Government planners take juvenile delight in conspiring to keep secret proposals that will directly affect the welfare of a large number of people. The pattern of repugnant behaviour is so frequent it cannot be accidental. There is a long and sorry track record of deceit. We keep hearing officials prattle on about open and transparent government. This is twaddle. In practice, some planning officials cling to a culture of secrecy, steering proposals through the bureaucratic maze while doing all they can to prevent the public from finding out what goes on. Too harsh? I don't think so. Recall the case of Stanley Market? Stallholders, tourism agencies and Stanley residents were furious to discover a developer - identity obligingly kept secret - wanted to rip down the famed bazaar and turn the icon into a mall. The people directly concerned learned of the plan by accident. It was only prompt mass action, a huge signature campaign and extensive media coverage that prevented this outrage. Remember when Mount Davis residents found out - by a lucky fluke - that plans were at an advanced stage for a huge mortuary to be built amid privately owned apartment blocks? Again, this proposal was stopped only because of enraged protests by residents. In both cases, public servants swore that all the consultation procedures had been followed. Just last week, residents on Lantau trying to get details on plans to hack roads through a country park complained that they only learned of it three weeks before, although the proposal has been around in various forms for seven years. Officials swear they complied with all necessary legal steps. I am sure they did. They even put up notices. But, as one aggrieved islander complains, these were displayed along water catchments where the people seldom venture. Why not put up signs where people are likely to read them? Asked why the Lantau road plan was not posted at Mui Wo ferry, one official was affronted. If they did that, he replied, then the people of Tung Chung would also want an informative poster. Why is there this ingrained reluctance that prevents civil servants from telling their bosses - the public - what's being planned for our city and countryside? Every time this subject is raised, senior civil servants issue indignant denials. The rules were followed, they insist. This is true. Secrecy-addicted planners love rules - those antiquated, inefficient regulations that are wedded to the colonial notion that the natives should be seen and not heard. They huddle with developers and draw up plans that are only posted in the government gazette or published in obscure newspapers. This is their idea of informing the public. Most people do not spend their days pondering the government gazette or looking up official websites to see if bureaucrats are about to destroy their lives. The solution is simple. The Secretary for Housing, Planning and Lands, Michael Suen Ming-yeung, should order his staff to display notices in a format people can see, and in places they are likely to see them. Instead of sticking up signs in remote water catchments - a stunning display of contempt for the public - civil servants should be forced to post notices at bus stops, for instance. Don't hold your breath. Such honesty would rob planners of their freedom to do as they like without having to explain themselves to the people.