An outspoken lawmaker’s bill on animal protection presented Monday, coinciding with World Earth Day, was overwhelmingly rejected with only four lawmakers voting in favour, nine against with nine abstaining.
Jose Pereira Coutinho, head of the influential Macau Civil Servants Association (ATFPM), presented details of his bill during a plenary session of the 29-member legislature.
According to Coutinho, the main aim of the 30-article bill was to provide legal protection to animals, state the legal obligations that the government and public should take regarding how to protect animals and prevent animals from being abandoned or maltreated.
“The government says that it has been drafting an animal protection bill since 2006 but the bill has still not been completed…, over a thousand residents protested last year calling for a law to be in place to protect the rights of animals,” Coutinho said.
Coutinho said that animals should be respected and protected by law. He said that the bill that he personally drafted was moderate, not calling for any “extreme” measures to protect animals or banning people from killing any kind of animal under any circumstances.
“I think it’s high time to change our culture so that animals have full legal protection,” Coutinho said.
However, the bill was only backed by three other lawmakers – Chan Wai Chi and Antonio Ng Kuok Cheong, who are key members of the grassroots New Macau Association (NMA), and Ho Ion Sang, who is a vice-president of the influential Macau General Union of Neighbourhood Associations (commonly known as Kai Fong).
Ho pointed out that according to official figures from the Civic and Municipal Affairs Bureau (IACM) hundreds of animals are abandoned annually.
“Macau has been criticised by the international community for the way it treats the greyhounds at the dog-racing track… thus there should be a law to tackle the matter” Ho said.
Chan said there should be law in place preventing animals from being hurt by humans.
Chan also criticised the government for its delay in completing its own bill on animal protection despite having carried out a public consultation on the bill in 2007.
“I think lawmakers have no excuses not to draft such a bill …when the government has done nothing,” Chan was quoted by The Macau Post Daily as saying.
A total of 22 lawmakers cast their votes on the bill.
The reasons the lawmakers gave for voting against the bill or abstaining included that there were only four months left until the current legislative term ends on August 15 so that there was “not enough time” to have the bill discussed. Some also questioned the “real purpose” behind proposing the bill at this moment as the direct and indirect legislative elections are approaching.
The legislative elections are slated to be held on September 15. Coutinho – as many other lawmakers – is running for re-election.
According to Macau Basic Law, lawmakers can only propose bills which do not involve matters of governance.
Meanwhile, the legislature passed unanimously a government-drafted five-article bill giving public servants – the city’s top earners – a pay hike of 6.06 percent from May 1.
All 26 lawmakers who participated in the article-by-article vote voted in favour of the pay hike bill.(macaunewS)