Date
19 October 2018
Chief Executive Carrie Lam was unwilling to accept blame for not giving workers an extra day off on Monday while most of the city was still paralyzed. Photo: AFP/GovHK
Chief Executive Carrie Lam was unwilling to accept blame for not giving workers an extra day off on Monday while most of the city was still paralyzed. Photo: AFP/GovHK

What Carrie Lam should learn from Mangkhut

Sorry seems the hardest word for our dear Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor to say.

Lam managed to stay safe and dry as Super Typhoon Mangkhut ravaged our city, but she could not escape the tsunami of criticism that came in the wake of the traffic chaos that engulfed Hongkongers as they struggled to get to work on Monday.

Lam was brave enough to come out and face the music, but she showed no sign of accepting any blame for not giving workers an extra day off on Monday while most of the city was still paralyzed by the worst typhoon ever to hit the territory.

“I can totally feel how citizens were worried after waiting for hours at MTR stations. As they are angry and dissatisfied, it’s OK for them to vent their anger on the chief executive,” Lam said.

“But I don’t think it’s a responsible move for a CE to make a decision without legal basis, assessment by all industries and the consequences.”

This is Lam’s signature style of governance, which earned her over 22,000 “angry” emojis – and counting – on her Facebook page.

Her administration deserves to be given credit for its superb way of handling the situation as Mangkhut approached, forewarning the people extensively of the enormous dangers that lay ahead and urging them to be prepared for all eventualities.

As the super typhoon claimed many lives in the Philippines, Lam displayed her maternal instincts and, like a concerned granny talking to kids, called on the people to stay home.

Mangkhut brought widespread damage and devastation to the city, but zero fatality. 

However, Lam’s post-typhoon performance instantly transformed her into a villain, with some comparing her to her counterpart in Macau, Chief Executive Fernando Chui Sai On, who had been assailed for the way he handled last year’s Typhoon Hato, which claimed at least a dozen lives in the casino capital and turned it into a murky Venice for a week.

Forget Lam’s campaign slogan “We Connect”. People think she’s out of touch with reality for allowing people to go back to work a day after the disaster when most of the city’s public transport was not working, resulting in thousands of commuters waiting and fuming for hours at Tai Wai and other MTR stations simply because there was no other transport option to get to work.

Worse still, it was revealed that Lam turned a deaf ear to Starry Lee Wai-king, a close ally and chair of the pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, who suggested that some government personnel, especially those not involved in emergency services, be allowed to take a half day off on Monday.

Lam insisted that there is no mechanism that allows her to suspend work in public and private offices in the wake of disruptions resulting from extreme weather conditions, although some legislators have pointed out that there is an ordinance that she can invoke to handle the situation.

It is just sad that what could have been her finest hour turned into an occasion for fault-finding and buck-passing.

But it’s never too late. Every occasion, even disasters, offer valuable lessons as long as we are willing to learn from our mistakes and misjudgments.

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CG

EJ Insight writer

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