Secretary Wong Sio Chak recently said that the prosecution against lawmaker Sulu Sou has no political motivations and that the case runs its due course in the courts.
Proclaiming that “no one is above the law” regarding Sou’s prosecution is exactly the same as saying “no restrictions” should be countenanced by citizen Chui Sai Cheong in taking up the vice presidency of the legislative branch just because he happens to be the Chief Executive’s brother.
The matters are of a different nature, but both arguments serve one purpose and one purpose only: to deceive the people.
Indeed, focusing on the most imminent case, Sou is to a certain extent “above the law”: In our system, the lawmaker has parliamentary immunity from criminal prosecution while he sits in the Legislative Assembly.
The most benevolent rationale for the legal status of immunity for members of a parliament is to allow them to argue freely without fear of being prosecuted for slander or libel.
This is not the case with Sou since the court’s request to the assembly has to do with an alleged act of civil disobedience during a protest which occurred prior to his election. However, under Macau law even in this case he is entitled to the immunity unless the majority of the house decides otherwise.
Everybody understands this is a “petty” offense that should not warrant the suspension of the immunity because the “political mandate is of higher importance when compared to the degree of graveness of the prosecution,” as former veteran lawmaker and member of the Executive Council, Leonel Alves, said over the weekend.
In an interview with Radio Macau, Alves added that “the parliamentary immunity should only be lifted in extreme offenses,” implying that this is not the case here.
The crime Sou is accused of warrants a two-year maximum prison sentence under our penal code, so clearly it doesn’t fall under the category of an “extreme” offense.
Today, in a secret ballot, the plenary will vote the destiny of young lawmaker Sulu Sou.
His fellow lawmakers must understand that it is not “only” the political future of Sou that is at stake; it is also the dignity of the legislative branch of the government.
The Legislative Assembly will lose its last drop of credibility if it decides for the suspension. By doing so – and its record of rubber-stamp legislature augurs badly – the AL will prove Secretary Wong’s wrong. It will prove that this is, indeed, a case of political persecution to silence a promising pro-democratic voice.
We hope we are wrong and that Sou’s fellow lawmakers do the right thing.