Once again, Macau sails through that atypical season of a quiet and uneventful brand of local politics where and when anything goes. That is to say, in the season of wild-flowing rumors when anything looks possible, no idea is too absurd to have a following crowd, and no conspiracy theory is nonsense. It is that rough period prior to the official announcement of Chief Executive Ho Iat Seng´s team of secretaries. Nobody but the Chief Executive himself (discounting the upper role of Central Government) knows exactly who will take part in the next SAR government. Not even the ones already sounded out to keep their posts, switch portfolios, or debut in the top echelon of MSAR executive branch know for sure.
Silence is a prerogative of the power of the Chief Executive, like the reverse mode of the then candidate Ho Iat Seng’s electoral campaign. He did not say much about his thoughts on his government or other things, or the zeitgeist, to the small-circle members, to the people, or to associations. He asked for ideas, opinions, solutions, states of mind and spirit. Listening is an expression of power, while being heard – as Andrew Dobson formulates – is a conferring of power. Having said that, we allow ourselves to join the guessing game.
We shall begin with an earlier point about the difference between the continuum of power in the Macau Special Administrative Region and the continuity of policy and its performers. The former is a basic reading of the fundamental law, while the latter is a dispute, a competition for the power associated with each portfolio.
Secretary for Administration and Justice seems to be, for most observers, the sitting duck of Chui Sai On’s fading team. Sonia Chan had a limited role in her own portfolio, to the extent that alleged replacements are piling up at HIS door. From Commissioner of Audit, Ho Veng On, to André Cheong (Commissioner Against Corruption), to the resurrection of Cheng U, or Justice Fong Man Chong. However, the best option is already in place if the portfolio’s performance is to be boosted. Wong Sio Chak as Secretary for Security, despite some deservedly negative evaluations of some pieces of important legislation from liberal and pro-democracy activists, could be the secretary to remain. 20 years on, MSAR no longer suffers from a limited pool of talent to fill security positions, so it will be easy to select somebody from the apparatus.
The acting government member to retain his portfolio could be Lionel Leong, the Secretary of Finance. Despite the relative discretion he has been granted lately, the nature of the gaming brief, and the fact that the moment of the renewal of casino concessions demands an element of stability, the core business of the SAR is facing uncertainties it cannot handle by itself. Thus, the relative discretion Leong has been relegated to is, after all, a comparative advantage that may result in him keeping his position.
Or rather, MSAR would abide by the rule that something has to change in order…well, you know…and allow itself a “comeback kid” tale, no offence, and bring aboard the Ho Iat Seng team player, Lee Peng Hong.
Thus, Secretary for Finance would be drafted into a role in GBA, similar to the one Tam will act in the Lusophone world.
Multi-tasking and omnipresent, Alexis Tam has been long talked up for a high-profile, quasi-cultural diplomat status in the Lusophone sphere. Based in Portugal with rotating (MSAR) responsibilities towards Portuguese-speaking countries, his replacement should come from within Government House: the family endorsed O Lam. If not, a good bet is that made by fellow columnist Eric Sautedé: the “neutral” Agnes Lam.
Finally, the portfolio of the stressed and strained Raimundo Rosário, Public Works and Transportation is always a mess. Rosário may keep office briefly as a prize or a curse…warming up for Caifeng Li.