Tougher action needed against speeding boats

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 22 August, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 22 August, 2006, 12:00am

Following the boating tragedy in Clear Water Bay ('Death charge possible in speedboat tragedy', August 20), I strongly urge the marine police and Marine Department to actively review their patrol and enforcement duties. Many wakeboarders and speedboats continue to use no-speeding areas during the busy summer period.

Swimmers who venture out beyond the shark nets and choose to swim in protected bays should be able to swim safely without the threat of being hit by a speedboat.

Last week, I reported to the Sai Kung Marine Police three wakeboarding boats speeding in a speed-restricted area. One of the boats was towing a skier up a river estuary. All the boat drivers were let off with a verbal warning by the marine police, even though they were clearly speeding.

Would the Marine Department also care to comment on the fact that boating-related fatalities are on the increase in the summer months, and that the statutory 'multiple-guess' master's licensing exam (theory) should now include a course in practical boating, before applicants are given the keys to high-powered boats.

For swimmers who leave the confines of the shark net, the odds of being hit by a speedboat are now greater than that of a shark attack.

CHARLES FREW, Sai Kung Association

Put safety first

The death of the swimmer in the speedboat tragedy at the weekend in Clear Water Bay was, sadly, the most predictable fatality of the year. It is now a regular topic of conversation among sailors and professional pleasure-craft masters how close a speedboat came to a swimmer, crossed a large ship's bow, or did some other unsafe stunt out on Hong Kong's busy waters.

We have a city that is discovering its wonderful waterways, but this means we have people on the water who may not always grasp the finality of a water accident.

The explosion in speedboat companies has also created a situation where an increasing number of seafarers, from deckhands to speedboat drivers, are dangerously short of experience and safety training.

We have a great maritime police force and a very competent Marine Department. But we have to ask if Hong Kong's enforcement of water safety is up to requirements and if it holds the priority it should.

In hundreds of outings, I have never had a boat I was on stopped for a random safety inspection, a count of life jackets, or to see if the master was licensed. I have witnessed countless unsafe acts by speedboats, a police patrol vessel within sight, but no enforcement action taken.

The swimmer's death will be far from the last until safety becomes a much greater factor on Hong Kong's waters.

MARK SIMON, Pokfulam

Waste of resources

I could not agree more with Peter den Hartog and Mabel Ho ('Hong Kong's scrapyard', August 21) that the New Territories is turning into the world's largest scrap-metal yard.

Have the administration's narrow-minded policymakers ever considered turning the Sha Tin warehouse, which was illegally turned into a residence by Daniel Heung Cheuk-kei, into something that could actually benefit the public? How about some classrooms for underprivileged children or even the headquarters of a local scout group? Instead, they waste taxpayers' money by hiring contractors to remove all of Mr Heung's fittings and furnishings and then create yet more environmental waste by dumping them into the landfills.

Could the Lands Department please provide a breakdown of the costs already incurred in this complete waste of public resources?


Out of touch on abuse

Regarding the sentence handed down to a dog owner whose animals died a horrible, slow death ('Man who let dogs starve to death gets month in jail', August 19), I feel society is totally failing abused animals. The judge's lenient sentence will not act as a deterrent.

When the maximum sentence available is HK$5,000 and six months in jail, giving a HK$1,000 fine and four weeks in jail is not an acceptable punishment for allowing two dogs to starve to death on a balcony in scorching summer heat.

How much worse must the abuse be for an offender to receive the maximum penalty? It seems the courts are out of touch with the large animal-cruelty problem in Hong Kong.

It is time the judges actually visited an animal shelter and saw some of the terrible injuries caused to the animals by cruel individuals. In some cases, the animals are rescued but die later from their injuries.

The list of cruelties is endless.

While animal cruelty is not unique to Hong Kong, what sets countries apart is how they deal with it. Hong Kong's judges are failing society in this regard.


Step up to the plate

French President Jacques Chirac's government has played a sorry role in hobbling any international response to the Israel-Lebanon crisis, both by restricting its scope and being niggardly in its offer of manpower for the proposed peacekeeping force.

For historic reasons, Paris carries some residual influence in the Levant. And yet it prefers to cheerfully stand aside while a vacuum of authority works its worst in southern Lebanon.

Is there no memory in the Elysee Palace of the France that once mattered in world affairs?

There is unlikely to be a more fitting moment this decade to display some world-class initiative in committing to a plan of action worthy of both the confidence of Israelis and Lebanese in restoring order to chaotic Lebanon, and of renewing lustre to France's own image. The French pretend to be players on the world stage; let them now commit the resources necessary to realise such ambitions.


The best bet: resign

In his letter 'Jockeying for a seat' (August 19), Eric Lee said the Jockey Club's ambience and quality was much better when the clubhouse was at the racetrack, and that the club had lost much of its exclusivity now. He also said there were too many members using the facilities.

A lot of people I know have no difficulty getting a seat for dim sum on Sundays, which Mr Lee said was a problem.

The Jockey Club's monthly fee has also been the same for the past 20 years. It will increase by 30 per cent for full members from October.

I find the food prices reasonable and have no complaints about the quality of the food.

Since Mr Lee is so unhappy with the Jockey Club, I strongly suggest he resign. I'm sure the club will survive the loss of his membership.

EUGENE LI , Deep Water Bay

Conflict of interest?

The concerted efforts in Hong Kong and on the mainland to get Margaret Chan Fung Fu-chun shoehorned in as the World Health Organisation's director-general suggests to me that Beijing is scared witless of what might happen and who might get the blame if a bird flu pandemic erupts with ground zero somewhere in southern China.

If Beijing's wish comes true and Dr Chan wins the vote, I presume her public relations team will soon have in place a choreographed scenario explaining why China isn't to blame for another bird flu outbreak. Presumably, it will involve her washing her hands lots of times. Possibly, a few chickens will also get eaten.

The best thing for the people of Hong Kong and the mainland would be for an outsider to win the election, with Dr Chan staying on as deputy.

Having Dr Chan in the top post might result in a conflict of interest, with her balancing the responsibilities associated with the world's top health job, and China's short- and medium-term economic and political interests. This is a serious point because one or two poor decisions, or slightly delayed recommendations, could potentially affect the well-being of every person in Hong Kong (and beyond).

R.E.S. CHARLES, Parkview

Glaring example

Many eyebrows were raised when insurers AIA expressed interest in the Lights Out campaign, and a lot of people were not surprised that the company did not follow through.

Anyone passing through Central in the evening will find AIG Tower fully lit, while only a few office lights are on in most of the other buildings in the immediate area. This is an extreme example of unnecessary energy consumption by the company.

AIA recently launched a green mandatory provident fund. I would advise people who are concerned about our worsening air pollution to check if their MPF contributions are being channelled to a provider that is anything but green.