Rear Window | Executive privilege

Severo Portela

Once again, Chief Executive Chui Sai On left the government building for Nam Van Lake’s Legislative Assembly to take part in a plenary session called to debate matters explicitly related to his 2018 policy address. Once again, the bi-annual session was a non-eventful meeting, smooth and polite as they can be in an Executive-led system, helped by a carefully staged Q&A in which lawmakers submit their questions in advance and dare not go astray.

No wonder the session was to be dominated, if not hijacked, by the challenges and opportunities to be found in the Greater Bay Area framework for the MSAR: an ambitious Central Government roadmap not yet completely drafted or, rather, still under construction.

We should bear in mind that there is no problem in exchanging ideas on a project of such relevance to Macau. But in doing so, the Legislative Assembly Q&A opted for not discussing current issues of the utmost importance like the amendment of the Macau Special Administrative Region judiciary law, the updating of the security apparatus and its regulations, or the overall gaming outlook around the region. Brief and light allusions are not enough.

Regarding the long-awaited proposal from Sonia Chan to “smooth and expedite” trial proceedings, among other improvements (still in the pipeline and allegedly ready to be delivered to the Legislative Assembly and soon to be tabled), we hear that it will overthrow that absurdity and lighten the aberration which excludes some citizens from the right to appeal. To make things clear, disgraced former Secretary Ao Man Long and disgraced Prosecutor General Ho Chio Meng would have been given the right to appeal from a sentence handed down by the Court of Second Instance, their first, instead of being gridlocked at the Court of Final Appeal, better known by its Portuguese acronym TUI. The proposal may not, however, be extended to the number one in MSAR, a kind of Executive privilege.

Unfortunately, the will to right some wrongs will not allegedly be extended to that singular idea which prevents foreign judges from hearing or ruling on matters of national security. Secretary for Administration of Justice denies that the idea is discriminatory, rather, on the contrary, one that is justly driven by the idea to expedite trial proceedings.

The idea of selecting judges amounts to a very unusual way of conceiving this question; since, objectively, while preventing some judges to rule on any matter is to put up a corps of special judges. We are at the same time inducing the idea of special courts. And the effects of the symmetry do not stop here, even if the rationale seems topsy-turvy: special judges, special courts, and a special law. At the crossroads, all converge in a scary way: the national security law aka article 23 and its upcoming supplementary regulations are harmless but are made special by the internal security law and a corresponding bureau or new public department to address security matters.

Perhaps this is nothing more than the new security paradigms making their presence felt, but we have to confess that when we picture this legal and enforcement apparatus together with legislator Mak Soi Kun’s calls to further upgrade the CCTV system to a surveillance system of the SKY NET type, we do not feel intent on reviewing the movie. “Some residents suggested (to Mak Soi Kun) that besides installing more CCTV cameras, Macau can refer to the mainland practice of using artificial intelligence and big data to predict events, thus establishing Macau’s Sky Net… Macau can introduce a real-time pedestrian system in order to develop a three-dimensional security prevention and control system”.

This begs three questions: With whom is Mak Soi Kun talking and who will guard the guards themselves (ques custodiet ipsos custodes)?

Categories Opinion