​Saigon’s Captain Sidewalk asks to retract resignation as District 1’s vice leader

Doan Ngoc Hai wants to withdraw his resignation letter submitted in January

Doan Ngoc Hai (right) is pictured as he leads his team in a crackdown on sidewalk occupants in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Tuoi Tre

Doan Ngoc Hai, the star of a now-ended ambitious campaign to clear streets and return the sidewalks to pedestrians in Ho Chi Minh City, has asked to take back his decision to step down as deputy chairman of District 1.

The request to retract the resignation letter Hai submitted on January 8 has been sent to the municipal Party Committee, the city’s administration and District 1 leaders, according to the document reviewed by Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper on Tuesday.

Hai, 49, is dubbed ‘Captain Sidewalk,’ for spearheading the drive to clear sidewalks of debris, illegal structures, and street vendors, so pedestrians can ‘win back’ what is meant for them.

The ‘sidewalk clearing’ campaign began in early 2017 and continued well into October the same year, before coming to an unexpected end, followed by Hai’s decision to resign in January this year.

Upon taking the role, the ‘Captain Sidewalk’ said he would step down if his signature campaign failed, which he did.

In the letter to have his resignation withdrawn, Hai said he has received huge sharing and support from local leaders since he asked to step down from his post in January. The leaders also convinced him to continue his role as vice leader of District 1.

The official said he has taken all of those pieces of advice into serious consideration, and eventually decided that he still wants to devote his efforts to the development of the city.

Hai said he is willing to take any tasks assigned and move to work at even the most dangerous and challenging places.

A leader from the Party Committee of District 1 confirmed to Tuoi Tre on Tuesday afternoon that he had received Hai’s letter to retract his resignation and had forwarded it to the personnel division of the municipal Party Committee, which is authorized to process such a request.

During the heyday of the ‘sidewalk reclaiming’ campaign, Hai had his team slap tickets on drivers of wrongly parked cars, tow the vehicles away, demolish unapproved structures and send street vendors into organized areas.

Why the campaign failed

Even though the campaign leader was largely supported by the community, who had longed to be able to walk leisurely on sidewalks free of any occupants, Hai also faced fierce objection from business owners and even death threats from vendors.

Hai submitted his letter to step down, saying he had “failed to deliver my promise with the people,” on January 8, when his ambitious project had been effectively abandoned.

Hai said in the resignation letter that he had thought of finding a way to clean up sidewalks across District 1 in March 2016, when he was tasked with overseeing the locale’s urban-related issues.

“Between January and October 2017, my efforts to restore order to the streets of District 1 had generated a positive impact on a national scale, being held in high regard by the prime minister,” Hai wrote in the letter.

“However, my actions had interfered with the interests of the many parking lots, hotels, restaurants, and households that reaped huge profits – of thousands of billions of Vietnamese dong [multimillion dollars] – from the district’s sidewalks, as well as those of a significant number of officials who have a symbiotic relationship with those violators,” Hai continued.

Hai wrote that he felt he had not fulfilled his promise or lived up to the expectations of retired officials who supported his 'sidewalk-clearing' campaign.

“Therefore, resignation is an adequate option,” he wrote.

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