Kapok | The bickerers

Eric Sautedé

The contrast is quite shocking really: on the one hand, legislators who are either appointed or not even elected, but rather endorsed by corporations and traditional associations according to a method of selection in which one name corresponds to one seat — highly competitive indeed — and on the other hand truly elected members of that very same assembly, who have fought very hard to win their seat, and who will take every opportunity and use any mean to make the best out of this unique and very circumscribed forum of democratic debate to oversee, somehow control and to a certain degree make the whole system slightly accountable to the people of Macao.

And yet, the former are giving the latter lessons in solemnity! Complaining that posters and piles of paper cups with challenging messages directed towards the government are being detrimental to the dignity of this otherwise perfectly independent and reason-inspired body of “small circle” representatives who know only one thing: to vote in favor of whatever the government wants as long as their interests are preserved, even when they don’t actually understand and measure the ultimate consequences of the new laws.

The Land Law is but one example, but what an enlightening one it is! Conservative loyalists and self-serving legislators just realized a few months back that the law they had passed — “solemnly” one should add — in 2013 was actually making land grantees accountable for land they had failed to develop — usually after more than 25 years — and thus was somehow hurting either their own interests or the ones of their clients. They wanted (and still want) the law to be changed, or at least amended, or at the very least interpreted… in their favor of course!

The government they usually follow so blindly is now being deemed responsible for not explaining the ins-and-outs of article 48 — the non-renewal of concessions in case of failure to develop and operate, for being too slow in drafting an urban plan, for not providing the necessary authorizations in due course… in short, for fooling them! How can that be when they are supposedly one and the same? What a sense of betrayal they must have felt when the Chief Executive announced that he “strongly rejected” any amendment of the law! Mutiny was in the air. Article 75 of the Basic Law was being brandished: after all, a bill can be introduced by a legislator or a group of them if it does not relate to “public expenditure, political structure or the operation of the government“! Truly, a matter of rule of law and separation of powers! Montesquieu-inspired for sure. How solemn! How noble!

Luckily for us, the government learnt a lesson in May 2014, when it ended up being challenged by the street over the so-called Perks’ bill. Back then the proposal of law was favoring government officials themselves, and especially a soon-to-be- replaced highly unpopular governmental team widely perceived as both indecisive and incompetent. The mistake had been to trust the very same legislators who are now asking for the land law to be amended: for these people, anything goes and public opinion is of little consequence. Not being returned by universal suffrage, they are convinced that their own ceremonial hold over society through their positions in richly endowed associations can subvert any resistance, no matter how legitimate and prevalent it is.

Let it linger then; let it rot and wait for the right opportunity to change the rules of the game. Greed is acceptable only as long as it does not find echoes in unfairness. Apart for Zheng Anting who appears to be completely out of touch with public sentiment, nobody toys with mutiny claims anymore. The Chief Executive visits the Assembly and boasts about the generosity of the central authorities and his own accomplishments, and all the loyal legislators can do is ask for better-trained civil servants, more facilities for the elderly or free education for all in universities. Why and how? Only the frivolous poster and cardboard holders seem to care. Eric Sautedé

Categories Opinion