Politician who stops alarm bells ringing

PUBLISHED : Monday, 05 September, 1994, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 05 September, 1994, 12:00am

WHEN I drop my ballot into a box on September 18, I know for whom I shall be voting. It's a man I have never met. I've no idea what he does for a living or from where he hails.

I don't know what sort of label you can slap on this fellow, and I don't really care. I shall be ticking the name of Pang Cheung-wai because he is the only politician on the planet who has ever done anything directly to help me. And that's what politics is all about: you vote for the people who are on your side, those who help you, those who listen to the problems of their constituents and do something about them.

Far too many of our District Board members seem to talk about matters far from their local bailiwick. They spout off about human rights in China, international trade and relations with other countries. They worry about matters far from their domains, issues over which they have no control or influence.

They are, of course, entitled to their opinions on such matters. But that is not what they are elected for; District Board members should be concentrating on improving the quality of life and services to people in their areas. Like Mr Pang . . . A few months ago, myself and hundreds of others who live in Fotan were being tormented every single night by the wailing, whooping and agonised squeals of vehicular anti-theft alarms. I live up the hill from a public car park run by Hong Kong Security, and every night I was dragged from sleep by an uproar as alarms fitted to expensive cars made the night hideous. It seems the alarms were so delicate that when another vehicle rumbled into the car park, they were set off.

It invariably seemed to explode at about 3am. The racket of a half-dozen sirens echoed up the valley and bounced, amplified, off granite quarry walls and the faces of other buildings. It was a nightmare.

I once drove down to the car park but the aged gentlemen locked into the guard hut would not speak to me. I called the managing director of Hong Kong Security but, despite promises of action, the nightly uproar continued.

Finally, I sat down and wrote a fax of complaint to everyone I could think of who might be able to help. Naturally, I heard nothing from the public servants in the Sha Tin District Office. Nor did I get a reply from the chairman of the Sha Tin District Board.

My two local Legco Members took no notice. Emily Lau Wai-hing was apparently too busy on more weighty matters and Andrew Wong Wang-fat, for whom I voted in the 1991 poll, was out hobnobbing with his pals from the Heung Yee Kuk.

The New Territories' regional traffic commander didn't bother to reply. Nor was anything heard from the transport or highways departments. The Lands Branch, which leased the plot to the security company, was too busy to answer and the chairman of the Regional Council, Cheung Yan-lung, didn't respond.

The toothless Environmental Protection Department took its usual course of action when anything needs to be done - and disappeared down a rabbit hole.

The sole positive answer I received came from Mr Pang.

He sent me a fax in English and Chinese saying he had seen my complaint to the District Board, that he was the local elected member and he would contact the local police, other government departments and the company to see what could be done.

He then sent follow-up faxes with copies of the messages he had sent on my behalf and ended up by sending me the answers he had received from various departments, agencies and the company.

The noise ended.

Thank you, Mr Pang.

THIS is the sort of issue, minor in the overall scheme of things but important to individuals, to which District Board members should direct their energies. That's why we elect them and this is why Mr Pang, whoever he may be, will get my vote come the election.

What are the issues that impinge most directly on your daily life? Bus services, holes in the road, pedestrian crossings, schools, law and order, the state of the local market, parking facilities, safety in the streets; these are the rice-bowl issues which confront the majority of people.

It is such matters that District Boards were created to deal with. But it is precisely these mundane matters which too many budding politicians ignore; they seem to think they are standing for the United Nations rather than a local council. I would like many of them to come down to earth and pay attention to the issues they are supposed to care about.

I imagine that, like me, most people have no idea who represents them on the local District Board. I do know, however, that some of the appointed members on various boards are worthless busybodies who have managed to worm their way into positions that give them considerable local leverage.

Partly from their undemocratic power perches on the boards, a number of businessmen have managed to make considerable fortunes.

Scrapping the ludicrous appointment system is the healthiest aspect of all Chris Patten's political reforms. This is why it is opposed so bitterly by such traditional power brokers as the Heung Yee Kuk, kaifongs and others who got to nominate members; now these privileged, handpicked and non-representative politicians have to perform for their suppers.

Where Mr Pang stands on Most Favoured Nation relations between China and the United States, I know not. Nor do I care.

I don't know if he is a Liberal or liberal, if he is 'pro-China' (whatever that means) or favours Taiwan. Does he favour democracy or dictatorship? I don't know. I don't care. Just keep the mini-bus service running and the roads clean.

What he does for a living is a mystery to me and does not matter.

The only thing that concerns me, and what earns Mr Pang my ballot, is that he cares about the people in his district and diligently works for their welfare. I've never had the pleasure of meeting the man, but he's the only politician who has listened to me and acted for me.