Perverse politics lands wrong candidate in key govt job

PUBLISHED : Monday, 13 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 04 September, 2012, 10:31am


In less than a month, the post of development secretary has entangled two of its occupants in legal trouble. And thanks to the perverse nature of our political scene, our community has been the worse for it. Our media has not found truth, only dirt, and the lesser candidate looks set to stay in this key policy post.

By most accounts, Mak Chai-kwong was a competent and effective career civil servant. As a seasoned bureaucrat, he was considered liberal and open-minded. No one thought he wasn't qualified for the post. But deep dirt-digging by the media - most likely to have been fed by shadowy anti-Leung Chun-ying forces - unearthed allegedly fraudulent rental claims dating back to the 1980s. That resulted in Mak's arrest by the ICAC.

Mak's successor, Paul Chan Mo-po, is a completely different story. An accountant and former lawmaker, his main qualifications for the job were that Leung needed a trusted ally to replace Mak quickly and that Chan was the only legislator who nominated Leung for chief executive. So it's hard not to see his appointment as payback for services rendered.

Dirt-digging revealed Chan and his wife were involved in buying flats that have been subdivided, with some dating back to the 1990s. These flats may or may not be legal, but whatever the offences the Chans could be accused of, they are far less serious in terms of penalty than what Mak could face if he is charged.

So far Chan has offered four farcical, flip-flopping explanations, not to come clean but to provide a less damaging impression to save his political career.

In politics, it's not the accusations but how a politician deals with them that is most revealing about his or her character. Chan has shown himself to be disingenuous, dishonest and insincere.

Alas it now looks he will keep his job, while Mak's fate includes the possibility of losing his multimillion-dollar government pension and much worse.

The relentless anti-Leung campaign - by the pan-democrats, their media allies and more shadowy pro-establishment forces - has given us an unsuitable chief in a key policy area.