Legislators' change of heart on harbour The major political parties are now asking the government to reconsider the Central reclamation project even though they unanimously approved the work last year. Minutes of the Legislative Council show that not a single question was raised by any legislator when the Finance Committee approved a $3.5 billion funding request by the government to carry out the reclamation. Campaigners against the reclamation yesterday condemned the legislators for not being accountable for their previous unquestioning support of the project. Critics described those who now switched sides as opportunists. The government decided yesterday to resume work on the reclamation after the courts on Monday rejected a legal bid by the Society for the Protection of the Harbour to stop the reclamation. But in light of strong public opposition to the reclamation, only preparatory work involving the dredging of sludge from the seabed will be carried out, the government said. No mud or rocks will be dumped into the harbour. According to Legco records, 56 legislators were present at a meeting of the Finance Committee on June 21 last year, at which the funding request for the Central reclamation was approved. The approval was recorded in a three-line entry which showed that no questions were raised before it was endorsed. Two weeks earlier, on June 5, 17 legislators were present at a meeting of the Public Works Subcommittee, which recommended the Finance Committee approve the reclamation. While five members spoke on the issue, the project was approved without opposition. Except for Chan Yuen-han of the Federation of Trade Unions, who expressed disappointment, the other four speakers - Miriam Lau Kin-yee from the Liberal Party, Ip Kwok-him from the Democratic Alliance for Betterment of Hong Kong, Emily Lau Wai-hing from The Frontier and Law Chi-kwong from the Democratic Party - explicitly supported the project. Of the four political parties that supported the project, the Democrats and the DAB now say their positions had changed. Democratic Party chairman Yeung Sum said yesterday: 'It is ridiculous that the government is now reclaiming parts of the harbour near Central. Circumstances have changed [since last June].' DAB chairman Tsang Yok-sing said: 'I thought the reclamation project was in the public interest as it would give us more space and a beautiful environment, and perhaps a straighter shore line. But if the public opposes reclamation [now] and sees these factors as secondary, we would have to reassess what is in the public interest.' Miriam Lau Kin-yee, of the Liberal Party, stood by her earlier support of the reclamation. 'The Liberals only support a minimised reclamation for building the bypass to ease traffic in Central and to beautify the harbour. Building this road is a matter of public interest.' Party chairman James Tien Pei-chun said: 'We only supported the plan last year to relieve the severe traffic jams in Central. How would we know the government would play tricks and reclaim such a big piece of the harbour? Miriam told us there was a need for a road, so we supported it. But after all, all political parties have supported it as it was not controversial at the time.' And Emily Lau said she still stood by her stance as long as a minimalist approach was used on the Central reclamation. 'I heard no opposition views at that time, including those of Winston Chu. Winston did not show up in the Legco meeting one year ago.' But Mr Chu said: 'I was never invited to the Legco to present my views. I am not the department of reclamation. I can't sue the government five times when they have five reclamations on hand. But I won't blame the legislators or anyone. It is all the government's fault. It misleads everyone.' Political commentator Albert Cheng King-hon said: 'If the legislators didn't fall asleep at that time, of course, the situation would have been completely different now. But it is better for them to change their stance than sticking to their old position as the social atmosphere changed.' Friends of the Earth director Mei Ng Fong Siu-mei said she was disappointed by the 'quality of our legislators'. 'They are opportunists. Whoever shares the power of making decisions should bear the same level of responsibility,' she said.