I beg to differ, my lord!

| Edward Chow 12 Jul 2019

Former chief justice Andrew Li Kwok-nang offered rare advice in a published article entitled "The Way Forward" this week.

He suggested a commission of inquiry led by a judge would be a much more effective mechanism for ascertaining the truth behind the handling of marches over the fugitive offenders bill.

This would be in preference to any investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Council, chaired by Anthony Neoh, a prominent senior counsel.

I regard it as lifelong learning to read judges' comments, rulings and senior counsel's opinions whenever I can, a habit I developed back in the late 1960s and 70s while studying in the UK going over court reports in the Times newspaper.

Reading the sometimes differing comments of the law lords were particularly inspiring.

While I agree with just about every piece of analysis Li made in his article, I do have a fundamental problem with the deemed judicial nature of the commission of inquiry, in that evidence given cannot be used in subsequent proceedings against the witness, and that, subject to the findings of the final report, both the rioters and the police might be blamed.

Meanwhile, of greater importance, is a situation whereby while the deemed judicial nature of the inquiry is in process, any intended prosecution by the police, as supported by the department of justice, may have to be set aside as the inquiry would be of a higher judicial order, or so counsel for the defendants would definitely argue!

We can thus see a new generation of "fugitives" having ample time to leave this city of dreams for the promised land to do their master's or doctorates.

Many of you may have gathered from the public domain that the invader who stood on a desk in the Legislative Council chamber to make his proclamation, mask down, left town the next day after the stampede for further studies in the United States via Taiwan without saying farewell to his hundreds of comrades.

Two of the biggest events in our public governance calendar are the policy address in October, shortly after Legco resits, and the budget in February.

For this year, the timing of the policy address is uncertain due to the carnage inflicted in the Legco chamber, including the destruction of communication and IT equipment, and the time it will take for the repairs to be made.

Also, as a result of the recent unprecedented unrest, calls for the resignations of the chief executive, certain policy secretaries and executive councillors make daily headlines.

There is therefore uncertainty as to who will be finalizing and making the policy address, whether the current policy secretaries will still be in the same office when the address is made, and whether the Executive Council incumbents will be sitting in the front row of Legco's public gallery to watch its delivery.

While not wishing to speculate on whether there will be any changes, sackings, resignations or reinforcements, this air of uncertainty must be cleared before any public consultation on what should go into the policy address commences.

Of equal importance is the need to let the public know that he or she who will be conducting that part of the consultation will remain in the same office at least for the next year or until the current Legco term ends next summer.

Edward Chow is a current affairs commentator. Views expressed in this article are his own.

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