Kapok | Paper tigers vs. paper planes

Eric Sautedé

The Sulu Sou case has been an embarrassment ever since the youngest directly elected legislator had his mandate suspended last December 4. Twenty-eight legislators ridiculed themselves and showed to the community their lack of respect for the independence of their own institution and sheer contempt for the very idea of popular sovereignty.

Cowardice was then added to silliness when we came to realize that the secrecy of the ballot would remain inviolable. One can only suspect that Messrs. Coutinho, Ng, Au and Miss Lam were the ones not falling for this disgraceful self-serving “Yes Minister” standpoint. As often in Macao, suspicions and conjectures are what we are left with.

For a while, we believed that the farce would have to stop if the very notion of separation of powers was to survive. In January, bowing down to the pressure of an educated few, sponsors of the legislature’s resolution aiming at banning a judicial review of the legislative process leading to Mr. Sou’s suspension had to back down and withdraw their suspicious attempt at preemptively hiding up their mess.

If people as professional as Vong Hin Fai and Kou Hoi In had been exposed for the utter incompetence of their hasty move, it was reasonable to imagine that due processes would be more strictly enforced in the future. The rescheduling of the trial to May 14 was a positive sign and followed a request coming from the defense, thus allowing both parties to lay down their arguments more thoroughly.

What we have seen on Monday and Tuesday this week during the trial, however, appears to indicate that some lessons were not learnt, leading the defense lawyers to denounce an attempt at turning the whole conundrum into a “political trial”: the crime of “aggravated disobedience,” for which Messrs. Sulu Sou and Scott Chiang stand accused of, entails a prison sentence of maximum two years… and without a hint of consideration for the proportionality of sentencing, this is what the prosecution is asking for!

While fooled Sin Fong residents or tricked small-time Pearl Horizon investors get a mere slap on the wrist and a few thousand patacas in fines for indeed seriously disturbing public order, young democrats would deserve a 2-year sentence, and for what exactly? Throwing paper planes in an empty garden and walking on the streets instead of the sidewalk for a few minutes in the most idle district of the peninsula?

As everybody has come to realize, the target is not two years, but rather a month or so: if sentenced for more than 30 days, Sulu Sou will lose his seat for the rest of the legislature.

To the dismay of the defense lawyers, the prosecution spared no effort — some of them barely legal — in trying to darken the whole picture: but by desperately trying to prove the “aggravation,” the prosecution somehow forgot that it had first to prove the “disobedience”!

On the side of tricks, charges that had been dismissed in pre-trial talks were shamelessly reintroduced in the discussion, without the defense being made aware and against all judicial procedural rules. Had the authorized route not been followed? Absolutely not, as the march actually did end under the Nam Vam Lake Nautical Centre white tent — not going up to the Legislative Assembly does not constitute a “disobedience”. I know: I was there and witnessed the talks with the police and the call from the organizers to disband! Thus, a mere 10 individuals went on their own to the Chief Executive official (empty) residence: never blocking the traffic, and never reaching Penha Hill Garden, as barriers had been actually set-up (in advance!) at the very entrance of the Estrada de Santa Sancha. For an order to be disobeyed, it has to be stated first, and a few minutes delay in reaction are not in themselves acts of disobedience.

The question is thus simple: will Messrs. Sou and Chiang be punished for actual crimes, or rather for portraying the Chief Executive as a pig on May 15, 2016? Or should we go back to May 2014?

Categories Opinion