Collective amnesia?

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 12 April, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 12 April, 2006, 12:00am


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Macau's newshounds have sharp noses for suspicious scents, but short memories when it's convenient - allowing some unusual happenings to sink without a trace in the former Portuguese enclave.

They had long forgotten about three missing women suspected of having been kidnapped and held in North Korea, when the case resurfaced last year, hitting the international headlines. Nor do they seem to remember the 2001 marine police scandal involving allegations of bribery running into tens of millions of patacas. Just what happened to the officers who were arrested remains a mystery.

The most recent thing to slip the collective media memory is the accident at the Fisherman's Wharf volcano, thanks to the careful handling of media inquiries. It may serve as a good example of how to throw nosey newshounds off the scent of an embarrassing story. The volcano, advertised as 'the most eye-catching icon' of the new Fisherman's Wharf, was closed down only four days after the opening of the entertainment complex.

On January 3, a mishap at a water ride inside the volcano feature left a woman half-paralysed. There was no safety belt on the ride, and she had to let go of a handrail to protect her young son. The newshounds arrived en masse, seeking an explanation concerning the safety of thousands of tourists. After getting the promise of a probe into the safety of the volcano - the results to be known within a month - half the media pack lost interest and vanished instantly.

A small number of persistent journalists waited for more than a month before poking their noses into the complex's business again. This time they were told a report had been submitted to the government and that no further information could be given. It was a nice move - adding bureaucratic red tape to the corporate hurdles already raised to bog down the dedicated newshounds. Not surprisingly, the government office said to have received the report is withholding it from the media.

Now, the volcano has been scheduled to reopen this month. That's what the chief operating officer of Fisherman's Wharf, Henry Ma, told Hong Kong legislators from the Democratic Alliance for the Progress and Betterment of Hong Kong (DAB) on April 2. Mr Ma briefed the lawmakers about the volcano accident during a very short period before journalists arrived to cover the DAB visit. Surely that was a coincidence.

The lawmakers were also told that some British experts would be invited to inspect the volcano before the reopening. But one may wonder what the point is to have the inspection just two weeks before a set relaunch.

Anyone for a ride?