Talk back

PUBLISHED : Friday, 21 July, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 21 July, 2006, 12:00am

Q Should the levy on foreign domestic helpers be scrapped?

Not surprisingly, the maids lost their appeal against the pay cut in the Court of Appeal.

As an employer paying the levy of two Filipino helpers, what is surprising to me is finding out that the money I have been paying supposedly towards the Employees Retraining Fund is not being used for this purpose and is, in fact, 'being frozen until the domestic helpers exhaust every option of appeal'.

If this is the case, why am I still being required to pay the levy? If the domestic helpers won, or subsequently win their case, will I get my money back?

And, as I am due to renew one of my helper's contracts soon, will I still be required to pay the levy towards a fund that has been frozen?

Whatever the rights and wrongs of this levy, if the fund continues to be frozen then I want to stop paying and I want my money back.

Does this not come under the category of obtaining money under false pretences?

Fiona Bishop, North Point

Q Should the Star Ferry pier and clock tower be saved?

Definitely yes! It is so sad to hear that the Star Ferry pier and its clock tower - one of the city's iconic buildings - are to be replaced by a massive shopping centre. It's really a bad idea since this is a part of Hong Kong's history and it is still so popular.

Hong Kong already has too many shopping malls. Our culture is disappearing. Macau has done better than us. They preserve their heritage well and hence provide more cultural services to tourists. They can both preserve their own culture and attract tourists.

The Star Ferry is still attractive. Can't we see how many foreigners gather and take photos of Victoria Harbour there every day?

And Queen's Pier is to be demolished too, just to make way for a road linking Sheung Wan and Wan Chai. In such a small place like Hong Kong, is it necessary? Is it worthwhile to demolish the unique pier to gain that bit of convenience? I don't think so.

Heritage should not be judged simply by age but also by the social and cultural significance. A heritage building will be different when it is relocated. Missing is the historical sense and context.

Yvonne Qi, Sai Ying Pun

Q How can environmental awareness be improved?

I am surprised that Simon Patkin (July 18, Talkback) believes that turning off the lights for three minutes in protest and leaving them off if no one is using them is anti-development. Most people call that tidying up.

I would suggest that he consider the humble light bulb and the 7 million people here who use at least one every day. Switching from a 60-watt incandescent bulb to a 14-watt compact fluorescent will give Mr Patkin more light, save him $538 in electricity costs over the life of the bulb and reduce air pollution.

He can then choose to use that money to profit any multi-national conglomerate that he likes. I'll be turning out all but one of my lights for three minutes at 8pm on the August 8, and will use the time wisely to replace at least one high polluting light bulb with a CF one. Fiat lux.

Annelise Connell, Clear The Air

Q Are there better ways to tackle poverty?

Author and speaker in parenting Shirley Yuen said parents in poverty could benefit most from parenting education because they 'need to let their children know that they might be poor, but they are still special and loved'.

It all sounds very nice and well, but unfortunately it's a case of easier said then done.

Many parents in poverty don't feel special and loved themselves, and are probably overwhelmed by the guilt of not being able to afford their children's school books. Struggling to make ends meet, where do they find the strength to look into their children's eyes and say life is beautiful?

Sure there are parents who have toughed it out and done a fantastic job despite all odds, but everyone has different willpower.

What we need in Hong Kong, besides tackling the inequitable distribution of wealth, is to nurture a culture of seeking help. Many social worker friends of mine have told me that people dread seeing them because there is an ingrained and misguided mentality that believes if you seek help you are less of a person.

Social workers can be role models to youngsters and provide them with moral support and care while their parents go to their own counselling sessions and try to sort out their issues.

Reggie Ho, Mid-Levels

On other matters...

The two serious traffic accidents in the past few days - one involving a container truck in Kwai Chung and the second involving three large vehicles, also in Kwai Chung - should serve as a wake-up call to the transport industry as a whole, and the container/public transportation sectors in particular.

Initial indications based upon newspaper reports, suggest human error as a likely fault - to wit, inappropriate speed with respect to road conditions at the time.

Going back to the very serious and tragic traffic accident some years earlier in Tuen Mun, involving a container truck and a bus, the court's verdict was also human error.

While we must not prejudice the investigators, the Transport Department in conjunction with the transport industry needs to address the 'human factor', particularly for drivers of heavy and, by design, powerfully destructive vehicles. The code of driver conduct for these drivers should be slightly different from the mainstream, stressing social responsibilities.

They need to feel proud of the work they do - not just how much they can earn - vis-a-vis service to the community.

A tried and tested method of achieving these objectives is training.

The franchised bus operators do give regular training, but what about the container drivers? And does anyone monitor the quality of such training?

To include seat belts, realign roads, strengthen barriers etc, will cure the symptom, educating the individual cures the cause.

James Elms, Happy Valley

I fully endorse the complaint in the Take Action column on July 17 about the almost totally useless electronic display panels on MTR Corporation's Tung Chung line.

I note MTR Corp's advice that they are 'upgrading' to give passengers more advanced information, but as part of this exercise could I direct them to the adjacent KCRC West Rail, which has very clear and concise electronic displays telling passengers the expected arrival time of the next train in minutes and similar information on the following train.

Surely MTR Corp can manage the same? While the company is checking this out, might I suggest they also note that West Rail has managed to synchronise the opening of the train and platform doors - this is not the case for the Tung Chung line (or indeed elsewhere on the MTR system) where there is an infuriating delay between the opening of train doors and those of the platform. Why?

However, so as not to give all the praise to Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation, could I request that they curb their enthusiasm for the never-ending stream of public service announcements at Kam Sheung Road station on 'inflammable liquids, cycling, flu symptoms, caged animals/birds, guns, pickpockets, eating, oversize baggage' and many others.

I know the public can have a short retention span but this is ridiculous (and appears unique to Kam Sheung Road), not least when the train arrival and departure announcements are played at the same time.

Don't get me wrong, both railway systems are well run, but as a daily passenger on both I would say the KCRC has the edge.

Another example is toilets in stations. Let's hope that the MTR Corp takeover of KCRC will not result in a 'dumbing down' of the latter's service.

Dougals Miller, Tai Po