The lawmakers elected on the New Hope (Nova Esperança) list, José Pereira Coutinho and Leong Veng Chai, say that the Legislative Assembly (AL) has failed to comply with its duties in at least four areas.
The two lawmakers asserted the claim yesterday during a press conference at the Macau Civil Servants’ Association (ATFPM). At the conference, Coutinho and Leong provided an annual review of the AL’s accomplishments, now that the legislative year has ended.
Coutinho stated at the conference that one of the AL’s major problems is its lack of “transparency and credibility,” stating that “the majority of the works developed by the AL are still ‘the secret of all secrets.’”
The remark refers to a topic that Coutinho has been concerned with for a long time, namely that work conducted by lawmakers inside the standing committees is arranged in closed-door meetings. The press has only indirect access to legislative proceedings.
Coutinho also referred to the issue of the “radical change of opinion” by some lawmakers, which “affects the credibility and trust [of people in the legislature].”
He cited the example of last week’s events at the Assembly regarding the bill to promote changes on the so-called “Rental Law”. In this case, “lawmakers were tenderers of the bill [… but] in the very end, [when it came to the vote] they abstained” he said.
In Coutinho’s opinion, such rapid changes in opinion have to do with the lack of a “Declaration of Interests” from all legislators in Macau. Coutinho has repeatedly called for declarations of conflicts of interest to be made mandatory.
“If next door in Hong Kong they have this [declaration of interests] for lawmakers, [I ask the] members of the government and judges why we in Macau cannot have it too?”
According to Coutinho, such an instrument should be included and “[made] public on the AL’s webpage, accessible to everyone.”
“I’m not saying that it is wrong to have professional interests; I’m just saying that everyone should be able to know clearly which particular interests are held by this or that person.”
Coutinho also asserted that legislators need to be “full-time lawmakers” to have enough time to perform their job well and serve the population.
As an example, he mentioned Leong’s record-breaking result as the AL’s “most active lawmaker” in the latest legislative year, noting that he was only capable of achieving such results because he “[dedicates] the totality of his time to his lawmaking duties.”
Finally, Coutinho called for a liability regime for main government officials.
Replying to media questions on the positive and negative aspects of the concluded legislature’s works, the lawmaker said there were “many bills and topics that we went through, and they were all important.”
He referred specifically to the laws on heritage protection, urban planning and the land law, which he said “demanded a lot of focus and consideration for the outcomes [of such laws].”
He remarked on the “special sensibility” of the two New Hope-listed lawmakers to address these issues as “we both had a long career in the public sector as law enforcers.”
Coutinho concluded that their shared practical experience had equipped them with special expertise whenever a bill relating to heritage protection, urban planning and land law was discussed.