Legislature vetoes Ilha Verde hearing

Friday, February 18, 2011
Issue 1238, Page 7
Word count: 766
Published in: Macau Daily Times

By Poyi (Natalie) Leung

The motion jointly initiated by the three pro-democracy lawmakers to hold a hearing into the demolition of the Ilha Verde shacks was turned down at the legislature yesterday, as a majority of the other lawmakers believed that the proposal would interfere with the on-going police investigation and obstruct the public housing construction.

In addition to Au Kam San, Ng Kuok Cheong and Chan Wai Chi, the proposed hearing was also supported by lawmakers Kwan Tsui Hang, José Pereira Coutinho, Ho Ion Sang and Melinda Chan Mei Yi.

The votes for the hearing came from the seven directly-elected lawmakers, Ung Choi Kun and Lee Chong Cheng abstained from voting but the motion was finally vetoed by the rest of the 19 lawmakers.

Au, Ng and Chan said they “regretted” the result, but stressed that they will continue to propose the launch of hearings if necessary in the future, as an attempt to “monitor the Government’s performance”.

The pro-democracy trio also disclosed that they are considering writing to The United Nations Commission on Human Rights concerning the “violence” during the demolition late last year.

Lawmaker Tsui Wai Kwan told the plenary meeting that police and the Public Prosecutions Office are already handling the alleged assault reported in the demolition process, arguing that the Legislative Assembly should not insert any “interference”.

Tsui also doubted the three pro-democracy lawmakers’ intention and asked them to “stop obstructing the construction progress of the 19,000 public housing units”.

The Ilha Verde land parcel where the dismantling took place will be used for social housing construction.

In addition, Tong Io Cheng, Fong Chi Keong, Vong Hin Fai and Cheang Chi Keong also said there was no “legal and factual basis” to support the hearing, which they also deemed “unnecessary”.

Lau Veng Seng and Dominic Sio Chi Wai also voted against the motion. They said the Government had already explained why there is a land exchange deal with the developer of the Ilha Verde neighbourhood, and the hearing would “create pressure” on the current investigations into the alleged violent incidents.

“The hearing would only have disadvantages and no advantages at all,” Lau Veng Seng said.

However, he added that the Government needs to learn from the experience and increase communication with related parties in future demolition works.

On the other hand, Melinda Chan Mei Yi argued that it was the Government’s “fault” for not trying to forbid violence in the demolition process, and the authorities had not justified why the developer was unable to dismantle all the shacks over the past two decades and why the land was not taken back from the developer because of long-delayed development.

Ng Kuok Cheong and Chan Wai Chi said that the hearing would not hinder the construction progress of public housing. “We only want to find out what had gone wrong and what need to be reviewed, because there will be more demolition works in the future such as in old neighbourhood areas.”

Meanwhile, Kwan Tsui Hang and Ho Ion Sang believed that there were “many questions left unanswered” and “many problems need to be clarified” by the Government.

They said a hearing would give the officials a platform to explain to the public as well as demonstrate transparency as emphasised by the creation of a sunshine government.

“The land swap deal involves public interest and local people are highly concerned about it,” Kwan said.

Ho also pointed out that the land exchange has raised the public’s suspicions of “benefits transfer” and “collusion between officials and businesspeople”.

Civil service quality in doubt

Secretary for Administration and Justice, Florinda Chan, yesterday presented the draft law to give a 5.08 percent pay rise to civil servants for first reading.

The bill was passed but a handful of lawmakers questioned how the increase in salaries would ensure improvement in civil service quality and administrative efficiency.

José Pereira Coutinho, who is also the president of the Macau Civil Servants’ Association, urged the institutionalization of the pay rise mechanism and enhancement of the internal complaint mechanism for public workers.

In addition, Au Kam San said he supported the pay rise but hoped that the Government could at the same time give more support to the low-income and disadvantaged groups, especially by introducing a minimum wage and raising wages of outsourced cleaning and security services as soon as possible.

The secretary responded that the civil servants acknowledged the importance of service quality and that they would need to shoulder more responsibilities after their salaries are increased.

She also said helping the disadvantaged groups in Macau is one of the focuses of the policy address.

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