Delay in naming of new health minister

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 05 October, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 05 October, 2004, 12:00am

The last working day for departing Secretary for Health, Welfare and Food Yeoh Eng-kiong remained uncertain yesterday amid speculation over a delay in the appointment of his successor.

Dr Yeoh was feted with flowers and gifts at a farewell media gathering yesterday but left journalists guessing as to when he would step down. Appearing relaxed as he spent more than an hour with the media, he said he would continue working until an announcement was made.

His remarks fuelled speculation concerning the appointment of his successor.

York Chow Yat-ngok, chief executive of the Hospital Authority's Hong Kong west cluster, had been tipped to succeed Dr Yeoh.

However, Dr Chow, who is married to an Australian, is understood to hold an Australian passport. Under the Basic Law, holders of foreign passports are barred from taking up the post of a principal official.

A spokesman for the Chief Executive's Office said yesterday: 'Mr Tung is now working on the matter actively and an announcement will be made after the appointment process has been completed.'

When he accepted Dr Yeoh's resignation in early July, Mr Tung said he would appoint a successor within three months but never set a specific date for Dr Yeoh's departure. Tomorrow marks 90 days since Mr Tung accepted the minister's resignation. One critic said the delay reflected Mr Tung's 'indecisive leadership style'.

Kwok Ka-ki, the legislator-elect for the medical sector, said he could not understand why the search for the new health minister should drag on for three months.

'Making a decision only takes days. You cannot simply drag this on for weeks or months,' he said.

Dr Kwok said it would have been better if Dr Yeoh's successor had been named earlier since Dr Yeoh was unable to undertake any initiatives.