Minister's concerns on harmony 'a factor' in social workers' move

PUBLISHED : Friday, 11 September, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 11 September, 2009, 12:00am

The YWCA said yesterday that home affairs minister Tsang Tak-sing's concern over district harmony was a factor in the removal of two of its social workers from the Tai O area. But it insisted the minister's influence had been 'very small'.

It was the first disclosure that a second worker had been moved as well as Eddie Tse Sai-kit, whose case has been the centre of controversy since early last month. But the Young Women's Christian Association did not name the worker.

The government-funded group's chief executive, Dr Miranda Chan Lai-foon, repeatedly dismissed allegations that Tsang had pressed for removal of the pair. 'The minister's influence was very small,' she said.

Tai O Rural Committee complained about Tse's criticism of the government's handling of severe flooding in the area caused by two storms last year. Tse filed a complaint to the legislature's complaints division last month, saying the group's decision to remove him was a result of pressure from the minister.

The legislature will discuss the complaint this month, with Tsang and Chan attending.

Chan said that although Tsang had mentioned at a meeting with YWCA management last month that he had seen a complaint letter from the rural committee, the group's six representatives had not felt under any pressure from him. Tsang had said he wanted to see the group join the Tai O rural affairs committee in working for the well-being of local residents, in line with the policy of promoting a harmonious society.

A Home Affairs Bureau spokesman said staff deployment was an internal matter for the YWCA. Tsang had no advance knowledge of the staff transfer and had no intention of interfering, the spokesman said.

Tse said the YWCA failed to give details of Islands district officer Byron Lam Saint-kit's role in the controversy. Citing an internal investigation report on the row, Tse said Lam had told YWCA directors that two social workers 'could not co-operate harmoniously with local communities' and that 'this demonstrated that they did not appreciate the government department which allocates funding'. He said a written warning issued by the group in January had stated that 'our service in the district has caused dissatisfaction from Tai O rural committee and the Home Affairs Department'.

Lam is on leave and could not be reached for comment.

What happened

Oct 29: YWCA receives first letter of complaint from a district councillor regarding the handling of summer flooding

Dec 15: YWCA sets up task force to follow up complaint after receiving letter of complaint from Tai O Rural Committee

Jan 15: YWCA discusses new postings for Eddie Tse Sai-kit and another social worker. More letters of complaint received

Jan 23: Home Affairs Secretary Tsang Tak-sing raises the issue of harmony at the end of a YWCA briefing on its work. The following day YWCA receives another letter from Tai O Rural Committee complaining Tse is damaging community relations

Jan 30: YWCA board of directors suggests moving Tse and another social worker away from Tai O as soon as possible and issues them written warnings

Apr 2: YWCA substitutes verbal reminders for written warnings

Apr 14: Tse resigns