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CS speaks on setting up of Commission of Inquiry (with video)

     Following is the transcript of remarks by the Chief Secretary for Administration, Mrs Carrie Lam, at a media session at the lobby of West Wing, Central Government Offices, Tamar, at noon today (October 9):

Chief Secretary for Administration: Maybe I should say a few words in English, particularly on the terms of reference of this Commission of Inquiry. First of all, before I do that, I want to express again our deep condolences to the families of the deceased. Our social workers are doing all they can to provide support to these families.

     At its meeting this morning, the Executive Council has approved in principle the setting up of a Commission of Inquiry under the Commissions of Inquiry Ordinance, Chapter 86 of the laws of Hong Kong. The Commission shall have these terms of reference: Inquire into the facts and circumstances leading to and surrounding the collision of the two vessels that took place near Lamma Island, Hong Kong, on October 1, 2012.

     It will have three particular aspects. First is to ascertain the causes of the incident and make appropriate findings thereof. Consider and evaluate the general conditions of maritime safety concerning passenger vessels in Hong Kong and the adequacy or otherwise of the present system of control. And make recommendations on measures, if any, required for the prevention of the recurrence of similar incidents in future. We are actively identifying highly credible persons to be appointed as members of the Commission. Once these have been identified, the Executive Council will formally appoint the setting up of this Commission of Inquiry.

Reporter: Mrs Lam, is it really difficult to actually find that person or the appropriate persons for this Commission, and how many of them do you actually need? And there are actually suggestions that the maritime court would actually deal with this matter relatively quicker. Why do you insist on having such an inquiry?

Chief Secretary for Administration: Actually, as you can see, the terms of reference of the Commission of Inquiry are very broad. It covers investigation into the causes leading to the incident, the findings and also forward-looking duty to provide recommendations and measures that are needed to ensure marine safety in Hong Kong. So we feel, and of course that's also the view of the Secretary for Justice, that a Commission of Inquiry which is independent with these broad terms of reference is in fact more relevant and appropriate in this particular tragic incident than a maritime court. That's point number one.

     Point number two, about identifying the suitable person, and I have to stress that it could be one person or more than one person because the legislation provides for the appointment of more than one person to form the Commission. But where there is more than one person to be appointed then one of them will be appointed the chairman of the Commission. Based on previous experiences, inquiries of this sort normally will only have very few numbers of members of a Commission. It would be either one or one plus one. So at the moment we are retaining this flexibility to decide on the suitable number of persons to be appointed, but I just want to tell you that it will be a very small number of either one or one plus one. And to find this highly credible person, previous experience also indicated that there is very strong expectation that the credible person will be a judge, and we are working in that direction to identify that person. And as I said, we are very hopeful that this finding the right person to be appointed will be completed very, very shortly.

Reporter: (Inaudible)

Chief Secretary for Administration: In this morning's discussion, we have also indicated that we expect the Commission to report to the Chief Executive within six months from the date of appointment or such time as the Chief Executive in Council may allow. But of course the Commission may also submit interim reports on any aspects of the inquiry as it may see fit.

(Please also refer to the Chinese portion of the transcript.)

Ends/Tuesday, October 9, 2012
Issued at HKT 14:52


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