Sacking prompts calls to protect whistle-blowers

PUBLISHED : Monday, 06 June, 1994, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 06 June, 1994, 12:00am

THE sacking of Hong Kong Polytechnic principal lecturer Trevor Sofield after he made complaints about his department has prompted calls for whistle-blowers to be protected.

Independent legislators Christine Loh Kung-wai and Elsie Tu said while it was unclear whether Mr Sofield's sacking was related to his complaints, legislation should be considered.

Mr Sofield, principal lecturer in the Hotel and Tourism Management Department, was told to leave within 24 hours when findings of an internal inquiry into mismanagement were announced on May 27.

Mr Sofield had made a 200-page submission to the inquiry panel. A target of his complaints, associate head of the department, Joseph Ruddy, will leave soon under mutual consent while the head, Dr Frank Go, remains.

The polytechnic said Mr Sofield's contract was not terminated because he had revealed mismanagement, but declined to explain further for legal reasons.

Ms Tu said she had dealt with many cases in which employees were sacked after pointing out malpractices in their companies.

She said while the situation had improved after the setting up of the Independent Commission Against Corruption, it was still necessary to examine whether there was a need for further legislation.

Canada, Australia and the US have laws to protect people, whether in the private or public sector, who discover and reveal fraud, waste, abuse of power or criminal behaviour to outsiders.

Mr Sofield supported the call for a law, saying he had been victimised. The polytechnic wanted to ''kill one to warn off the 100'' who wanted to make complaints, he said.

Another lecturer in the department said Mr Sofield's sacking had been reflected in the vote on a motion among his colleagues accepting the management decision and calling for the restoration of harmony to the department.

While 24 of the 36 staff have signed the motion, the voting method has been criticised by some lecturers for failing to reflect genuine feelings.

''You will have pressure. You have to consider the consequences if you do not sign to show your support,'' one of the lecturers said.

A lecturer from the Computing Department, Dr Stephen Chan Chi-fai, has launched a polytechnic-wide signature campaign to counter criticism of the polytechnic's decision to sack Mr Sofield.

But the move had met immediate opposition from another lecturer in the department, Stephen Yip, who said the voting should take the form of a secret ballot.

A former government pharmacist, Anthony Chua Chi-hing, who was sacked in 1992 after criticising the Government, also called for the enactment of an ordinance to protect whistle-blowers from dismissal or other form of victimisation.




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