In an interview published in these pages, lawyer Paulo Cardinal summons up the sentiment of many of us in Macau that Portugal has been failing in its duties to be “vigilant” towards Macau’s affairs especially concerning a certain erosion of the Rule of Law.
His dismissal, along with his colleague Paulo Taipa, is but a symptom of growing authoritarian and arbitrary practices in violation of fundamental rights.
Let’s be clear: their dismissals were political sackings, because they offered opinions against decisions that were in breach of the Basic Law and, thus, of the Joint Declaration which is an international agreement that prevails until 2049. Or so it should.
Portugal has its share of responsibility in the erosion of fundamental principles precisely because, apparently, it has relinquished its legitimate right to intervene in the international arena whenever those rights – postulated by the Joint Declaration – were at risk. There was never a public word from Lisbon on these issues, as far as we know. Let us remind all that evil triumphs when men of good will stay silent.
Portugal is a nation, I firmly believe, of good will. But sometimes the silence is deafening.
The dollars and cents sought after by the much-hailed economic diplomacy cannot impair the sight of nations and men of good will. The grandeur of the Chinese economic reforms is appealing to any country, but cannot obfuscate the essential values that our country stands for, to trade them for a plate of lentils. Cooperation doesn’t mean abdication.
The responsibility of Portugal towards Macau is of historical proportions.
In the course of our multicentennial presence in Macau we have committed errors and wrong-doings but we also helped build a society based on the fundamental rights of freedom, legality and equality. And much of that was accomplished with the dedication and integrity of the common men and women.
This is not an appeal to look after the Portuguese community; we are to a certain extent privileged here compared to others. I care as much for our community as I do for all the communities that work and live in Macau without distinction of race, origin, creed or status.
Macau is also our place in the world. It is not an “extension” of Portugal, I don’t delve in that delusion, but it is an extension of our values, of our way of life.
Or so it should be.