In an apparent U-turn, the Macau government has agreed to resubmit a revised version of its controversial perks bill to the legislature after Sunday’s huge protest against the proposed “golden handshake” law – the biggest protest since the 1999 handover.
Legislative Assembly (AL) President Ho Iat Seng Monday accepted a proposal by Chief Executive Fernando Chui Sai On to cancel today’s scheduled article-by-article vote on the bill on compensation packages for the chief executive and other principal officials, according to a statement from Chui’s office Monday.
The statement said that the government would resubmit a revised bill to the legislature later.
The statement came after thousands of protests took to the streets on Sunday to demand the government withdraw it. The bill controversially proposes that the sitting chief executive would enjoy criminal immunity. The proposed compensation payments for retiring principal officials coming from the civil service would be calculated by multiplying 14 percent of their monthly salary by the number of months they have been in their positions, while the percentage in the formula for principal officials who are not civil servants would be 30 percent. Much to the chagrin of its detractors, the bill also proposes that all payments would be backdated.
According to the statement, Chui and Ho held a meeting at Government Headquarters about the bill Monday.
The statement said that the government and legislature paid “much attention” to residents’ opinions about the bill, quoting Chui as saying that bill still needed to be improved and that he had already ordered Secretary for Administration and Justice Florinda Chan Lai Man to continue discussions with the legislature and later resubmit a revised bill.
Originally, the bill was slated to be passed by lawmakers this afternoon. A committee of the Legislative Assembly had finalised its discussion of the bill last week.
Chui sent a letter to Ho in which he asked for today’s article-by-article vote on the bill to be cancelled. Ho agreed, according to the statement.
The office also said that Chui acknowledges residents’ concerns about the bill, according to the statement.
Chui also said his government was always willing to listen to residents’ voices and was paying “a great deal of attention” to residents’ opinions, the office said in the statement, adding that the government would seriously study different opinions from civil society.
After Chui’s announcement, netizen group Macau Conscience, which co-organised Sunday’s protest, called again for the bill’s withdrawal. The group said in a statement that they would surround the Legislative Assembly building today to press the government to retract the bill. The statement said that Chui had not done what the public had requested.
Lawmaker José Pereira Coutinho also criticised Chui’s decision, saying he wondered why it would take so long for the Executive Council (ExCo) to see that there are problems in the bill, insisting that Chui should retract it.
ExCo, the government’s top advisory body, is understood to have held an emergency meeting on the bill just hours after Sunday’s huge demonstration.
Lawmakers Chan Meng Kam, Cheang Chi Keong and Leonel Alberto Alves, who are also members of the 11-head advisory Executive Council (ExCo), jointly hosted a hastily convened press conference on Sunday night to announce that they had sent Ho a letter calling for a plenary meeting to vote whether the bill should be discussed again by a legislative committee.(macaunews/macaupost)