Legislators claim immunity from corruption laws

Saturday, May 31, 2008
Issue 360, Page 1 & 5
Word count: 388
Published in: Macau Daily Times

By Poyi (Natalie) Leung

The electoral law reform yesterday aroused a three-hour debate between the government and lawmakers who were concerned that the new law could see them charged with electoral corruption.

In order to combat corruption the government is proposing the introduction of tougher provisions in the Legislative Council electoral law. The new amendments will see candidates found guilty of corruption liable to criminal charges in addition to losing all party votes.

During the general discussion at the Assembly’s plenary meeting yesterday, lawmaker Jose Coutinho pointed out that the amendment was contradictory to the 3/2000 law decree that entitles lawmakers the rights of not being arrested and detained as well as avoiding judicial procedures without the consent of the Legislative Council.

Mr Coutinho also reprimanded the government representatives led by Secretary for Administration and Justice Florinda Chan for not consulting the Assembly before submitting the reform proposal.

Secretary Chan’s legal advisor responded that the new provision will only apply to a lawmaker-elect [prior to swearing in], before they can exercise their judicial immunity.

However Legislative Council president Susana Chou countered that the government’s explanation means that re-elected lawmakers can never be charged with elections corruption and only newly-elected lawmakers can be punished.

Lawmaker Cheung Lup Kwan also said that the provision could increase corruption in elections as lawmakers must have to ensure their victory in order to avoid being prosecuted.

Ms Chou added that lawmakers did not want special privileges but it is the Council’s responsibility to defend their rights and immunity is a common legal practice around the world.

The government representatives were also criticised by the president for giving contrary explanations as an official later said the new provision would apply to lawmakers before and after they were sworn in.

Secretary Chan struggled to respond to the three hours of questioning, but assured lawmakers the reforms would not affect rights granted by the Macau Basic Law.

The general discussion will continue on Monday before lawmakers vote to pass the amendment to the standing committee for detailed deliberation.

The amendment bills of the Voter Registration Act and the Chief Executive Electoral Law gained the plenary meeting’s approval yesterday without drama.

Meanwhile, lawmakers also approved the bill to amend the 2008 government budget blueprint in order to reflect the 5,000 patacas and 3,000 patacas cash payment to Macau residents in July.


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