Share resources to solve global disputes

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 01 July, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 01 July, 2004, 12:00am

The article headlined 'World losing battle against poverty' (June 17) brought to mind 19th-century political economist Thomas Malthus, who believed that war, famine and disease are nature's ways to control unrestrained population growth.

Are most of the main problems we witness around the world, such as the Israel-Palestine conflict, Iraq war, or Sino-American trade disputes just modern manifestations of Malthusian cycles? Are we barking up the wrong tree when we think the answers can be found by resolving these problems' apparent underlying - but false - reasons of religious, ideological and trade conflicts?

Perhaps we should treat these problems as arising from unfair and uneven distribution of natural resources - land and oil, for example. At the very least, this would allow a more quantitative approach, and therefore, a more objective mindset, now often made impossible by subjective religious or ideological prejudices. The new approach may turn these problems into areas of possible co-operation and sharing.

It seems to cost a lot more to build than to destroy. But at present the imbalance appears to be the other way around: the US has spent hundreds of billions to destroy a country, whereas it would only take tens of billions to alleviate world poverty substantially each year, according to the UN.

The biggest irony is, as the article suggests, that the small investments made now to build up the global community in the long run may help reduce the huge costs of destruction that would be brought about by terrorism, which poverty helps to nurture. The choice is ours: all it may take is the willingness to share.

JERRY PANG, Happy Valley

Prosecute polluters

Would I pay $12 per month to clean up the harbour?

Yes, if the money is spent prosecuting all the parties that pollute the water. I understand that the Environmental Protection Department has the power to prosecute but has not been doing its duty.

This inspectors' role could be similar to that of private traffic wardens, who have succeeded in combating London's illegal parking. An engineer, I would be happy to be subcontracted to the department in this role. I would be very unpopular, very tough. The same could be applied to vehicles for air pollution.

We should indeed make polluters pay. Hong Kong's universities should start training environmental engineers, who know how to measure pollution and charge the polluters.

NIGEL LAM, Shenzhen

Police overpaid

That the government is belatedly seeking to cut some of the unreasonable perks received by senior civil servants was bound to become an emotive issue. We now have expatriate police officers and their wives writing to newspapers suggesting that they are being shortchanged.

I suggest that these officials reflect carefully on any actions they might be contemplating to protect their grossly inflated package of benefits. Is it really justified in today's economic environment for British police officers to retire in their mid-50s and return to Britain as sterling millionaires at Hong Kong taxpayers' expense?

They should appreciate that all written laws are subject to court interpretation. The Basic Law does not actually say that the monetary levels of salaries and perks will never be reduced. It states merely that they will be 'no less favourable' than 'before'. These words can mean all measure of things. No less favourable compared with salaries and benefits paid in the private sector, for instance. Or that the purchasing power of benefits shall not be lessened. With 67 months of cumulative deflation in Hong Kong, one could argue that the benefits package is now about 30 per cent more favourable than before the handover, and this is certainly not promised in the Basic Law.

Also, what does 'before' mean? Before what? It is possible that this was meant to be a promise relating only to the transition of sovereignty and does not mean a situation has to continue in perpetuity. It appears that the Basic Law drafters did not consider that nearly 20 years of inflationary growth would tumble in months. What is really pertinent are their intentions. They most certainly did not intend to bring about a situation where the continuing payment of salaries and benefits at current levels would bankrupt the treasury.

The possibility of reductions in monetary terms must always be an option if economic circumstances change. It is ludicrous for civil servants to think otherwise. Expatriate civil servants should think carefully about speaking too loudly on this issue. They enjoy extremely favourable circumstances, having not been subjected to the 30 per cent to 50 per cent belt-tightening that many in the private sector have had to stomach.


Heading off war crimes

Why are military men in China making so many threats against their own Chinese people in Taiwan?

I refer to the article 'Jinan war zone leads logistics revamp' (June 26), which describes the preparations for war against Taiwan in a region with 190,000 troops. Jinan would be part of the vanguard of such an attack.

The Nuremberg trials established that actively preparing for war is an international crime, perpetrated by war criminals, and it deserves to be punished. Normally, no trial is held until war occurs.

Is it now possible to determine beforehand if preparing for an attack on Taiwan is a war crime? It should be possible for the International Court of Justice to hold preliminary hearings on this issue, so that the involved military officials will know their status before war actually breaks out.

After all, no general or admiral should wish to be remembered as a war criminal.

J. GARNER, Kowloon

Censorship in Taiwan

The article headlined 'Taiwan network bans mainland TV programmes' (June 25) provides a clear indication that political censorship is alive and well in supposedly democratic Taiwan.

I found the reported comments of Liao Ying-ying, new president of the Chinese Television Service, to be farcical - that 'CTS will only air locally produced programmes' and 'we will reduce the number of programmes that were . . . filmed in China'.

Such blatant political censorship, by a staunch supporter of President Chen Shui-bian, is a disgrace. Ms Liao says that action is needed to protect Taiwanese television jobs from mainland imports. This is a weak argument that does not hide the political consideration.


Withdraw Filipinos

Are Filipinos the next hostages in Iraq?

Following the recent beheadings, this alliance of overseas Filipino groups intensifies its call for President Gloria Arroyo to immediately withdraw Filipino troops from Iraq. She must stop this nightmare before it becomes reality - and also endangers Filipino workers. In the past months, five Filipino workers have been killed in attacks in Iraq and Saudi Arabia. We note that the six-month term for Filipino soldiers in Iraq has expired.

MAITA SANTIAGO, Migrante International, Metro-Manila

Underage sex is illegal

The letter headlined 'Age of sexual consent' (June 28) says that 'sex among underage persons is not prosecuted' in Hong Kong.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The juvenile courts handle large numbers of prosecutions of 14 and 15-year-old boys for having sex with their girlfriends of the same ages. These prosecutions come to the attention of the police most often when the girl attends a clinic or hospital and discovers she is pregnant. In spite of what would be the right of medical privacy in most places, the government hospitals routinely report a crime to the police.