James To attacked for scandal silence

PUBLISHED : Friday, 26 August, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 26 August, 2005, 12:00am

Fellow Democrat insists that he has a case to answer

Democratic Party lawmaker James To Kun-sun yesterday came under fire from Yau Tsim Mong District Council colleagues, including one from his own party, over his refusal to answer their questions on an office rent scandal.

The row came as the party rejected calls by the scandal's investigators for a press conference to clarify the affair after they found Mr To claimed public money to pay above-market rent for an office in Shamshuipo owned by Target Link, a company he co-owned.

Councillor Law Wing-cheung told a council meeting the issue had had a negative impact on the council's public image and cast serious doubt on office bearers' personal integrity.

Mr To, who has apologised but stressed the incident was simply an oversight, told councillors that he had said enough about the controversy. 'As there is a law enforcement agency conducting an investigation at present, it will not be appropriate to study the issue today. Moreover, I have already answered those questions you have raised in the agenda item today before with the media.

'You have achieved your goal of raising this agenda item. You can have your views on how you understand and interpret the issue but I feel that I have fully explained to the public.'

But fellow Democrat councillor Ip Shu-on stunned party colleagues by insisting that Mr To had a case to answer as his actions had dented the party's image. 'I sincerely hope Mr James To Kun-sun [will] not deceive us, including the Democratic Party's general committee, or the whole party could fall apart as a result,' he said.

'This is a transparent and open society. Giving him a platform to speak is to his benefit or he will become a sinner in the democratic campaign ... He can say what he wants but the obvious truth is that he has done a bad job.'

Councillors passed a motion by seven votes to four, expressing their disappointment over Mr To's refusal to answer their queries. Mr Ip voted for the motion.

Democratic Party chairman Lee Wing-tat said he was aware of recent comments made by members of the inquiry panel who have called for a press conference where the panel could answer questions from party leaders.

'The Democratic Party believes at the present moment there is no need to hold another press conference to explain the matter further,' Mr Lee said.

He said the party fully respected the wishes of members of the investigation team and would listen to their opinions sincerely.