Lamma ferry crash

Relatives of Lamma boat victims slam government over '180 degree' turn

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 01 October, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 01 October, 2013, 4:24am

Relatives of the Lamma ferry disaster victims have criticised the government for failing to hold anyone responsible for the tragedy a year ago today, despite a year-long investigation.

In an open letter released yesterday, they said the government had initially been eager to offer help, but "today, [its] attitude has changed 180 degrees".

"On the causes of the incident and its responsibility, it only keeps silent or resorts to using the same official scripts that are full of clichés," the relatives wrote in the letter, addressed to Marine Department director Francis Liu Hon-por, who reaches retirement age next year.

The relatives said they would not easily let Liu escape responsibility.

The collision off Lamma Island on October 1 last year claimed 39 lives. The government ordered a commission of inquiry, which released a report in April sternly criticising the department. An internal departmental probe is still in progress.

Ryan Tsui Chi-shing, who lost his elder brother and niece, said: "The government tried to cool down the matter by keeping its mouth shut. Government officials had helped victims' families, but turned cold after a commission of inquiry condemned the Marine Department."

Liu has been a major target of attacks by the victims' relatives, who are unhappy at the way he and the department handled the aftermath of the incident.

Under pressure, Liu made a public apology in May at a Legislative Council panel meeting, after which he bowed and apologised to the victims' families, survivors, and others. He said his apology had come late partly due to a need to seek legal advice.

Tsui dismissed Liu's apology as "ridiculous", asking: "If he was sincere, why would he have to need to think so long and ask for legal advice?"

The victims' relatives had written to Liu twice in August, demanding he apologise directly to relatives of the deceased. They also complained to Liu about a retired department officer seeking a judicial review of the findings of the inquiry report. Liu replied, but the relatives were not satisfied.

In a post on his official blog yesterday, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying offered his condolences to the relatives of the victims and survivors.

Tsui said his life had been miserable since the tragedy. "[I can see that my parents] have pretended to be tough. They always mention anecdotes about my brother's childhood. They always look at his photos."

In a statement yesterday, the department said its director had publicly offered an apology to the victims' families, survivors, and the public. On the judicial review requested by a former officer, the department said the officer had acted in a personal capacity.

"The department respects his right to apply for judicial review."

The collision off Lamma Island, the worst maritime accident in Hong Kong since 1971, when a ferry sinking killed 88, involved a Hongkong Electric launch and a ferry operated by Hongkong and Kowloon Ferry.

The government cancelled the National Day fireworks display this year as a mark of respect.