Parties will ensure soccer fever won't mar Tamar vote

PUBLISHED : Monday, 12 June, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 12 June, 2006, 12:00am

Major political parties will make sure the distraction of the World Cup will not stop their legislators from turning up to vote on funding for the Tamar project, despite the likelihood of overwhelming support for the proposal.

The $5.1 billion plan to relocate government headquarters to the Central waterfront site is almost certain to be endorsed by the Finance Committee on June 23 after it won a landslide victory of 16 to 2 votes in the public works subcommittee two weeks ago.

Of the 50 legislators contacted by the South China Morning Post, 39 members will vote in favour of the project, with 10 opposing it and one abstaining.

Funding for the project will be secured if a majority of those attending the meeting support the project.

But the government is concerned that the last four matches of the World Cup group stage on June 23 will distract the legislators. Some lawmakers said they had been asked if they would be out of town by officials.

Liberal Party chairman James Tien Pei-chun said his party would try to make sure all of its 10 legislators attended the meeting, while Tam Yiu-chung, vice-chairman of the Democratic Alliance for Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, said his party would do the same.

'Officials can rest assured because, really, the government will certainly have enough support to get the funding passed because all three major parties are supporting the government on Tamar,' Mr Tam said.

Democratic Party chairman Lee Wing-tat also reaffirmed his party's support for the proposal.

The nine Democratic Party legislators have said they are ready to support the project after the government said it would incorporate Government Hill into a Central heritage trail.

The three Federation of Trade Unions legislators and the five-member Alliance have also indicated they would vote for the multi-billion-dollar project.

Independent legislator Albert Cheng King-hon, who supports the proposal, said: 'Tamar is already a reality. Just look at how many people are still opposing it in Legco. Just a handful.'

Emily Lau Wai-hing, of The Frontier, who opposes the proposal but cannot vote because she is the chairwoman of the Finance Committee, said there was little she could do to delay the vote.

'In terms of tactics, there is little I can do because we are greatly outnumbered,' she said.

The six members of the Civic Party have vowed to vote against the project, saying the administration should provide a detailed plan for the project before asking for the $5.1 billion in funding. The party also calls for more public discussions on the project.

Health services legislator Joseph Lee Kok-long said he was still undecided as he had yet to receive the government's updated environmental assessment of the project.