Franklin Lam case shows the exacting price of public office
After nine months of investigation, Executive Councillor Franklin Lam Fan-keung has been cleared of any wrongdoing in selling flats ahead of the introduction of new stamp duties. The government said there was insufficient evidence to press charges against Lam, who was accused of benefiting from advance information on the levy last October. Although the probe vindicated him, the property analyst resigned from the chief executive's cabinet, making him the third to leave since July last year. The outcome speaks volumes about the political pressure on those holding public Office.
Lam's case was among an avalanche of politically charged scandals hitting the new team last year. Credit goes to the Independent Commission Against Corruption and the Department of Justice for their detailed investigations and careful deliberations. The process was done professionally and the outcome is one to be respected.
Lam did not give a precise reason why he quit, but expressed regret over what he called false accusations and a public trial. Some say he has been put off by political smearing. Others suggest it is only wise for him to resign to avoid further trouble. After all, although the probe legally cleared the way for him to stay, he remains political baggage for the team, given his deep involvement in property speculation. Whatever the reasons he quit, judging from public reaction the outcome helps put the controversy behind the government, once and for all.
Understandably, the saga has fuelled concern that people might be deterred from taking up public office. The media scrutiny and investigations Lam has endured are not readily tolerated by every public officer. There are also concerns whether law enforcers have been used by politicians to undermine opponents.
The presence of a vigilant and assertive media means politicians should be prepared for intense public scrutiny. Law enforcers are required to play a better gate-keeping role to screen out complaints without a prima facie case.