Flying Over The Cuckoo's Nest


There are times when you start to wonder if the lunatics are on the verge of taking over the asylum.

And then there are the times when you become convinced that they already have.

Now is just such an occasion. No fewer than three areas of public life are the subject of proposals so irrational that the ordinary spectator can only gasp out loud.

First is the government decision to impose limited sanctions against the Philippines because of the failure of President Benigno Aquino to apologise publically for the bungled bus hostage rescue of 2010.

Second is the suggestion from some in the pan democratic camp to organise a block resignation from LegCo so that the ensuing bi-elections will create a "referendum" on democracy.

Third, on an admittedly much lighter note, is the idea being floated to establish a new political party based on the Heung Yee Kuk.

Let us start with our southern neighbour. The killing in Manila of eight Hong Kong tourists by a former police officer, and the serious injury suffered by others, was a tragedy for the victims and their families. The Philippines' leader should have come out and apologised right away.

But he has decided – and publically announced – that he is not going to do so. That is a major error on his part and one for which he deserves to be roundly criticised.

Instead of doing this and moving on, our government has devalued its own travel advisory system and suspended the visa free entry arrangements for a limited category of Filipino officials. No great harm there, you might think, but this is a step on a very long and slippery slope.

What will we do when – inevitably – he still hasn't apologised in a few weeks' time? No need to waste time speculating: fresh escalation ideas are already out there. Bar all visitors from the country. Send all the domestic helpers packing. Introduce trade embargoes (Yes, really)

Do we seriously expect the democratically elected head of a sovereign state to humiliate himself in front of his own countrymen to appease the anger – however justified -- of citizens of a foreign city?

What do we think will become of our bid to secure a free trade agreement with ASEAN (a major target for our own economic development) when we have finished dissing one of its leading members? How will Hong Kong families cope with the sudden loss of 150,000 experienced carers? How will we explain ourselves to the WTO, not to mention the think tanks that glowingly describe us as the world's freest economy?

And how long will it be before we have created the political pressure within the Philippines to not only not apologise ever, but to retaliate against Hong Kong passport holders? What a mess! A door we should never have opened and not at all clear there is anyone with the courage to close it.

And speaking of very bad ideas, does anyone remember the last de facto referendum? You can be forgiven if you have forgotten: it was a very forgettable event. Low turnout, ignored by political opponents and the governments here and in Beijing, a spoiled Sunday for families from dedicated pro democrats who felt obliged to turn out, millions of dollars of public money wasted. What a triumph! Let's do it all again. I swear you couldn't make it up.

And finally our friends from rural parts. At a time when there was no public housing in the New Territories, and many people still farmed and wanted a village life, a practice grew up of allowing male heads of households to build a low rise house for themselves on village land. Very quickly the scheme ran out of control: Spanish villa-type developments, entitlements leased out or sold off to outsiders even before construction began, poor layouts, zero planning, no sewage or proper access.

I think we can all understand why the millionaires who have benefitted from this system want it to be preserved. But a political party? To run for office on what sort of manifesto? "Vote for me so that my unfair advantages can continue at your expense"? Hard to see that as a big vote winner.

Many years ago, Jack Nicholson played the lead role in a serious drama called "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" set in a lunatic asylum. When ‘corrective' brain surgery rendered Jack a vegetable, his best friend smothered him to put him out of his misery. An act of mercy we may soon all be craving.

 
Mike Rowse
email: mike@rowse.com.hk