Liberals' soul-searching

IT makes no difference whether Pang Tin-chun resigned from, or was sacked by, the Liberal Party yesterday. His departure, along with dozens of other members in recent weeks, has tarnished the party's image.

Mr Pang, a party central committee member, has resigned with 17 other members in protest against what he calls party chairman Allen Lee Peng-fei's dictatorship in party management. Shortly before his resignation, Mr Pang was stripped of his post as treasurer of the party's Tuen Mun branch for alleged irregularities.

The party's ill-timed and mean-spirited sacking of Mr Pang will not help in polishing Mr Lee's, or the party's, image. Mud-slinging can only make things worse. It is better for top party brass to improve communication with cadres at the grassroots level in a bid to consolidate party unity.

Perhaps it is time the party rethought of its raison d'etre. Should it be a party for all or just for a selected few, such as businessmen and professionals? The party apparently has difficulties in meeting the needs and interests of rich entrepreneurs and poor working people at the same time. It does not surprise anyone when it is accused of vacillating in policies.

The party's plans to tighten criteria over admission of members is a move in the right direction. It says it will draw a lesson from Mr Pang's resignation and attach significance to loyalty and adherence to party discipline and its manifesto when recruiting new members. Such rules, however important, should not be used to muzzle members from voicing their opinions.

The Tuen Mun members' views on indigenous villagers' rights, for instance, should be taken into consideration because of their experience and expertise in rural affairs. Whether the party eventually accepts their suggestions is another matter. The resignation of 18 members en masse prompts some soul-searching. Putting the blame solely on the members who decided to quit will not help its development.