Hong Kong ill served by absent advisers

PUBLISHED : Monday, 13 July, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 13 July, 2009, 12:00am

The government has many advisory committees and watchdog organisations. There is only a limited pool of people qualified to sit on the committees of such bodies. To add to the problem, those chosen for such positions are more often than not busy people who already have other commitments. Missing a meeting now and then would seem perfectly acceptable - but not attending at all is quite another matter.

Daniel Lam Wai-keung, a former vice-chairman of the Independent Police Complaints Council, did not attend any of the watchdog group's six meetings last year or in 2006. He showed up only once in 2007.

His explanation is that he was also a member of the Legislative Council during that time and that he made up for his non-appearances by poring over the paperwork involved. His attendance was therefore not so necessary, he argued. Mr Lam is undoubtedly a busy man. But the body that strives to ensure police maintain the highest standards is also important. For the vice-chairman of such a group to attend only one meeting out of 17 raises questions. His case is not unusual, as the attendance records of many similar bodies readily attests.

Attendance records do not indicate an appointee's abilities. They do not reveal his or her other commitments. We should not judge a person's worth to a committee purely by the number of times they sat at a meeting table. Nonetheless, participation is a significant part of responsibility, and an effort has to be made to attend as frequently as possible.

Advisory committees and watchdog groups play a critical role in how Hong Kong functions. Authorities have already made efforts to widen the net of people who can sit on public bodies, but clearly more needs to be done. Care has to be taken to avoid selecting those already juggling too many commitments. Serving our city is an honour and those chosen have to treat the role as such.