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Monday, October 13, 2014, 13:04

Ombudsman flays columbaria lottery

By Timothy Chui/

HONG KONG - The Ombudsman has called for a first-come, first-served basis for allocating columbarium niches, accusing the current lottery system of turning a blind eye to the anxiety of anxious loved ones eager to inter their loved one’s remains.

Ombudsman Connie Lau called places for people to store the cremated remains of their relatives a basic service of Government to the community, on par with public housing and medical care.

She said the current arrangements, while administratively convenient, were contrary to public interest, saying a queuing system should be set up to strive to allocate all available spaces in an efficient and orderly manner.

Lau noted phased allocation spread out over three years left many places vacant, with more than 24,000 niches left unoccupied for two years despite a shortage of spaces.

She said the department had turned a blind eye to the anxiety of a waiting public, despite the government’s objective of increasing niche supply as soon as practicable.

She added if the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department, overseer of the city’s public columbaria, kept the ballot system, it should be enhanced to give priority to previously unsuccessful applicants.

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