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Fatal incompetence

Son Nguyen
Friday,  Jun 9,2017,09:08 (GMT+7)
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Fatal incompetence

Son Nguyen

The issue surrounding Son Tra Peninsula becomes sizzling hot in local media again, but taking center stage this time around is not tourism development itself, but the incompetence at the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism when dealing with criticism of tourism development on the peninsula. Behind the clumsy management by the ministry and its subordinate agency Vietnam National Administration for Tourism (VNAT), one can still see how tourism authorities are preoccupied with the determination to tap Son Tra.

The problem began with a seminar convened on May 30 in Hanoi by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, where Danang Tourism Association Chairman Huynh Tan Vinh challenged those who advocate tourism development on Son Tra. Vinh asserted that the master plan on Son Tra tourism is rife with irregularities, and is not in accordance with a slew of prevailing laws, including the Law on Forest Protection and Development, the Investment Law, the Biodiversity Law, and the Law on Natural Resources and Marine Environment among others.

Three days later, Deputy Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Huynh Vinh Ai on June 2 sent a correspondence to the Danang Tourism Association, asking Vinh to give a full account of his reasoning at the seminar, and demanding the association to take measures against its chairman. The correspondence stresses that Vinh’s arguments at the seminar are “subjective, groundless and misleading,” says Nguoi Lao Dong.

The correspondence has backfired at once, with opinions on social media overwhelmingly protesting the demand as illegal and the ministry as overstretching its authority. On June 4, the deputy minister issued another document to revoke the correspondence and made apologies to Vinh and the public.

In his explanations to local media these days, Deputy Minister Huynh Vinh Ai accepts responsibility for controversial contents in the correspondence, but also blames VNAT for preparing a poorly scripted document for him to sign on.

“On the evening of June 2, VNAT sent me a correspondence on Son Tra Peninsula tourism for signing. Glancing at the paper, I refused to sign it because the contents were problematic. Then the head of VNAT explained to me the contents were from instructions of Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam. So I made some changes to the document before signing it,” Ai is quoted in Lao Dong as giving his explanations.

He furthers that “when protests on social media heated up, Deputy PM Vu Duc Dam said he did not give such instructions, so I sought advice from the minister and revoked the correspondence… It is the VNAT misinterpreting the deputy prime minister’s instructions that led to this regrettable incident.”

The deputy minister also explains that “I did not get the instructions direct from the deputy prime minister, but via VNAT. When VNAT says it is the deputy prime minister’s instruction, I trusted its words.”

Meanwhile, Nguyen Van Tuan, head of VNAT, says he does not misunderstand the deputy prime minister’s instructions, but “when making such instructions in black and while, we have made errors,” according to Thanh Nien. Tuan also makes formal apologies to the public and the ministry’s leaders, especially the deputy minister.

In his explanations, Tuan says he just wants Vinh from the Danang Tourism Association to give further details on how the master tourism plan for Son Tra goes against several laws as stated by the association chairman at the seminar, but such intentions are wrongly worded, according to Nguoi Lao Dong.

Such explanations, however, are seen by many as a move to cover up the fatal mistake by the ministry as well as VNAT. At the same time it reveals the incompetence of such senior officials.

On the sidelines of the National Assembly sitting in Hanoi, Deputy Le Thanh Van tells assembled reporters that the deputy minister has overstretched his authority when demanding the association chairman to be disciplined, according to Lao Dong.

Le Hong Son, formerly a senior official at the Ministry of Justice, says in Nguoi Lao Dong that the leader who signed on such a wrongful correspondence is to blame first. “Upon signing any document, the leader must be the first to be responsible, and cannot blame his consulting assistants, although such assistants prepared such a poor document,” he is quoted in the newspaper.

In Tuoi Tre, lawyer Pham Van Chung says the ministry’s correspondence demanding a full account from the Danang Tourism Association carries no legal foundation. The association as a trade and professional organization is not affiliated to the ministry, so State intervention in this case is wrong.

Apart from the illegal grounds for the correspondence, details from this incident also expose the incompetence of tourism officials.

Explanations by the deputy minister and the director of VNAT manifest poor coordination and collaboration between the ministry and the tourism body as its subordinate agency. The deputy minister says VNAT has misunderstood instructions from the deputy prime minister, while VNAT’s Nguyen Van Tuan denies this, saying he well comprehends the instructions, and the errors are simply the wrong choice of words.

When pressed by Nguoi Lao Dong why VNAT did not issue a correspondence by itself, but resort to the ministry’s capacity, Tuan says a correspondence by the ministry carries greater weight, which hints at the intention to exert greater pressure on the tourism association on one hand, and to shift the ball of responsibility to the ministry’s court.

After earlier public protests against the construction of accommodation facilities on Son Tra Peninsula, Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam has instructed the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, VNAT and Danang City to organize seminars to listen to practitioners and scientists to see whether it is necessary to amend the master plan. The seminar in Hanoi on May 30 is meant to implement such instructions.

However, outspoken people with critical thinking like the chairman of the Danang Tourism Association have been poured cold water when challenging the master plan. Such incompetent behaviors and practices at an important agency like the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism show such authorities can hardly assume the leadership in the country’s culture and tourism respects, according to Tuoi Tre.

Commenting on the ministry’s competence, deputy Le Thanh Van says in Lao Dong that the minister has assumed his responsibility for over one year, and “(I wonder) whether the minister has learned how the State machine at his ministry is working, and how personnel in the ministry are capable of fulfilling their duties.”

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