Council monitoring plan under fire from chairman

PLANS to place Hongkong's municipal councils under the jurisdiction of the Commissioner for Administrative Complaints (COMAC) signifies a regression in the development of representative government, claimed Urban Council chairman Dr Ronald Leung Ding-bong yesterday.

Dr Leung said there were enough existing channels to monitor the work of the councils, and the intervention of the ombudsman would only be repetitive.

The move showed a ''lack of understanding of the operations of the council and its procedures''.

He said: ''The Urban Council has already been made accountable to the public in a number of ways, and elected councillors are accountable to their constituents.'' Elected councillor Mrs Elsie Tu supported his view, saying the nature of their work was very different to that of the MTRC and KCRC - other areas where the ombudsman was empowered to take up civil complaints.

''I think the Government should re-consider this proposal because it is really strange to let an appointed person judge the jobs of people who are elected,'' she said.

Dr Leung said urban councillors had written to the Chief Secretary, Sir David Ford, expressing their concern and were having talks with the Government.

It is understood that Sir David, in a written reply, urged councillors to reconsider their position.

Sir David's letter said: ''In summary, the objective of the proposal to include the Urban Council under COMAC's jurisdiction is not to replace the existing complaint channels available in the council but to supplement and strengthen them.

''This is also necessary to improve the effective operation of the COMAC system by removing the existing legal ambiguity.'' He assured councillors that the proposal would not affect the role and independence of the Council, which were provided for and governed under the Urban Council Ordinance.

The Commissioner would only investigate complaints against administrative acts performed in the name of the council, but not against individual members.

Members of the Regional Council also view the plan with mixed feelings.

Elected councillor Mr Gilbert Leung Kam-ho echoed Dr Leung's opposition, saying the plan was ''against the spirit of representative government''.

However, his colleague Mr Albert Chan Wai-yip supported the expansion of the ombudsman's power over the councils.