It must have been like High Noon at the Civil Service Branch on July 5 when Sheriff Lam Woon-kwong and Deputy Sandra Lee Suk-yee confronted Director of Immigration, Laurence Leung Ming-yin, and gave him a choice. Quit - or we fire you. Notwithstanding his 30 years of service to the administration, Mr Leung immediately waved the white flag and had his resignation letter hand-delivered to Mr Lam, the Civil Service Secretary, that same afternoon. In the months since then, the Government has been economical with the truth, stonewalling the media's questions and politicians' queries about the sudden departure of Mr Leung. But the bombshell revelations he dropped on Friday have brought matters to a head. Apparently, Mr Leung was prepared to risk his reputation being tarnished. He not only revealed that he had effectively been ordered to go; he also explained how he had been investigated by the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) a few months earlier. There must be some very compelling reasons for Mr Leung to suddenly be so frank and open. Perhaps, he may, indeed, have been unfairly treated. But one thing is certain - the saga has left the Government with a public relations disaster on many fronts. On the face of the evidence offered to Legco by Mr Leung, the Government as an employer was unfair to one of its top employees. It was far from honest in hiding at least part of the truth, and it failed to hold itself accountable to the legislature and the public on an important matter which has aroused great public interest. Logically, personal friction between Mr Lam and Mr Leung or even between Governor Chris Patten and the former immigration chief should not be a factor. No matter how evasive the Government may be on some public issues, it would be unthinkable that Mr Patten and his aides would want to risk destroying the credibility and integrity of the administration by targeting Mr Leung without reason. When it comes to an official as important as the immigration chief, you don't ask him to step down so casually. For the Government to have given such a stark choice to so senior and long-serving an officer, it must have believed that it had compelling reasons. But why would Mr Leung throw in the towel so readily? The former immigration chief explained to Legco members that he surrendered so promptly because he felt his appeal chances were hopeless since he believed the person who wanted him to go was the same person who would consider his appeal - the Governor. But there should have been other options for Mr Leung. Had he rejected the offer to step down and had he failed to receive the Governor's support if sacked, he could have demanded a judicial review or taken the case to the British Foreign Secretary. So why did Mr Leung keep quiet last summer and why did the Government, if it had good reasons to order Mr Leung to stand down, decide to give him an easy way out? If the whole affair has the potential of complicating Hong Kong's relationship with China, or of seriously affecting the morale of the civil service, it is only right for the Government to come completely clean. Legislators, the media and the public are not the only parties shocked by Friday's disclosure. Civil servants, too, were stunned by the revelations. If even public servants have doubts about the case, how can the administration convince the public that it still has a good case to remain silent and urge the community to trust the Government? In the past six months, the Government has been trying its best to avoid media questioning. Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, who was acting Chief Secretary last summer when the controversy broke, even went as far as to criticise the press for sensationalising the subject. Six months have elapsed since then, and Mr Tsang has been proved wrong. Rather than feeling they should have faith in the Government, and in its goodwill and honesty in acting in the interest of the public, the community may now perceive that the Government is not acting honourably. The harsh reality now is that if the administration fails to provide an open and frank account of all the facts, it should be prepared for further sensation and speculation. From all the apparent evidence, senior officials, including Mr Patten, Mr Tsang and Mr Lam, have only told part of the truth - that Mr Leung had offered to retire. What they didn't reveal, in their careful answers, was that the Government gave Mr Leung little choice. Now that Mr Lam has confirmed Mr Leung's disclosure of a dismissal threat, and added that the immigration chief would have been told why his resignation was required if he had refused to retire, the community should be told why he was so unfit for the job that the administration was prepared to exercise its right to use Colonial Regulation 59 to force Mr Leung to step down.