Friday, July 2, 2010

From the Editor, Council on Legislation – By Francis Wann

Issue 01 – 2010.7.2

From the Editor

Council on Legislation – By Francis Wann
A well known character within Rotary and District Governor for 1996-7, Y K Cheng of Island East must be considered an old hand in the family with his dad H K Cheng also a Rotarian.

I'm not sure if any of our Legco or Exco members today are also Rotarians themselves, and if our policy secretaries made their decisions based on the 4-way test, we would probably see a very different political landscape here.

Y K came with a huge Rotary file. it was all the official papers which arrived at his office last December for a bit of background reading before he went to Chicago in late April for the Council on Legislation, the legislative arm of Rotary.

I doubt very much if anybody in an average mindset would read it that way. Indeed as Y K mentioned in his brief report, everything - or almost everything - was available on RI's website. Yes, literally it's only a click away.

I remember six years ago I talked to Moses Cheng who was the district representative for this council. It was certainly an enlightening experience and you got to see how other Rotarians worldwide put their heads together to make it a better world. Perhaps one minute wasn't what you'd expect at the Council to put forward your case.

But time has changed. Though Y K conceded he didn't go to the Council with a district mission, he did manage to get involved in various plenary sessions, and in his own capacity, contribute his opinions. The onslaught of internet has come a long way since then, and today increased opportunities for travel or overseas studies has made our Rotary scholarships simply less attractive. And as Y K pointed out, there were financial considerations. The Council this year started straight away on a Sunday without any orientation and ran continuously until the next Friday to avoid hotel expenses over the weekend.

It's interesting to note that a Council proposal which recommended a US$1 levy on every Rotarian across the board to subsidize the Council was rejected after lengthy deliberations. As we know, delegates go to the Council at their own expenses, and while it is also considered an honour to represent the district, the expenses incurred might have been overwhelming for members in relatively poorer countries. Well Y K must be wondering how Rotarians today have gone into such a sorry state...

While Rotary has been helping to tackle poverty over the century, it might not be easy for some Rotarians to fully understand its implications. Poverty exists everywhere, but when you found that other delegates had to argue over one dollar extra levy, or why water could be so precious to them, you know we still have a lot to learn. Cultural differences apart, it must have been an eye opener for the old boy from St Paul's Co-ed.

Y K told me he didn't take the A-levels in Hong Kong, and when he returned from the States, he joined his dad's consultancy company and is still its director today. Cheng Hon Kwan, a former chairperson of Housing Authority, has virtually retired from his many facets of public life some seven or eight years ago. I looked at Y K's card and his various appointments outside Rotary, the latest of which is from the Hospital Authority. It's not difficult to understand why he's always on the move. Charter President John said he might have to wait for at least 12 years to be appointed a district representative for the Council on Legislation. Not necessarily, argued Y K. While representation is traditionally based on seniority, if some more senior past governors decided not to go for whatever reasons, the more junior ones could be selected ahead of time. The next appointment will be made shortly after DG Jason takes office this month.

RI is concerned about strategic planning at district level, which means strong leadership, humanitarian projects, and membership. Y K admitted while he admired the leadership displayed in the organization of this Council, he was often frustrated when delegates argued at length over something he considered pretty trivial. He was also not amused when e-clubs which were run on trial basis have become official, and in some districts, two e-clubs are allowed for language reasons. Again, cultural differences, if you might say.

But what amazed him was the introduction of the fifth avenue, ie, New Generations. Isn't it what we've already been doing? Why come under an offficial title? Y K's worry is not without reasons. With this recognition, projects which previously dealt with community service with young people or students involved will now come under the fifth avenue, and in practical terms it will affect how funds are allocated in the future.

We touched on a whole range of subjects, and inevitably we talked about our outgoing District Governor Ada. Well, I ran an editorial on her shortly before she took office, and suddenly she's finished her term. I still remember it was Y K who introduced her officially at the installation. That's a year already, laughed Y K. I said I was sometimes annoyed that Ada didn't upload her DG's newsletter on time, and Y K said he noticed some other people shared similiar views on the matter. Yes I remember how she talked about her ambitions, and her aspirations. I'm sure she remembers too.

I talked about all the glorious titles the District has created - Assistant Governors, Area Secretaries, this and that committee, etc. Incidentally, Y K's also Chair of China Extension Committee. It's difficult to understand the real nature of all these titles, but as Y K said, it gives you an air of importance, and instant recognition anyway. Well, Ada must have said something similar.

I've often thought that as the mastermind of the Rotary family, the role of a DG is more ceremonial than practical. Whatever he or she did, it should be more than pinning the Rotary pins, Y Klaughed. As a PDG of more than ten years standing, he knew what he was talking about.