Typhoon Hato | No comment on whether Leong should remain in post

Florence Leong (left) and Fong Soi Kun (center) pictured during a press conference

The Chief Executive has ordered disciplinary procedures against the Meteorological and Geophysical Bureau’s (SMG) deputy director Florence Leong and former director Fong Soi Kun, following the disclosure this week of some of the findings from an independent commission’s investigation on the response by authorities to Typhoon Hato.

Following the August 23 tragedy, Fong resigned under heavy criticisms brought by the devastation of the deadly typhoon, while Leong was promoted for a brief period to head the SMG.

Leong headed the bureau for several weeks until the director of the Environmental Protection Bureau (DSPA), Raymond Tam, was appointed as the new interim director of the weather department on September 20.

The SMG’s current deputy director is still in the position despite being accused of neglecting her duties in the report conducted by the independent commission.

The Times contacted the office of the Secretary for Transport and Public Works, Raimundo do Rosário, which oversees SMG, to inquire as to whether Leong will remain as the bureau’s deputy director while subject to disciplinary proceedings. The office stated it “will not give a comment.”

Yesterday, the Times contacted Leong via the SMG’s spokesperson to ask whether she intends to suspend her mandate or resign given that she now faces disciplinary proceedings. However, no reply was received by press time.

Local lawyer Sérgio de Almeida Correia told the Times that a suspension is not mandatory, arguing that if there is no inconvenience to the service, the worker can remain in his or her post. 

“The civil servants legal regime implies that the entity instructing the disciplinary procedure may propose the suspension of the employee, although the suspension is not mandatory,” he said.

According to the law, the suspension takes place if the disciplinary breach is punishable with a suspension penalty ranging between 241 days and one year or compulsory resignation and if remaining in the post is inconvenient to the service or impedes the condut of the investigation.

Almeida Correia further added that if the worker is suspended, the suspension can reach 90 days, though they will still receive full salary during that time.

The initial timeframe of 90 days can be extended until a court verdict is reached. 

Last month, the Commission Against Corruption (CCAC) issued a report on the SMG’s typhoon forecasting procedures. The report noted that the bureau, when issuing typhoon forecasts and warning signals for tropical cyclones, relied on the personal judgments and decisions of the former director. The report also alluded to the SMG’s deputy director and made mention of rumors that Leong’s religious beliefs played a role in the bureau’s decision-making. The CCAC admitted that it was difficult to verify whether the rumors, sourced from the internet, were true or unsubstantiated.

“Nevertheless, according to the personnel the CCAC got in touch with, the rumors were widely circulated in the bureau and everyone [had] heard of them,” the report states.

The CCAC questioned Fong, however, he stated that he had never read the posts, thus was not in a position to determine if the rumors were true – a response that the CCAC criticized.  LV/PB

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