Lawmaker Sulu Sou has filed a complaint regarding what he claims to be the unlawful behavior of the Legislative Assembly’s Committee of Rules and Mandates. The committee adjourned yesterday to discuss topics involving Sou.
According to Sou, to his surprise, “this was not the first meeting of the committee to discuss these matters. This is actually the second one. The first one, I don’t know even when it happened, as we [the lawmakers] were not informed about it.”
In Sou’s opinion, this is a very concerning development, as the committee which has the duty of issuing rule-based opinions cannot disregard the rules of the Legislative Assembly (AL).
Sou, who attended yesterday’s meeting as an observer with José Pereira Coutinho, told the media that he had expressed such concerns immediately to committee president Kou Hoi In, who in turn, replied that the first meeting was an “internal meeting” and that was why no other lawmakers, besides those on the committee, were notified. This answer did not satisfy Sou, who now says he is appealing to AL president Ho Iat Seng in writing.
Regarding the closed-door meeting, committee members told the media through AL staff that they would not be available to make any comments. Sou said that two topics were discussed which the committee “should have discussed in the previous meeting which we did not know about,” he said. “[The meeting] today was mostly to discuss a few details from the final report with the opinions of the committee, which will be forwarded to the House of Rules.”
The topics under discussion were related to the AL plenary session in which the amendments to the “Rights of Assembly and Demonstration Law” were voted upon. At the time, Sou proposed that instead of transferring the prior warning and definition of times, spaces and routes of demonstrations from the Civic and Municipal Affairs Bureau to the Public Security Police Force, these should be transferred directly to the Chief Executive.
The president of the AL noted that since Sou’s request had not been submitted at least five days prior, it could not be addressed by the plenary. Ho further noted that, as far as he understood, at this stage only a vote on whether the proposal ought to be returned to the 1st Standing Committee for detailed scrutiny could be held at this stage.
When replying to Sou’s written appeal on the matter, Ho questioned the legality of such a procedure and forwarded it to the committee to analyze.
Although he acknowledged that the outcome would not affect the approval of the law approval since a lot of time had passed, Sou noted that according to his observations, the legal advisor of the committee gave reason to Sou on the legal procedure of his written appeal, noting that the regiment of the AL does not contain any restrictions to lawmakers’ appeals.
As Sou noted, “We tried to practice our power [as lawmakers] and [for the] next opportunity, we already know that this is a legal procedure that we can use.”
The other topic the committee discussed was related to a written protest issued by Sou, this time against the behavior of AL president Ho Iat Seng, who, during Sou’s plenary presentation, made “paternalistic” remarks regarding the time that Sou’s mandate had been suspended, noting that the AL “treated him well and continued to pay his salary.”
Sou considered the wording offensive and he made note of it in a written protest to the president, which Sou wants to see included in the AL’s journal records.
The committee, or at least some of its members, disagreed and expressed feelings that such an episode and Sou’s consequent written protest should be removed, or rather should not be included in AL historical records for future reference.
Sou could not disagree more and said: “I want to make a historical record regarding this matter, so I cannot agree with the conclusion of the legal advisor [of the committee] on this matter.” According to Sou, the legal advisor’s opinion went along the lines that if a lawmaker “did not express their protest orally during the plenary session, it cannot be included in the AL journal at a later stage via a written protest.” He noted that the explanation was “not a suitable one,” adding: “The Article 99 letter G [of the AL rulebook] says that lawmakers have the right to a written protest regardless of whether there was or was not an oral protest at the time.”
When questioned as to whether the topic of Sou being accused of disrespecting the AL by using the words “lap sap wui” (rubbish assembly) was addressed by the committee, Sou said, “I don’t think so, at least not this time. But again, I can’t confirm if they disscussed it or not since they are apparently having secret meetings.”