Hong Kong government sets no timetable for Lamma sinking inquiry
Transport undersecretary says government probe is proceeding 'at full speed'; no official ceremony held to mark tragedy's first anniversary
Ada Lee, Johnny Tam and Tony Cheung
A year after a ferry collision off Lamma Island claimed 39 lives, the government has set no timetable for completing its investigation of the disaster, the deputy transport minister said.
The work needed to be carried out thoroughly, Yau Shing-mu said.
The internal investigation of the Marine Department, headed by the Transport and Housing Bureau, was proceeding "at full speed", Yau, the bureau's undersecretary, said, a day after relatives of victims criticised the government for failing to hold anyone responsible.
Yesterday's National Day fireworks were cancelled as a mark of respect to those killed a year ago, but there was no official memorial ceremony for the dead.
The two vessel operators involved remembered the dead in their own ways.
Yau said he understood the concerns of survivors and families of the dead, but that the investigation would take time.
"We have to ensure the people concerned have adequate time to respond, so it takes time," he said after the National Day reception. "Just like in many other investigations, we cannot tell what the timetable is like and when it will be finished, but we are doing it at full speed."
A government-appointed commission of inquiry released a report in April that castigated the department for "serious systemic failings". The two vessels' skippers are each charged with 39 counts of manslaughter, while their employers, Hongkong Electric and Hongkong and Kowloon Ferry subsidiary Island Ferry Company, were fined HK$900 and HK$5,000 respectively for breaching safety rules.
Yau said the commission's report could not be used as evidence in a court case. The government had to start from scratch in its investigation, he said, adding there could be legal challenges if it did not do its work carefully.
Ryan Tsui Chi-shing, who lost his brother and niece in the tragedy, said he was speechless at the government's lack of commitment.
He said the government, despite its claim, had not shown any concern to the families. "The fact is I have to call them to arrange meetings. They have never provided assistance to us on their own initiative."
Last night, Hongkong Electric, owner of the Lamma IV launch that sank while carrying staff and their families to watch last year's National Day fireworks, held a ceremony to mourn the dead.
Boats operated by Hongkong and Kowloon Ferry, owner of the Sea Smooth, which hit the Lamma IV, blew their whistles at 8.20pm, the time of the collision.
Earlier at 2pm, about 30 monks and Lamma residents gathered to stage a ritual at Nga Kau Wan pier, where both boats were docked for investigation.
Business was normal on the island yesterday, with thousands of holidaymakers alighting at Yung Shue Wan ferry pier.