Six counsel picked for localisation 'fast track'
A SCHEME to speed up localisation in the Legal Department aims to have half of all directorate level posts filled by locals by the end of next year.
Six local deputy principal crown counsel have been selected for grooming under the succession posts scheme which will be implemented next month.
At the moment, only 18 of the 57 directorate posts in the department are held by locals, which means that 10 promotions are needed to hit the 50 per cent target that has been set.
But the Association of Expatriate Civil Servants is already legally challenging the scheme, along with all other government localisation schemes, as a contravention of the Bill of Rights and the Basic Law.
Royston Griffey, president of the 850-strong but rapidly diminishing association, said: 'The succession posts scheme is included amongst the many manifestations of the Government's localisation policy, all of which are unlawful.
'Some of the six selected to take part in the scheme hold passports for other countries so why is the Government wasting money training people who will be disqualified from serving in the post-1997 administration?' But chairman of the Local Crown Counsel Association, Spring Fung Sham Yuen-ching, claimed disqualification depended on how the Basic Law was interpreted.
Mrs Fung said: 'We think more locals should be promoted to higher positions because that is what local people want.
'This scheme is another step towards localisation but we reserve judgment as to whether or not it has been done in the best possible way.' Solicitor-General Daniel Fung said most expatriates were very understanding of the Government's localisation policy.
Mr Fung added: 'They are well aware of what is going to happen, while I don't believe this scheme is in breach of the Bill of Rights ordinance.' The six counsel selected to take part in the scheme include Harry Macleod, of the Prosecutions Division, who is employed on local terms and is fluent in Cantonese.
The other five are May Wong of the Law Drafting Division, Anthony Wu and Amelia Luk of the Civil Division, Kenneth Yuen of the International Law Division and Stephen Wong of the Legal Policy Division.
The Legal Department refused to disclose a full list of selection criteria for the scheme, although Mr Fung said nationality was not a consideration.
Under the scheme, those selected will be given the opportunity to take on some responsibilities of a principal crown counsel and to act in the posts while the incumbents are away.
They will also attend short senior management courses, duty visits, conferences and attachments as part of the grooming process.
Mr Fung said: 'I have every confidence that our target for the scheme will be reached, while the pace of localisation we aim to maintain is a realistic and measured one.
'But the overall principle is that of operational efficiency and quality of service which will in no way be sacrificed in our localisation drive.' The succession posts scheme is the third localisation scheme that has been introduced by the Legal Department.
In 1988, the double ladder scheme provided for the fast promotion of crown counsel to senior crown counsel.
The development posts scheme introduced in 1991 groomed senior crown counsel to become deputy principal crown counsel.
As a result of these localisation drives, local counsel at directorate level increased from 9.3 per cent in December 1990 to 32 per cent this month.