Mixed signals on $100m cultural fund

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 25 January, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 25 January, 2000, 12:00am

Portuguese President Jorge Sampaio has said Macau's last governor, General Vasco Rocha Vieira, told him of the controversial plan to set up a foundation to promote cultural ties.

Yesterday's statement came days after a Lisbon newspaper reported Mr Sampaio had been unaware of the plan and was shocked to learn of it.

Last week, Macau Chief Executive Edmund Ho Hau-wah announced an independent panel would be set up to investigate the transfer of $50 million to the Lisbon-based foundation.

General Vieira was politically answerable to Mr Sampaio until the handover on December 19.

In a statement from the presidential office in Lisbon, a general welcome was given to moves contributing to the development of ties between Portugal and Macau.

But it also said it was up to the promoters of such initiatives - in this case General Vieira - to put them in 'concrete terms'.

The establishment of the Jorge Alvares Foundation by General Vieira sparked outcry among Macau community leaders and the media, prompting calls for the donation by the publicly-funded Macau Development and Co-operation Foundation to be returned.

The other half of the $100 million donation was made by casino mogul Stanley Ho Hung-sun's STDM.

The statement did not address the issue of funding or contradictory earlier indications from the President's office that he was unaware of the fund.

Local newspaper columnist Severo Portela has described the row as a 'political disaster'.