Chui Sai On sailed dire waters through his two terms as the MSAR’s second Chief Executive, indeed. Despite the evaluation one can make of Chui’s overall performance, now, with the final stretch hanging just a stone throw or semester away, almost everybody would forecast an uneventful soft landing on December 20th. Everybody and everything should be in place to follow up the Macau SAR’s carefully crafted change of leadership and government… as if it was not the same leadership and the same government.
What comes to mind is the always quoted Lampedusa’s and Tancredi Falconeri, “For things to remain the same, things will have to change”. Discarding the dispute on the integrity of a quote which has gained its own wings, we do have to mention the paradoxical and sarcastic, or rather ironic, dimension to justify changes in things taken for granted in the MSAR.
We can begin with the replacement of Ho Iat Seng – now CE in-waiting – as president of the Legislative Assembly (AL). Contrary to conventional wisdom about an incumbent vice-president ascending to the presidency of Macau’s legislative body, vice Chui Sai Cheong lost the job to veteran lawmaker and First Secretary of the Executive Committee Kou Hoi In.
No reason other than the alleged outlook of conflicting interests during a period of five months seems to justify the red card to the Chief Executive’s brother and vice-president of the watch-body of the Executive (Article 71). The collusion seems to be palatable just for those who do not see separation of powers in the Basic Law.
More than this, the hesitation mood that marred the decision process to select a replacement for Ho Iat Seng came to raise doubts about some issues related to the Legislative Assembly: on political eligibility and on economic topology.
Bruce Kwong, an assistant professor at UMac, told a Chinese-language daily on the eve of the decision to select Kou that it would be “beneficial” to the AL should a directly-elected legislator be selected to lead the Legislative, on the grounds that it could improve public recognition. Perhaps a formula to add credibility to the body.
Besides, in an either or, Kwong said it will be also “appropriate” for an indirectly elected legislator to be selected to chair the AL. Both, Chui Sai Cheong and the now president Kou Hoi In qualify as functional constituencies representatives.
Professor Kwong jumped conveniently over the political contradiction it will be to select an appointed legislator for the leadership of the House. He made the case for both the indirectly elected rivals to the job: made the case for Chui Sai Cheong arguing that he would be a reassuring factor of impartiality in the course of the gaming concessions around the corner; made the case for Kou Hoi In on the grounds of his CV and seniority. Certainly, the UMac teacher found it irrelevant that a long time ago – and for a short period of time (almost one year) – Kou Hoi In was a director at VIP gambling promoter AMAX.
Finally, another example about how changing things in the MSAR essentially remain the same: the Chief Executive Spokesperson’s Office came to deny unequivocally that Chui Sai On will head the new “Macau Investment Development Fund Management Company” after he leaves office in late-December. The idea to establish such a fuzzy “Investment Fund” had been penned by the Chui Sai On government while drafting Macau’s First Five-Year Development Plan.
The CE cannot take for granted that he could chair a new body he created from scratch during his tenure, irrespective of the quality of the project.