Some matters are not designed for the glib, instant reaction. They only begin to make sense as the dust settles. I am referring to the Laurence Leung Ming-yin incident which has stirred up speculation. Our civil service is a mainstay of our community, so much so that 'a smooth transition' is synonymous with keeping public employees content in their jobs. For a long time now our government has soothed our anxiety and allayed our fears whenever key officials are shuffled or retired. China and Britain have periodically drawn the apolitical Hong Kong civil service into their quarrels only to reassure everyone subsequently that the stability of this sector is foremost in their calculations. Both the Joint Declaration and the Basic Law underscore this conviction that the civil service must not be tampered with during or after the transition. Every now and then we, however, seem to forget that our civil service - efficient, resilient and thoroughly professional - is not just a composite of individuals but an institution whose sum is greater than its parts and that it will endure. Instead of seeing the removal of Mr Leung from office as a crisis, I think of it as another test of our civil service's strength, a challenge it has more than met with the appointment of Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee to the job. Much has been said about Immigration Department staff morale being sapped by the naming of an administrative officer to what has traditionally been a disciplinary forces' preserve. So far there has been no evidence of immigration officers being disenchanted. Through the years the Government has moved officials around in a seemingly baffling way. Yet many of the 'unexpected' posting decisions have been master-strokes. Among the latest positive surprises have been - besides Ms Ip's recent assignment - the appointment of Gordon Siu Kwing-chue to head the Transport Branch and Tony Miller to the Housing Department. Mr Siu, formerly with the Economic Services Branch, can apply his acumen in public finance to transport in a period of rapid rail expansion. Mr Miller, a fluent Cantonese speaker, is an expatriate in name but a local in fact who is not only competent but is proof that our civil service does not discriminate. Together their appointments have sent a potent message to the civil service and the general public about the kind of government we intend to have for now and in the future. Since Anson Chan Fang On-sang rose to be the chief secretary, the first woman in the post, our civil service has undergone an overhaul. A new generation of policy secretaries and other directorate-grade officials, mainly in their 40s and early 50s, has been groomed to guide Hong Kong towards the era of the Special Administrative Region. These relatively young mandarins have fared exceedingly well under conditions much more trying than those faced by their predecessors because of a more inquisitive press, an increasingly demanding public and a Legislative Council whose scrutiny of government work occasionally borders on the hostile. These (what I call) crucible years will toughen our civil servants and also sharpen the wit of our community which is right to set high standards for their administrators. The Hong Kong civil service is capable because both the top echelon and the rest of the 186,000-strong force have a singularity of purpose. The civil service is also being constantly replenished with talent as more and more of our brightest university graduates compete for career places. While no one is ultimately indispensable to the civil service, the civil service is indispensable to Hong Kong, now and in the SAR.