Letters to the Editor, October 23, 2017

PUBLISHED : Monday, 23 October, 2017, 5:22pm
UPDATED : Monday, 23 October, 2017, 5:22pm

Referendums need rules of engagement

Change the first word and George Orwell’s 1938 classic, Homage to Catalonia, seems ­almost as relevant today, if read as “Damage to Catalonia”.

What is it with the recent fad for referendums, given the chaos that they bring?

Scotland, Brexit, Kurdistan and now Catalonia needed some rules of engagement. I have a number of suggestions.

First, respect the current constitution. If this prohibits ­secession, a vote to secede would carry the weight only of an opinion poll but could start a discussion leading to the permitting of referendums.

Second, go some way to ­explaining what is, after all, a complex question. Who among the Catalans or Scots who voted to secede understood that they would have no central bank, no currency and no membership of the European Union?

The campaign should sketch out how these fundamental issues might be addressed.

No one mentioned Euratom (European Atomic Energy Community) or the European Common Aviation Area at the time of the Brexit vote, so the implications of the UK leaving these are only now being understood.

Third, decide who gets to vote. Why did Catalans or Scots living outside Catalonia or Scotland not get a vote? Such people should be allowed a say too, if they apply to be included and can demonstrate that they meet the appropriate criteria, established after due discussion. And why does the rest of the country not get a say?

If Catalonia, being the richest region in Spain, did secede, then the rest of Spain would be that much poorer. Conversely, the English may have been all too happy to no longer subsidise Scotland.

Fourth, apply the election laws. Many Brexit voters were persuaded by the “Leave” campaign’s adverts on buses claiming that the UK would save £350 million (HK$3.6 billion) a week by leaving the EU. Just after the vote, this was acknowledged to be deliberately misleading, so whoever authorised the adverts should have been prosecuted.

Fifth, require a convincing result. Changing the Constitution should not be undertaken lightly. The hurdle could be 60 per cent of those who voted in favour on a 50 per cent turnout.

Finally, Spain may have a short history of democracy and a tradition of an aggressive Guardia Civil, but beating up voters is not the best way of ­encouraging them to vote in favour of staying in the kingdom. If these rules make referendums all the more difficult, so much the better. After all, we elect politicians to take complex decisions on our behalf.

Andrew Kinloch, Central

Famed British ‘soft power’ can go missing

I reply to Peter Mann who ­upbraided your senior editorial writer, Yonden Lhatoo, over his column (“Has Britain really ­become a completely useless country?” October 15) in his ­reply (“Don’t write off Britain as a spent force”, October 20).

Without wishing to delve into the arcane mysteries of the Brexit decision and subsequent inept negotiations, it seems to me that Mr Mann neatly proves Yonden Lhatoo’s point by characterising your extremely experienced journalist as “someone born in a former British hill ­station”.

Such a scurrilous and personal attack ill becomes a correspondent who writes not in his personal capacity, but as the chairman of the Royal Commonwealth Society, Hong Kong Branch. Indeed, in that capacity, Mr Mann will recall the recent shoddy treatment of retired Gurkha soldiers who were ­offered only a proportion of the pensions provided to British-born soldiers carrying out the same hazardous duties.

This did not accord with the British “soft power” that Mr Mann trumpets and extols.

It was only through the sterling personal efforts of a British actress and those who thought like her that the traditional British values of justice, equality and fair play were finally acknowledged.

Ian Thomas, Sai Kung

Take bias out of Hong Kong marriage laws

I welcome the Hong Kong exhibition asking “Why not here?” for same-sex marriage.

I think same-sex marriage should be legal in Hong Kong, as it is in many jurisdictions, ­because people should be free to love whomever they wish. Hong Kong should be more open-minded. I think same-sex marriage will have many supporters among the younger generation as they accept such relationships more readily than traditional-minded older adults.

People should not discriminate against lesbian or gay people, but rather protect their rights. We should not let prejudice colour our vision.

Chammy Chow, Tseung Kwan O

Facebook chief risking legacy with Rohingya

The genocide, ethnic cleansing and other crimes against ­humanity being perpetrated on the Rohingya minority in Myanmar since August 25 is a continuing process of annihilating a community from the face of the earth. It is unfortunate and sad to witness, in this age of ­instant mass communication.

The international media need to be more vociferous in protesting against these crimes, and must force the world bodies to take ­action to stop this and bring the perpetrators to justice.

The civilian Myanmar government is headed by Aung San Suu Kyi, who is a Nobel Peace laureate. But she seems to have sold her soul to the devil. She is using her clout to protect Myanmar’s military leaders and hate-preaching Buddhist monks, while rape, torture and killings are perpetrated on a scale which has few parallels in history.

Indian Prime Minister ­Narendra Modi in his recent visit to Myanmar extended his support to Suu Kyi but failed to ­denounce the heinous crimes committed against the minority Rohingya. His persistent silence and refusal to criticise the Myanmar government for crimes against ­humanity are troubling.

Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg made a one-sided decision by restricting Rohingya issues on the social media platform for its users, without placing any restrictions on the Myanmar government or military who are trying to annihilate an entire community of people.

Mr Zuckerberg would be wise to review his decision, or history may judge him unfavourably as an abettor to the crime.

Nuruddin Azam, Australia

Donald Trump did score a ‘10’ in Puerto Rico

With 80 per cent of Puerto Rico still without power, President Donald Trump rates his handling of this catastrophe a “10”.

I would also rate his effort a “10” – below zero. Of course, anyone who dares to challenge him would be flipped off with the usual “Fake News” retort. Can’t anyone in this administration get through to him?

Herb Stark, North Carolina