LegCo fi­nance chief keen to cut fil­i­busters

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By WILLA WU in Hong Kong willa@chi­nadai­lyhk.com

Leg­isla­tive Coun­cil Fi­nance Com­mit­tee Chair­man Chan Kin-por on Thurs­day said he was draft­ing new mea­sures to cut fil­i­busters in meet­ings, as the com­mit­tee took an av­er­age 4.2 hours to ap­prove one item in the 2016-17 leg­isla­tive year, dou­ble the time in the pre­vi­ous year.

Brief­ing the media on the com­mit­tee’s work for the year at the end-of­ses­sion press con­fer­ence, Chan pro­posed amend­ments to the com­mit­tee’s pro­ce­dures. This in­cludes al­low­ing each law­maker to ta­ble only one mo­tion dur­ing each item de­lib­er­a­tion, and ban­ning law­mak­ers from rais­ing more than one ad­journ­ment mo­tion in meet­ings.

Chan said he be­lieved the amend­ments would ef­fec­tively en­hance the Fi­nance Com­mit­tee’s ef­fi­ciency as some 30 per­cent of meet­ing time would be spared. This would give law­mak­ers more time for dis­cussing items on the agenda.

Among the 64 meet­ings de­lib­erat- ing govern­ment fund­ing re­quests held in 2016-17, the com­mit­tee spent 10 per­cent of its time — 12 hours — to han­dle mo­tions tabled by law­mak­ers, up from 7.3 per­cent in the pre­vi­ous year, Chan said.

Law­mak­ers also raised mo­tions to around 60 per­cent of the 29 items de­lib­er­ated in com­mit­tee meet­ings. In the pre­vi­ous year, law­mak­ers tabled mo­tions to only 20 per­cent of items on the agenda, Chan said.

Para­graph 37A of the Fi­nance Com­mit­tee Pro­ce­dure stip­u­lates that a mem­ber can move a mo­tion to ex­press a view on the agenda item with­out no­tice dur­ing de­lib­er­a­tions on the item.

Chan said such per­mis­sion was “an ef­fec­tive fil­i­buster tool” and some law­mak­ers abused it to ex­press their opin­ions, of­ten about is­sues ir­rel­e­vant to the items on the com­mit­tee’s agenda.

Such be­hav­ior af­fected the progress of Fi­nance Com­mit­tee meet­ings since he had to al­lo­cate much time to han­dle them, Chan said.

Par­tic­u­larly, com­mit­tee pro­ceed- ings were ob­structed by in­di­vid­ual mem­bers’ dis­or­derly be­hav­ior, as a way of political grand­stand­ing against the High Court de­ci­sion of dis­qual­i­fi­ca­tion of four law­mak­ers. Chan said he felt “very anx­ious” about this, as the meet­ings were held up.

The High Court on July 14 dis­qual­i­fied four op­po­si­tion law­mak­ers from their seats in LegCo for vi­o­lat­ing the le­gal re­quire­ments of oath-tak­ing when be­ing sworn in.

Mean­while, some 16 hours of Fi­nance Com­mit­tee meet­ing time were oc­cu­pied as law­mak­ers tabled ad­journ­ment mo­tions to meet­ings, ac­count­ing for 13 per­cent of to­tal time.

“I feel sad as items which con­cerned peo­ple’s liveli­hoods and in­fra­struc­ture projects were not de­lib­er­ated and ap­proved,” Chan noted.

He added that he would present the amend­ments to law­mak­ers in Oc­to­ber when the LegCo starts its new work year.

Chan Kin-por, chair­man of the Fi­nance Com­mit­tee of the Leg­isla­tive Coun­cil, pre­sented his an­nual work report on Thurs­day, a day be­fore the end of the cur­rent leg­isla­tive year. He ex­pressed great dis­may at the record low ef­fi­ciency of the Fi­nance Com­mit­tee this past year, and pro­posed sev­eral mea­sures to pre­vent bla­tant waste of work­ing hours through various forms of fil­i­bus­ter­ing. Since all the com­mit­tee’s pro­ceed­ings have been well recorded and cov­ered by the press, mem­bers of the pub­lic are well aware of who blocked what bill with fil­i­busters through­out the leg­isla­tive year. Those “guilty par­ties” have been warned re­peat­edly they will pay for their wrong­do­ings one way or an­other, es­pe­cially when it’s for LegCo elec­tions.

Chan re­vealed in his an­nual report that the com­mit­tee spent 4.2 hours on av­er­age de­lib­er­at­ing over each item, or two hours more than last year. And those two hours were more of­ten than not used on han­dling re­quests for ad­journ­ment or roll calls, the most bla­tant waste of pub­lic re­sources and pre­cious LegCo time be­cause the spon­sors didn’t want to per­form the du­ties they were paid to do. Such un­ac­cept­able be­hav­ior not only hurts pub­lic in­ter­est by in­def­i­nitely de­lay­ing the pas­sage of fund­ing for projects de­signed to serve wel­fare needs or im­prove peo­ple’s liveli­hood but also gives rep­re­sen­ta­tive democ­racy a bad name.

The pro­posed pre­ven­tive mea­sures, if adopted, should help re­duce the wan­ton waste of leg­isla­tive work­ing hours by a con­sid­er­able mar­gin. That is why the usual fil­i­buster spon­sors and their fans will do ev­ery­thing they can to block the pre­ven­tive mea­sures and Chan said he ex­pects fierce op­po­si­tion be­cause of this but he also be­lieves mem­bers of the pub­lic would sup­port his pro­posal once they see num­bers and how the mea­sures will work. We agree with and sup­port Chan be­cause he is try­ing to stop law­mak­ers from harm­ing pub­lic in­ter­est by de­lay­ing the pas­sage of fund­ing bills in to­tal dis­re­gard of the neg­a­tive con­se­quences their bel­liger­ent acts en­tail.

Very of­ten in the past few leg­isla­tive years peo­ple no­ticed a grow­ing trend in which op­po­si­tion par­ties openly turned their ha­tred for Le­ung Chun-ying, chief ex­ec­u­tive at the time, into un­jus­ti­fi­able acts of political sab­o­tage in the name of “true democ­racy”. The Fi­nance Com­mit­tee’s plight was no doubt part of that show of des­per­a­tion and vengeance but the fifth-term spe­cial ad­min­is­tra­tive re­gion govern­ment has just started op­er­at­ing with a new gov­ern­ing style aimed at re­duc­ing so­cial division and build­ing har­mony, in­clud­ing more ef­forts to im­prove the ex­ec­u­tive-leg­isla­tive re­la­tion­ship. This is a good op­por­tu­nity for the op­po­si­tion camp to re­place their hate-driven strat­egy with some­thing con­struc­tive, if only for their own good.

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