IN VIEW of the New Year tragedy in Lan Kwai Fong, there must be a thorough inquiry. The main objective should not be to witch-hunt and lay blame, but to ensure such tragedies will not happen again. Of course, if the independent inquiry shows there was negligence in anyway, then suitable reprimands or punishments should be made. But this will do nothing to bring back the lost lives. Only by learning from the incident and making sure we are well equipped to prevent such mishaps will we save many future lives - for the New Years Days, Christmases, Chinese New Year eves, Autumn Moon Festivals, Dragon Boat Festivals. . . I speak as a person who has been to Lan Kwai Fong on a number of occasions, not only during festive times but on quiet nights as well. Being the father of two teenage sons, I know how popular a place it is for some youngsters. In fact, my two sons did go there after our New Year's Eve dinner - with parental permission. One ended up making it there before 11, but not being able to get out until past 1 am. The other tried to get there but could not. It is fair to say that I had a chance of being an aggrieved parent, too. My sons deny this - they claim they are sensible enough to avoid the most crowded areas because it was not as novel an experience as it was for first-time visitors. I do not know whether there is any message here - of the injured youngsters I and other legislators of the Co-operative Resources Centre visited at hospitals on New Years Day, apart from one, all said they were there for the first time. I believe there are a number of areas worth probing into during the inquiry: How many police and other disciplinary services personnel were pre-planned for deployment in the vicinity for that evening? I do know extra resources were called on - a friend's husband knew he had to give up part of his family's New Years Eve celebration because he had to be on Auxiliary Police duty at Lan Kwai Fong. It is hard to say how many police are enough. Whenever something goes wrong, people tend to say we do not have enough resources. If things are doing fine, people tend to say Government is wasting money and people are not productively employed. One injured youngster said he saw many policemen and thought help had arrived quickly. Yet another said police were around but not controlling the crowds. I would be interested in knowing what estimate was made of the probable crowd turnout, for I am sure deployment plans would have had some basis. Even the best plans can be upset by unforeseen circumstances. Did the pattern of crowd build-up differ from what was originally estimated, and if so, were deployment plans changed accordingly? How many police were eventually deployed up to the time of the accident, and was this in line with the plan, or more than, or less than? Did such plans take into account that a combined radio and television show would usher in the New Year on the site? The magnet effect of arousing more interest to go and have a look and enjoy the joyous atmosphere was obvious. That is why even I tried todrive past with some friends afterwards too! Is there any legal requirement to inform the authorities or apply in advance for such live broadcast events in areas that may attract more people? If so, is there any requirement to estimate the potential size of the crowd, and in this particular case was permission sought and granted? Recently we heard of the farce that while it was necessary to apply for permission to use pyrotechnics in film shooting - on the understanding none would be approved - there had been no applications for decades. If we have laws, they must be applied. If the laws are not sensible, they must be repealed. If rules do not exist but are needed, they must be created and enforced. There is nothing wrong with encouraging live broadcasting - it is part of our life and brings enjoyment to a much wider audience. The key is how to sensibly balance the need for public entertainment and public safety. Was the crowd turnout much different from that of previous years? Experience and past track records cannot guarantee success, but can help to forecast for pre-planning. Apart from deploying emergency services as soon as the disaster became known, were any of the broadcast media asked to broadcast appeals to the public to refrain from proceeding to the vicinity in order not to hinder rescue work? I understand news of an accident was on the air quickly and presumably heard by many in taxis on their way to enjoy themselves, but reporting of news and an appeal for specific action are different in nature. What guidelines are there to determine whether private or public areas need to be closed off should crowd density exceed certain limits? In any case, how is crowd density determined and to be measured? During Chinese New Year flower markets, clear entry and exit points are marked out and barriers used to regulate pedestrian flow. Recent popular exhibitions at the Convention Centre have also drawn large numbers of people, resulting in spectator flow controls being used. But the above are in public parks or purpose-built premises. Lan Kwai Fong is an ordinary street - to some extent not too different from many of our other popular night market stalls in crowded Mongkok and Causeway Bay. Is the Government reviewing crowd control procedures with a view to ensuring guidelines and operational procedures are adequate to cope with and disperse large, unplanned and yet legitimate congregations of people? What about the legal backing and authority for any well-wishing procedures we may think of? In fact, how are the police to react if an irate fun-seeker or a large crowd of them ordered not to enter a public street starts quoting the Bill of Rights? The inquiry should look at broader aspects of the incident and its implications, for instance was the ending of some public transport services a factor in urging people to leave the area immediately after the midnight countdown a factor? New York has its Times Square and London Trafalgar Square. Ushering in the New Year is a worldwide celebration. Some years ago, the centre of gravity seemed to be near Connaught Square. Last week it was Lan Kwai Fong. With Hongkong being so densely populated, is one centre enough? If not, then are many centres, like the Chinese New Year Flower Festivals, feasible and viable? Festivals need to be celebrated. Lan Kwai Fong and many other attractions of Hongkong should continue to exist and flourish. Our hard-working people need outlets for fun and enjoyment. The crux is to balance these with public safety in a sensible way. Many questions need to be asked. Hopefully, all can be answered. Answered constructively so that the the fun can go on while the tragedy never recurs. Howard Young is Legislative Councillor for the tourism functional constituency and a member of the Co-operative Resources Centre.