Finding translators – a major obstacle for legislative candidates

Friday, August 28, 2009
Issue 804, Page 3
Word count: 1110
Published in: Macau Daily Times

By Poyi (Natalie) Leung

It seems that finding a translator to translate political platforms and other information from Chinese to Portuguese or English has become one of the major challenges the legislative election candidates are facing in this pre-campaign period.

The Macau Daily Times understands that the lists headed by Agnes Lam Iok Fong and Casimiro Pinto will launch their election campaigns in Chinese, Portuguese and English.

As for the other 14 lists, the majority are limited to Chinese information due to the difficulty to find suitable translators in Macau.

Eight days before the campaign period officially kicks off on September 5, candidate Paul Pun Chi Meng, the secretary-general of Caritas Macau, told the MDTimes yesterday he is still looking for people to translate the political platform and other related materials from Chinese to English and from English to Portuguese to be put at his special campaign website.

“It’s very hard to find a suitable translator as he or she must have to truly understand my mind and what the platform means,” Mr Pun said.

Yet, he insisted that it is necessary to have the information available in those three languages because Macau is an “international city”.

Although leaflets will only be in Chinese, Mr Pun said there will be two sentences in English and Portuguese respectively to direct people to visit the website.

In addition, the political platform will be printed in Chinese and in Braille for the less than 100 visually impaired voters in Macau, he added.

This year each list of candidates is given the opportunities to promote themselves in their own special announcements broadcast on TDM and Radio Macau.

Mr Pun’s announcement had been produced in Chinese. But he said that he will try to provide Portuguese subtitles or a Portuguese version so that it can be broadcast on the Portuguese TV channel and radio station.

Mr Pun is not very certain if he fails to do so will the Chinese announcement still be broadcast to the Portuguese community.

“But I assume it should be alright because the government can’t deprive the Portuguese community of their right to know,” he said.

Meanwhile, another candidate and incumbent lawmaker Kwan Tsui Hang told the MDTimes she encountered the same obstacle in the course of preparing for the campaign.

Hence, it forced her and her team to give up providing Portuguese information to relevant voters.

“We have the difficulty to find someone to translate our Chinese materials into Portuguese, especially when the content is long. I feel regret that the Portuguese community is not able to know us better,” Ms Kwan said.

“There must be some impact [to lose some votes],” she added.

Ms Kwan is also not sure whether their public announcements will be broadcast on the Portuguese TV channel and radio station, “we’ve let the Electoral Affairs Commission to handle it”.

“But even though our announcements are only in Chinese, the government still needs to let the Portuguese community know about this, plus many Portuguese residents here actually know some Cantonese,” she said.

Nine million patacas ceiling

According to the Legislative Election Law which was revised early this year, the maximum budget for each list running for the election is set at 8.94 million patacas this year.

It was calculated based on the regulation that the amount must be below 0.02 percent of the total revenue estimated in the 2009 Budget.

In the 2005 legislative election, the ceiling was at 4.32 million patacas.

Even though the amount was not decided by free will, Mr Pun said it is unnecessary to double the budget.

“Wealthy lists may think the ceiling is being set too low, but some other lists such as us that only have 100,000 to 200,000 patacas of resources, the ceiling is high for sure,” he said.

“I hope the campaign period can last longer, so that activities don’t need to be held intensively and the candidates may end up spend lesser,” he added.

Mr Pun said in the past around one million patacas would already be enough for most of the lists.

“I won’t say it’s unfair, as people may argue that we say this because we aren’t rich,” he said.

“Elections are about candidates’ real strengths and capacity, but not about how many promotional leaflets they have given away,” he added.

To Ms Kwan, the maximum budget was calculated by law and “can’t be changed unless the law is revised again”.

“But personally speaking, our team believes it doesn’t need to be set at too high of nearly nine million patacas,” she said.

Awaiting to campaign

To both candidates, they have been waiting for unnecessarily long until the official campaign begins, especially during this period they’re prohibited from showing their logos or lists’ names publicly.

Mr Pun said it will be the best if candidates could start campaigning once after they sign up to run for the election.

“It’s still fair because the candidates could decide whether they want to sign up earlier or later. Now we have to wait for too long. It gives some lists the opportunity to try to promote themselves prior to the campaign,” he said.

Mr Pun also said that the legislative election should not give way to the Chief Executive election but they should have proceeded simultaneously.

“The government might not have planned this way, but it gave us the feeling that the legislative election has been pushed backward because of the CE election,” he added.

According to Ms Kwan, since the media have already reported information of all lists of candidates when they announced that they would run for the election, it is “questionable” to say if candidates have violated the regulations to campaign too soon.

“The logos, names and political platforms are all disclosed facts. I’m not sure if it can be deemed as a form of promotion when candidates just mention their lists or show their logos in this period,” she said.

However, Ms Kwan admitted to the MDTimes that there is some “ambiguity” in the Legislative Election Law when being put in operation.

“For example, it’s hard to define whether a candidate, who’s also an incumbent lawmaker, is promoting himself prior to the official campaign,” Ms Kwan said.

“As a lawmaker, he has to keep informing citizens about his work and job performance. He may not intentionally break the rules, but there is no apparent regulation of when he needs to stop releasing such kind of information to the public,” she added.

Yet, she said the Electoral Affairs Commission can within their authority issue some guidelines to complement the law.

“In the future the government should base on the experience this time to adjust the law,” she added.

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