Oxfam plays vital role in Somalia
Former humanitarian worker Mark Mullan was stationed in Somalia from 1992-94 and witnessed 'constant death' in that food crisis ('Plea for donations to aid Somali famine victims', August 7).
With the current famine in parts of Somalia, and with the country again at war and in drought, he calls for action from all of us.
Oxfam Hong Kong assisted in that crisis in the 1990s, and we are working now. The Oxfam family is helping about 1.2 million people in the region.
In Somalia, water and sanitation are being provided at hundreds of small camps, Benadir Hospital is being provided with clean water, breastfeeding mothers and malnourished children are being fed, and people are also receiving cash for work to rehabilitate water supply systems.
In Ethiopia, we are building a water treatment system and have a HK$2.9 million proposal to truck water and provide sanitation.
In Kenya, at the IFO II camp of Dadaab, the world's largest refugee camp, Oxfam installed the water supply and is piping water to nearby areas where people can access it.
Four areas of Kenya are classified at 'emergency level' - the level before 'famine' - and, as aid workers, this 'F' word hits us hard. For months, Oxfam had been warning against the upcoming food crisis, not just in Somalia, but all across East Africa.
Now, as well as responding to save lives, Oxfam is campaigning for global action on investment in agriculture and food trading, which can improve food security for millions of people around the world and reduce their vulnerability to hunger when natural disasters and conflicts occur.
Mark Mullan calls on everyone, and we call on everyone, in Hong Kong and around the world, to do what we can in this time of need.
John Sayer, director general, Oxfam Hong Kong
Give pension to elderly on mainland
A majority of elderly people surveyed by the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong have said elderly Hongkongers living on the mainland should be allowed to receive the city's old age allowance.
When they were young, our elderly people contributed a lot to our society.
Now that they are too old to be part of the labour force, they must be allowed to receive the old age allowance.
Many people from the mainland came to the city to find work and they want to return to their towns and villages across the border.
The fact that during their working lives they helped with the development of this city has not changed just because they are now retired and living on the mainland.
These elderly Hong Kong citizens living on the mainland should be entitled to receive the city's old age allowance.
Winnie Tsoi Yuen-ling, Tai Wai
Eco-friendly ceiling fans a good option
I would like to offer my small contribution to the debate concerning the excessive consumption of electricity in this city.
Concerned citizens should install more ceiling fans in their homes. They are wonderfully decorative, with very low energy consumption.
They allow you to switch off air conditioners during most of the day, thus saving electricity and not causing harmful health effects.
I still remember an old civil servant telling me that his serious neck problems were caused by having an air conditioner positioned right behind him in his government office.
People should not just have a fan in their sitting rooms but also in the bedroom.
You can get a good night's sleep from having it set on a lower speed throughout the night.
This is far better than having an eco-unfriendly air conditioner switched on at night which is noisy and drips water.
Angelo Paratico, Sheung Wan
Drivers must take care in Sai Kung
I refer to the letter by Alan Crawley ('Solve cow problem for good', August 5).
If you drive carefully and pay attention, there should be no fear of hitting a cow at all.
The roads around Sai Kung, and into the country park, have plenty of blind corners, so motorists should always drive carefully.
What should be rounded up are the stray dogs; they really are a danger to humans and native wildlife.
Ken Chan, Tai Po
Incorrect portrayal of by-elections
I refer to Joseph Tan's letter ('Don't waste taxpayer's money', August 5), which contained a number of misconceptions.
First of all, it is incorrect to compare the office of a Legislative Council member with [resigning from] a job in a private company. Legislative councillors are elected, not employed. They did not apply for a job, but ran for election.
The successful candidate for an advertised position in a firm is not chosen by people from outside that firm.
Secondly, in January 2010, the five lawmakers who resigned did not do so because of an 'I don't like it, I don't want it' attitude. It wasn't that they did not want the job. The government was again 'consulting' the people about political development, an issue affecting all Hongkongers for years to come.
It was about our political rights, and how we can make the government accountable by being able to vote it in or out of office. The fairest and most democratic way is a referendum, where voters go to the ballot box and make their voices heard.
We do not have the legislation that allows for a city-wide referendum. The only way to make such a ballot possible was for the five lawmakers to resign and so trigger by-elections - one member for each of the five Legco geographical constituencies.
Virginia Yue, Fanling
Democrats not spoiled for choice
I refer to Peter Lok's response ('Clarify universal suffrage', August 5) to my letter ('We should make our voices heard', August 2). I see his comments as a vote of support for the 2012 chief executive open debate that I suggested should be jointly organised by Ming Pao and the South China Morning Post, with the public as the judge through an independent opinion poll.
I also agree with his suggestion that the meaning of universal suffrage should be an important topic of discussion. As he has also forwarded his views on universal suffrage, with which I disagree, perhaps a dialogue can begin to help clarify the issues for our chief executive candidates.
Mr Lok argues that universal suffrage equals indirect voting by all voters, and cites as an example the five 'super seats' in Legco's district councils functional constituency. He says this meaning is accepted by 'the Democratic Party and the majority'.
I can empathise with the Democratic Party for proposing the five super seats; it is the lesser of two evils. If Beijing were open to and gave us the choice of eliminating the functional constituencies, which way would the Democratic Party and the majority have turned?
Indirect voting was chosen not because it was desired, but simply because it was better than no voting at all. Let us not be mistaken that this is a preference to a choice which did not exist.
Further, to link the US debt debate saga with the voting mechanism is a leap of reasoning. Political brinkmanship can happen even in systems where no vote is allowed, often behind closed doors, with its attendant complicity.
Charles Chow, Causeway Bay
Top officials should trust the public
The best proposal for the secretary for constitutional and mainland affairs to consider is to keep the by-election rules unchanged.
Ultimately, it comes down to trust: the government needs to trust the public to decide whether a by-election is legitimate or not. If a by-election is not legitimate, let the person and his or her political allies who abused our electoral system be voted out of office and be kept out of office in subsequent elections.
Those that are then voted into office will know that such an abuse of our electoral system will not be tolerated. That is the beauty of democracy.
After all, we should be following the 'principle of gradual and orderly progress' on the road to achieving full democracy in 2017 and 2020. We should not be taking steps backwards towards disenfranchisement.
Larry Au, Stanley