PUBLISHED : Thursday, 24 March, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 24 March, 2011, 12:00am

We must look beyond the conflict in Libya

As I have watched the news about the destruction and violence in Libya I have found it hard to decide whether the country needed more pressure from the international community in the form of the UN mandate.

I am not saying action should not be taken against Colonel Muammar Gaddafi and his forces, but the international community must realise that, when it comes to help, this country does not just need military assistance.

Tunisia and Egypt were fortunate in that, apart from close media attention, they had leaders who were more it touch with reality than Gaddafi.

Now that he has nowhere to run and still has control over his troops, he has been fighting like a cornered rat. The people of Libya have paid a heavy price to keep alive their revolution against him. Many of the rebels have persevered despite having little in the way of basic necessities and medical aid. The UN and other organisations should address these problems as quickly as possible.

The rebels also lack military support. Although allied air power has ended Gaddafi's control of the skies, his land forces still pose a huge threat. His soldiers show no inhibitions when it comes to firing on densely populated urban areas where there are more non-combatants than fighters.

If the UN mandate is to really help the Libyan people, then humanitarian aid must reach those in need. The aim should be that a new Libya can emerge from the war, where economic stability exists.

Adrian Law Ming-yiu, Pok Fu Lam

US envoy guilty of hypocrisy

In his letter ('Put pressure on Palestinians, too', March 12) Peter Forsythe widens the discussion and in doing so fails to address my reference to American hypocrisy ('Wrong time to be triumphalist', March 2).

Nevertheless I am willing to respond to the elements he introduces to the debate.

First, let me quote the words of Susan Rice (US ambassador to the UN) that the US rejects 'in the strongest terms the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity'. This is a hypocritical sentiment from the official who had just exercised the American veto.

It is naive for Mr Forsythe to suggest that had the 'anti-Israel' resolution contained a clause condemning terrorism, the US may not have exercised its veto. He suggests that not enough pressure is being put on the Palestinians. A startling assertion considering that, for more than 40 years, the Palestinian people have lived with the very real existentialist pressure of displacement, illegal occupation and continued settlement expansion.

Recently WikiLeaks revealed just how many concessions Palestinian negotiators were prepared to offer, including on the very contentious issue of 'right to return'. He demands 'copper-bottomed' guarantees. Why should those people, 70 per cent of whose land has been annexed by conquest, secured by state terror and continued encroachment, give security guarantees to their oppressors?

Meanwhile, Israel continues to flout international law in full confidence of continued American support.

James Quinn, Lamma

Shocked by salt frenzy

I am sure many people would have been shocked by the scenes at supermarkets last week when shoppers stripped the shelves of bags of table salt ('Rumours trigger panic buying of salt across mainland, HK', March 18).

The salt frenzy in Hong Kong was actually caused by rumours that iodine in the salt was a defence against any radiation exposure that might be coming from Japan because of the problems at the damaged nuclear reactors.

Experts pointed out that the amount of iodine in table salt was too low to have any effect on radioactivity.

It is a shame that so many Hongkongers were too sensitive to such unsubstantiated rumours and went to buy salt without giving it more thought.

People need to think twice and analyse the facts before acting in this way in future.

Sakina Ma, To Kwa Wan

Be wary of online auctions

More people are now purchasing products on the internet.

They use websites like Yahoo Auctions, eBay and Taobao to bid for items.

These sites are especially popular with teenagers.

However, individuals have to take care when buying on the internet, especially if they have arranged to meet the person from whom they are purchasing the item.

They are meeting a stranger and should not go unaccompanied.

They should also check the product very carefully before handing over cash, as it may be difficult to get their money back if they later find the product is damaged.

Also, they should only use reputable websites for bidding purposes.

Online auctions will continue to be popular, but people must always try to be clever shoppers.

Carmen Hui Ka-man, Kwai Chung

Broadening horizons

People have to take care when using the internet.

They often upload personal information when registering a website account.

They have to think about what information they will release as they could put themselves at personal risk. Often, the information they do disclose has no firewall protection.

However, although the internet does have its drawbacks, you can benefit from it if you do take care.

It enables people to expand their knowledge. Also, they can broaden their horizons by getting in touch with people from other countries.

I think, overall, the internet is a positive tool in the development of the global community.

Sarah Leung, Sheung Shui

Curious about levy money

We have heard from the Hong Kong government a variety of specious arguments about its need for high reserves despite the fact that they keep growing.

The government accounts at the end of March 2010 revealed that, after providing for civil service pensions of HK$470 billion and deducting fixed assets like buildings and infrastructure assets, it still held HK$930 billion in reserves, including the Exchange Fund. The Exchange Fund in September 2010 had increased to approaching HK$595 billion.

The employees' retraining levy (a levy for hiring foreign domestic helpers under the Employees Retraining Ordinance) up to its temporary suspension in 2008 stood at approximately HK$4.9 billion. The government argued that its abolition would cause harm to Hong Kong's finances.

The massive government surpluses have shown this is a nonsense argument. So what has happened to the fund? How much has been spent?

What is happening to the balance when training for the young and for nurses is an urgent priority?

Mark Geary, chief executive, AsiaNet Consultants

Budget ignored small firms

What a ridiculous farce the Hong Kong 2011 budget has turned into. It should have been a blueprint to revitalise the entrepreneur spirit of Hong Kong.

A simple first step could have been to lower the tax and government charges on small and medium-sized enterprises, to offset the higher burden of rent, the Mandatory Provident Fund and other liberal initiatives forced on small firms.

It seems that SMEs hire the poorer-educated segment of society so this would also have stimulated employment.

Also, there are simple creative ways to help low-income earners buy their own homes. In conjunction with banks, individuals could use their MPF savings as a guarantee to secure deposits for a down payment on a home purchase.

Regarding the HK$6,000 [handout], it should be means-tested and should go to the needy segment of society. We rightly expect more from our government.

Stephen Anderson, Macau

Concert barriers were pointless

I attended the Eagles concert at the Convention and Exhibition Centre on Friday night.

The band was wonderful, the sound excellent, the sell-out crowd attentive and responsive.

All in all, it was a fabulous evening. It was a good thing that the performance left everyone in a good mood because getting out of the concert dispelled a lot of the happy feeling.

As people exited the hall, they were confronted with a wall of moveable barriers which forced the crowd to turn right and then circle around left to get to the concourse. If there had been a fire and a panic exit, those barriers would have cost lives. There was no logical need for them.

The Convention Centre management needs to consult the fire services to ensure that clear, unimpeded exits are available and it must apply a lot more common sense to crowd control.

What I experienced on Friday night was ridiculous.

Also, once the barriers were passed, all the toilets on the upper level were locked. This no doubt made it easier for the cleaning staff but it was very uncomfortable for some of the departing audience.

Again, there is no common sense to this policy, which needs to be reviewed and changed.

I would like to see a response, through these columns, from the Convention Centre's managers to these complaints and what they are going to do about them.

H. Cummer, Sai Ying Pun