Bold and critical – Coutinho’s ‘New Hope’

Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Issue 748, Page 2
Word count: 822
Published in: Macau Daily Times

By Poyi (Natalie) Leung

Deeming the current Legislative Assembly is unable to effectively oversee government actions, Jose Pereira Coutinho is hoping to bring change by trying to retain his directly elected seat and partnering with Rita Santos who he described is a woman of “strong character”.

Having been a lawmaker since 2005, Coutinho told the Macau Daily Times in his office yesterday that if he is elected to stay at the legislature for four more years, it will be his last term and afterwards his role will be carried on by Rita Santos.

“I’m some way tired and need help to better serve society. I need a companion who has the quality to work as a full-time legislator, think independently, put people’s interest first and also has the courage to denounce,” Coutinho said.

“Rita Santos is someone who I trust also wants change. She is a strong character…has 29 years of public experience and expertise in auditing,” he added.

Coutinho said it took him a long time to persuade Santos to come to the front and run for the Legislative Assembly Election this year as a team representing the nominating committee “New Hope”.

Santos is the chief of the Macau Supporting Office to the Secretariat of China and Portuguese Speaking Countries Economic Cooperation Forum and also the general assembly president of the Macau Civil Servant’s Association.

With Coutinho and Santos being respectively the first and second candidates on the list, Leong Veng Chai and Melina Tam Leng I, both public servants with decades of experience, will be the third and fourth candidates designated by “New Hope” this year.

Coutinho said he is currently arranging the candidates’ priorities on the list and wanted to fill all the 12 places.

“Our candidates will share the same belief backed up by people from different independent sectors that can guarantee that once elected, they won’t have any difficulty to uphold people’s interest as the top priority – that’s the message of ‘New Hope’ to the Macau people,” Coutinho told the MDTimes.

The deadline to submit lists of candidates and platforms is on July 13, and Coutinho’s “New Hope” will finalise its platform after collecting opinions from friends.

Of the 600 suggestions already received, public housing, health, a clean government and accountability in the government were issues that came first.

“The government fails in its duty to prioritise people’s interest and instead emphasises on a short list of business people’s personal interest,” Coutinho said.

“A change should be reflected once the next Chief Executive takes oath of office…,” he added.

When asked how optimistic he was in seeing such change, the 52-year-old lawmaker said that he always had “a hope”, and now he even has a “new hope” in the next government.

“I trust that they [the new government] should do better than the one that is going to end,” he added.

At the same time, “New Hope” believed that measures to solve social issues, including public housing and government quarters for civil servants, should be executed without any more delays.

To eliminate the monopoly of public healthcare, Coutinho also promotes the construction of a new public hospital in Taipa as prompted by the growing population.

“Healthcare should be free for all Macau residents. We should benefit from the gaming resources,” he said.

“Macau has an aging population and the government should help those who had contributed to the development of Macau,” he added.

In addition, Coutinho believed that Macau needs quality transportation.

“Quality public transportation means fair fares and efficiency routes so that people can trust the services,” he said.

“I’m not happy with the bus fares right now because the government is subsidising [the two bus companies]. It’s not the reality of the fares,” he added.

However, the lawmaker is being critical to the light rail system because of lack of transparency and “companies were chose behind the scene to do consultancy services”.

In regards to the Legislative Assembly, Coutinho welcomes more new and young faces to be a watchdog to oversee government actions and the policy-making process.

“Legislators are quite restricted to speak up freely. The number of legislators who really speak on behalf of the people is quite small,” Coutinho said.

“Sometimes many legislators talk, but when it comes to voting, they change the mind and always support the government,” he added.

Hence, the lawmaker is happy to see many lists of candidates come out this year.

He said he hoped that the number of lists in this year’s election will exceed that in 2005 and go beyond 20.

“It reflects that people’s participation is high and they are interested in civic matters and political issues,” Coutinho said.

However, he said it was a pity that the government did not increase the number of directly elected seats “by at least two more” to 14.

Coutinho wished his competitors “all the best” and said he hoped each team will do a “good job and get a good result”.

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