Departing Vong Hin Fai – as an appointed bencher and one soon to replace fellow lawmaker and lawyer Leonel Alves as the Professional Interests functional constituency representative at the Nam Van floor – took the time and showed ingenuity in giving the Legislative Assembly a much-wanted gift by sorting out of the September 17 selection procedure. This was a proposal to ban lawmakers from displaying posters, placards, political banners and, wisely, other non-specified signage. Curiously, the new rules do not go as far as legislators’ clothing. That is why we titled this column a dress code for all seasons – we know that the ban on posters is a wild call to the imagination.
According to VHF, who is the chair of the relevant House Rules Committee, the idea behind the change of the terms of engagement on the floor is one “to uphold the solemnity of the legislature”. As an idea or objective however it looks to be disproportionate to the tepid record of the plenary sessions, which are seldom disturbed, God forbid, by the creativity of lawmakers. This one obviously limits the freedom of expression, and challenges the already challenged local political arena.
Unintentionally, Vong Hin Fai gave NMA democrats – who are already corset-constricted by the CAEAL spirit – reason to publicly cry foul over a proposal that significantly limits the freedom of expression.
Sulu Sou and others had the chance educate the chambers on Legislative Assembly solemnity and the dignity of the legislators by pointing to failings in transparency regarding the scrutiny of the government… according to the very terms of article 71 of the Basic Law. In doing this, NMA managed to build a 400 members list of support, and to enlist Pereira Coutinho, New Hope and an awkward partner in the departing powerhouse legislator, Chan Meng Kam. The latter not only condemned the ban on displaying political posters, he also made the case in support of the banners in the form of a candid interrogation: “What is the problem with displaying banners to government officials?”
Believed in some circles to be leaving his seat to consider other political options, Chan Meng Kam carefully chose his words to enlighten people about the context of Zhang Dejiang’s comments on banners. This urged VHF and Co. to make a restrictive modification. Chan’s subtlety is echoed in his last words: to the government officials; we repeat, to the government officials…not national officials! The mountains are high and the Emperor is far away”.
CMK is also helping to avoid the greying of a legislature that is very quietly reinterpreting, without much ado, the executive-led prominence within the definition of a SAR. In this, the Basic Law would be an experiment on how to go from authoritarianism to constitutionalism without losing the authority.
August’s first call for summer notes: First we give high marks to FATF’s positive evaluation of the effectiveness of MSAR’s regulatory framework on anti-money-laundering and anti-terrorism financing. Usually circumspect, SCMP did not hesitate to mark it as a “glowing report card”. That sounds like a thumbs-up to corruption-busters.
Second, on a light note to a serious matter, we prostrate in awe before an anomaly sold as innovation and due diligence. The three-day cleaning session at the Macau Peninsula Water Sewage Treatment plant posed a challenge to public health which was threatened with 72-hours of untreated discharge. It also challenges environmental public policy that has allegedly been reduced to third-world standards. Let us hope this three-day special operation – perhaps inspired by a mixture of intensive care and beauty care – does not give ideas for ongoing waste treatment…ça-va-seul!