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  • Dec 18, 2014
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Lamma ferry disaster
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LAMMA FERRY DISASTER

Retired judge William Waung Sik-ying backs full release of Lamma ferry disaster report

William Waung Sik-ying believes relatives could launch damages claim against government, saying full probe is a matter of public interest

PUBLISHED : Monday, 28 April, 2014, 6:05am
UPDATED : Monday, 28 April, 2014, 8:07am
 

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A retired High Court judge believes victims and relatives of those killed in the Lamma ferry tragedy could demand the full release of a report into the disaster by launching civil proceedings against the government.

In a move likely to put pressure on officials to give a full public account of the 2012 collision that killed 39 people, William Waung Sik-ying said the internal investigation was a matter of public interest. The government has so far only released a summary of the 430-page report.

"The government is quite incredibly still trying to avoid the evil day and is desperate to minimise its responsibility in the whole affair," Waung said in an e-mail to the South China Morning Post. "I am very disturbed ... the government is taking the extraordinary position of not releasing the report, which is of course a matter of public interest."

Waung - who as leader of the Archives Action Group lodged a complaint to the ombudsman last year arguing for better management of Marine Department records - also criticised comments last week by Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung, who stressed the need for confidentiality. "The government's excuse of trying not to jeopardise possible future proceedings against the civil servants just does not wash," he said.

The damning report compiled by the Transport and Housing Bureau identified 17 marine officials - up to directorate level - possibly guilty of misconduct and said "suspected criminality" had been found in the course of the probe and transferred to police for investigation. It criticised the Marine Department's management and the "highly unsatisfactory" record keeping.

But the released summary did not reveal the identities of those liable. Relatives of those killed have urged lawmakers to invoke the powers and privileges laws of the Legislative Council to demand full disclosure.

Waung said relatives could possibly get hold of the full report by seeking legal aid so that " proceedings can be immediately brought against the government" for damages.

If no reasonable defence was put forth by the government, he said relatives could apply for a summary judgment - a ruling without a hearing. If the government objected, it would have to disclose its arguable defence.

University of Hong Kong legal scholar Eric Cheung Tat-ming said the arguable defence could include the investigation report.

"A judge will decide if the report is so sensitive as to jeopardise future criminal trials," Cheung said, adding that if the documents were deemed too sensitive, the judge could restrict access to only the families' counsel. But Cheung said a summary judgment might not be sufficient to cover such a complex issue.

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This article is now closed to comments

johnyuan
This case in withholding information by the Marine Department that supported by the Secretary Justice is so deadly wrong that even a judge can’t agree.
.
Without a right to information law, rule of law as claimed by Hong Kong is utterly false. It is shameful for those keep harping on rule of law exists in Hong Kong even see it as a core value.
honger
The 17 marine officials cannot hide since their names are on the department's directory, which is public. How many officials are there with directorate level in the department?
Rimsky's excuse doesn't hold water since it is obvious it is the 17 people who are responsible, despite saying their identities need to be protected so as not to jeopardise future prosecutions.
ed_kwok
South Korea's Prime Minister has resigned to take responsibility for the loss of life in the recent ferry sinking although I cannot see how he had anything to do with it. Our Marine Department officials obviously had a lot to do with the loss of life in the Lamma ferry disaster yet they see fit to hide behind a wall of secrecy. That's a great example of business as usual for much of the Hong Kong government.
sipsip1238
You're talking about a government which tolerates the corrupt acts of one such as Paul Chan.
Why would they resign from their highly paid low responsibility jobs? Besides, they wouldn't be able to get a job in private sector that will give them the same pay anyway.
rvto
For privacy reasons you can change the names of persons involved to "X", before publishing the report to the public.
DinGao
The SCMP is not the paper it used to be. As to the report being fully published, that would hopelessly prejudice the onging police investigation and criminal prosecution.
I thought the published summary adequate but if pressed, the government could produce a version redacted to prevent any individual being identified by name or by a process of elimination..

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