What a harmonious society should mean

Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Issue 777, Page 2
Word count: 576
Published in: Macau Daily Times

By Poyi (Natalie) Leung

As our Chief Executive-Elect vowed to build a harmonious society, I hope the word “harmony” in his dictionary also refers to peaceful ethnic co-existence and mutual respect between the Chinese and non-Chinese communities.

Of course all non-Chinese communities, no matter the Philippines, Indonesian, Thai, or even the British, American, and Japanese, deserve equal respect from others and especially from the government who should take the lead in building such kind of social harmony.

Macau, having been greatly influenced by the Portuguese settlement as early as in the 16th century and having recognised its historic background through retaining Portuguese as one of the official languages, there is little doubt that the presence of the Portuguese, or Macanese community is relatively more important to the region.

As I just mentioned, the government should set an example and always take the lead in showing the Macau population, in which ethnic Chinese constitute the majority, that attention to the Portuguese community should not be fading away under the governance of the Special Administrative Region.

I would say the simplest way to understand to what extent a government respects its people is to observe how the media are being treated.

It is said that the mass media is a bridge between the people and the government. As such, I believe that the local Portuguese journalists shall be given the same level of attention as their Chinese counterparts, for example, in government-hosted media events or press conferences.

The most common and straightforward way for people to learn about the government’s policies and decisions is through reading newspapers or watching television news. If the Portuguese media are not being fairly treated in terms of the amount of information being given and other kinds of arrangements such as simultaneous interpretation or translation service, the chance of their readers and audience to fully know what’s going on in the government thus is being minimised.

In the past two weeks, I witnessed the difficulty of the Portuguese journalists to understand what Mr Chui had said or what the associations had proposed in every election campaign event. You cannot blame those members of the associations for not being able to speak Portuguese or English, but it should be Mr Chui’s election office’s responsibility to give the non-Chinese reporters a hand, perhaps as simple as by arranging an interpreter.

It’s still a mystery for me that an election candidate wasn’t keen at all on speaking to journalists especially during the campaign period. And to make it worse, he gave exclusive interviews to only one (Chinese) Macau newspaper and even to one Hong Kong newspaper, just simply ignoring the importance of the Portuguese community, despite the election office had repeatedly promised the Portuguese journalists a first-hand interview once the campaign period kicked off.

The only justification I could think of is that the candidate didn’t need much publicity – and it does make sense because he didn’t rely on the support from the civilians but the 300 Election Committee members with many of them coming from those associations he paid visit to.

Our Chief Executive-Elect has repeatedly pledged to listen to public opinions. Certainly it’s a good sign but keeping close and open communications with the media is also one of the essential means to create effective interactions between government officials and citizens.

Eliminating unnecessary bureaucracy and meeting the press regularly won’t only increase transparency but also make good use of the positive role media can play in society.

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