Poetic sign-off by Ombudsman

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 06 August, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 06 August, 1998, 12:00am

The increasingly beleaguered Ombudsman offered up a poem yesterday as a response to his critics.

Andrew So Kwok-wing was faced with a barrage of questions after reports that officials wanted to get rid of him because of his decision to investigate the airport chaos.

Mr So, a former businessman and legislator, has also drawn fire from prison officers after criticising their power to segregate prisoners for an indefinite period.

Mr So abruptly ended his monthly press conference yesterday by writing a 10-character poem on a large whiteboard and leaving the room, declining to answer questions.

The poem translates as: 'Rain and darkness lead us to believe that the night is coming.

'But the winds will blow them away and reveal brightness.' A senior member of Mr So's staff said he believed they were the opening verses from a poem by Sung dynasty poet Su Dongbo.

Mr So rejected suggestions his decision to push ahead with the airport probe might affect the renewal of his contract, which expires on January 31.

'Any attempt or suggestion to relate the investigation to my appointment is uncalled for and unfair,' he said.

He said 22 opinions had been received about the airport problems and he was determined to proceed.

A government spokesman said last night that no decision had been made on whether Mr So's contract would be renewed.

The Ombudsman is appointed for five years by the Chief Executive and he cannot be sacked without the approval of Legco - a move designed to keep him independent.

However, he complained last month that the Government was starving him of the resources needed for 'direct investigations' such as the airport inquiry.

Assistant Professor Dr Anthony Cheung Bing-leung, head of City University's department of public and social administration, said that if Mr So's contract was not renewed the Government would have to show good reason. 'Mr So has performed his task well and I don't see why he has to be replaced - particularly when he has just started this inquiry into the airport,' Dr Cheung said.