuffling paper (no doubt recycled) and looking extremely busy.

These skills have no doubt been honed over many years to produce the ultimate illusion of professionalism.

Nice work if you can get it.

Hang Lung Development chairman Ronnie Chan Chi-chung wants us all to know an earth-shattering fact: he does not have a photo of Margaret Thatcher on his mantlepiece.

Shocked? We were too, when Mr Chan delivered the staggering news after his company's annual general meeting on Friday.

Mr Chan clearly had a bee in his bonnet about a magazine article that appeared recently.

In the piece, it was claimed his office had a picture of him and Margaret Thatcher together.

The report even had the gall to claim Mr Chan was very proud of it! Mr Chan is hell bent on setting the record straight.

'It is totally untrue,' he said.

'In fact, I refused to take a picture with the Iron Lady when she visited Hong Kong to give a speech to the Asia Society in 1994 or 1995.' We get the picture, Ronnie. You won't be applying to become cheerleader at the Maggie Thatcher fan club anytime soon.

We always knew the Internet was the best place to go to find prime examples of bad taste, but it always seems to keep topping itself, as reader Richie Lum found out.

A company called Ad-lines (based in where else but California) has been sending out e-mails touting something called 'The Dr Jack Kevorkian Gift Certificate'.

Yes, it's not enough that Dr Death facing first-degree murder charges for his 'mercy' killings: he is also facing the indignity of his name being used for tasteless marketing gimmicks by mail order companies! 'Not only is it a great gift idea, but it's also a great conversation piece,' the spiel boldly states.

The cost of one of the lethal gift certificates? A mere $5.

One sort of coupon we don't seriously expect a cyberspace run for.