Left Field: How chief executive can win some friends through sport

Under-fire chief executive should push ahead with Kai Tak sports hub as a first step towards silencing some of his critics

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 06 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 05 May, 2015, 11:33am

It's in our nature to believe the grass is always greener elsewhere. And these feelings peak at the turn of a new year. On New Year's Day, tens of thousands of people took part in a protest calling for the resignation of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying. And one of the main calls from the demonstrators was for more democracy.

Coming from Sri Lanka, I can safely vouch for the fact that democracy is not always as good a thing as it is made out to be. The one-man, one-vote system is not suitable for all countries, especially in the third world, where politicians abuse their powers. The masses are fooled by promises - almost never kept - and not wise enough to exercise their vote the way it should be.

Dishonest politicians rule roughshod over the electorate. Corrupt governments use the power and machinery of the state to extend their hold. Democracy is just a byword for anarchy and misrule. What elections do is put in place dictators with the only intent of the ruling elite being to see their boots filled by their children and grandchildren for generations to come.

It took the United States, the land of the free, more than 200 years to get the democratic system in smooth running order. The British parliamentary system has lasted longer. Both are examples of successful democracies. But there are far more examples of failed democratic states. Africa is rife with them. From Russia to Venezuela, and closer to home, from the Philippines to Thailand, we are witnessing countries that once seemed to be heading towards democracy now moving in the other direction.

So why does Hong Kong pine for a system that can be abused? And wasn't it a contradiction that some protestors in the march last Tuesday carried British colonial-era flags? What do the people want? Is it democracy or to go back to the old days, when we were ruled by a governor who answered to the queen?

There was little in the way of democracy those days, but the system worked fine enough. Since the handover in 1997, the central government has, for the most part, left us alone. But the people are impatient to have their voices heard and are now clamouring for the right to elect their own leaders. Let's hope they pick the right ones.

Right now, though, it seems Leung is not the right man. His problem is simply a lack of credibility. He has been depicted as being dishonest because he was "negligent" about some illegal structures at his home. He was found out and he has admitted to his shortcomings. Can we not move on now?

It is up to Leung to act decisively. People might be calling for his head, but he should ignore them and get his administration's mind on the job, which is to govern Hong Kong. Too much time has been spent on answering his critics. Leung should instead focus on matters that are important and as far as sport is concerned, the most crucial one is the Kai Tak sports hub.

Work on this HK$19 billion project should get under way immediately. Enough time has been spent on consultation. Decisions must be taken and acted upon.

The best way for Leung to silence his critics is to act decisively. A new sports hub will earn him many friends. Yes, this idea might have been the brainwave of the previous administration, but it is up to Leung to turn words and promises into deeds.

We have spent enough time mulling over the feasibility of the multi-sports complex. To think that Kai Tak airport has been closed for more than 15 years and the site left vacant all this time is a crime.

Last year, at this same time, I wished that the Hong Kong government would get off its back and commence work on the project, which would be the catalyst for this city to become a regional sports hub. Another year has dawned. Once again we plead for action. Leung is by no means the people's choice. He has been put in place by the central government, which itself is unelected. But this system has worked, at least to some extent. China has emerged as an economic superpower with a growing middle class. Seen in this light, it just doesn't make any sense why we in Hong Kong are clamouring for democracy. Under the old British order, the city worked like clockwork. Where were the calls for democracy then?

Let's get on with our lives. The grass is greener here.