A jolly is a jolly when it wastes public money

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 30 August, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 30 August, 2007, 12:00am

'Why would van der Kamp make unfounded accusations of members' seriousness of purpose on this particular visit?'

Vincent Fang,

Letters to the Editor

SCMP, August 29

Why would I? Gosh, did I forget to mention that? Well, it's because I think that eight legislators, best generally described as members of the I'm-Alright-Jack set, went on a 12-day round the world trip as a bit of a jolly and the public purse should never have been asked to pay for it.

Matter of fact, I think I did mention that. Never mind. I can always mention it again: I think the pretext of seeing cruise terminals and exhibition facilities does not stand up. In my opinion, these legislators led by Mr Fang are on a jolly and very little if anything that they do on this jolly will help the people of Hong Kong.

But let's examine Mr Fang's reasoning more closely.

It is that legislators have a duty to examine closely the government initiatives they are asked to consider and occasionally this requires visits to events or facilities abroad, hence the use of the term 'duty visit'. How dare I call it a jolly?

'It is indeed curious for van der Kamp to suggest that members' first-hand research efforts by conducting duty visits can be substituted by our simply looking it up on the Web.

'Can he not appreciate the need for direct dialogue with professionals and experts in order to gain in-depth knowledge through face-to-face discussions?'

Well, Mr Fang, as to whether the best form of first-hand research effort is looking it up on the Web, yes indeed, I think it is. Would you like me to introduce you to the Web some day? A world of discovery awaits you.

In the meantime, could you tell me what other form of homework you did on the places you were to visit before you went to visit them?

And as to the need for direct dialogue with professionals and experts, I can indeed see why you might appreciate their help in acquainting yourself with cruise and exhibition facilities.

You hold the functional constituency seat for the wholesale and retail sectors and your occupation is the ownership of garment quotas.

Tell me, please, what this has to do with cruise and exhibition facilities. Why are you on this junket at all? If you must spend your Legislative Council junket allowance (HK$61,000 a year, I believe) why don't you do it in some way of more direct benefit to your constituents?

But if you really must spend it to visit cruise terminals, then may I suggest, Mr Fang, that at the next Legco elections you resign your seat for wholesale and retail and stand for the tourism functional constituency seat instead.

Better yet, stand for general election. Two of the eight legislators on your jolly, James Tien Pei-chun and Selina Chow Liang Shuk-yee, are elected at large and, much as I relish giving Mr Tien a bashing in this column from time to time, I can't bash him on this occasion for not representing his constituents, as I can bash you for it.

But let me try bashing Mr Tien and Ms Chow anyway. They are both big in the Hong Kong Tourism Board (another wastrel outfit) and, if they are to go round the world to explore cruise facilities, you would think that they would know enough to make a stop in the world's biggest cruise market. This happens to be the Caribbean, by far the world's biggest. But did they stop there?

No, they did not. They just flew right on by to visit Las Vegas and Los Angeles instead. How can you talk about a 'duty visit' to cruise facilities and then not find it your duty to visit the only ones that really matter?

And as to Las Vegas, well, there we have another angle. Just this week the chairman of Las Vegas Sands Corp, Sheldon Adelson, flew to Macau for the opening of his new Venetian.

Not only does this complex now feature the world's biggest casino but Mr Adelson, one of the world's most successful exhibition organisers through the Comdex exhibitions in Las Vegas, which he built up, is bent on using the Venetian to scoop out Hong Kong's convention and exhibition business.

And here is another little factoid. Las Vegas is 200 times as far from Hong Kong as Macau is. So why do you find it necessary, Mr Tien, to go all the way to Las Vegas to see what is happening in exhibitions when what is happening in exhibitions is that Las Vegas is coming to Macau? You would have served us better to have stayed at home and spared an afternoon for a short boat ride there, helicopter in your case.

And if you really could not resist the itch to make a longer trip, then you should have made it across the mainland border where convention and exhibition facilities are coming out of the ground like tropical plants after a rainshower. That's where you could learn something of real value about the competition in this business.

I called this round-the-world trip a jolly and a jolly is what is. You, Mr Fang, Mr Tien, Ms Chow and your fellow travellers are wasting the public's money.