Ho Iat Seng, president of the Legislative Assembly (AL), said that May’s mass demonstration against the officials’ perks bill had taught lawmakers a lesson.
“We did learn a great lesson as there never were so many Macau residents rallied outside the legislative building, demanding for us to withdraw the bill.” According to the president, the AL now only accepts a proposal with a previous public consultation. “Now we require the government to submit the related consultation paper and its feedbacks together with the draft document. We didn’t require that before. (…) Or else the document will not be submitted to the general discussion,” he explained in a summary of the first sessional year of the 5th Legislative Assembly.
According to Ho, the Basic Law requires that the government should propose executive-led bills, which include bills regarding systems, finance, and government operations. “Under this circumstance, the AL has to accept the government’s bill. (…) But whether [or not] the bill is passed, lawmakers have a say during the plenary meeting,” he explained.
But Ho stressed that the AL has no right to withdraw the compensation bill: “Only the proposer (the government) can withdraw or suspend it. (…) There is no such a regulation in the AL’s rules of procedure. I can only stick to the current one if there’s no change to the rule.”
The president admitted that some residents had lost confidence in the AL after the perks bill, and pledged to work harder to regain their trust. This is the first summary that Ho has given since he was elected AL president last year. The AL’s first sessional year started on October 16, 2013 and closed this August 15.
A total of 47 plenary meetings were held, marking the highest number on record. The seven committees organized 144 committee meetings. During the one-year period, the AL accepted 16 law proposals from the government and six from lawmakers, as well as one resolution draft from the government. Amongst these, nine bills and one resolution, all from the government, have been completed and passed. One bill, namely the officials’ perks bill, was withdrawn after the mass demonstration. The government’s remaining six drafts will be continued in the next sessional year.
The six bills put forth by lawmakers were all from lawmakers Pereira Coutinho and Leong Veng Chai. “I have to reiterate that for each bill we have to hold consultations.” However, according to the president, public consultation was not the only thing missing. He said that the two lawmakers did not previously try to convince other lawmakers and even presented the same bills in two consecutive sessions. “When a bill is re-submitted, it must be with the respective changes. Why talk about consultations if not even the co-workers’ opinions matter?” Ho asked.
The president pointed out that launching a public consultation is difficult for a lawmaker. “Some bills require the consultation of certain groups [in order to be prepared]. It will be hard (for an individual) especially on topics of livelihood, which need to consult the entire community. To be frank, only the government has enough resources to do it.”
In addition, the president said that there should be “different voices” in the AL and that this should also be applied to the government. He noted that the Israeli cabinet has officials speaking from different perspectives. “If we only have people repeating the positive sides, we will have problems (…) such as the perks bill. We didn’t have enough ‘conflicts’ and the bill passed general discussion, then the problem occurred.”
To better play a supervisory role, Ho revealed that the AL had suggested that the government give feedback on the submission of draft bills to the AL.