Quick action needed to halt frantic ‘battlefield meetings’
With Finance Committee (FC) meetings being turned into frantic and fierce battlefields lately, with a great many funding proposals delayed and dragged down by filibusters, Pauline Ng Man-wah, former secretarygeneral of the Legislative Council Secre tariat, said she supports proposals by FC Chairman Chan Kin-por to amend the Finance Committee Procedure to combat filibustering by opposition lawmakers.
Chan has proposed that legislators can only move one motion without advance notice at a meeting , and members expelled from the meeting should be banned from attending other FC meetings for the whole day.
At the last FC meeting on July 19, the opposition camp filibustered for nearly seven hours before passing the HK$36-billion education funding that Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor had proposed, and stalled funds for the redevelopment of three public hospitals. A number of major proposals, including the construction of public columbaria, Tung Chung New Town extension and a civil service pay rise, were also delayed until October.
The opposition frequently cites Section 37A of the Finance Committee Procedure as a tool for their
A lawmaker may table more than one motion without prior notice if they are related, yet (submitting) hundreds or thousands of such motions is clearly an abuse of the rule.”
Pauline Ng Man-wah’s profile
Pauline Ng Man-wah was secretary-general of the Legislative Council Secretariat from 2008 to 2012, having risen from the assistant and deputy secretary-general posts.
Before that, she was a civil servant working at the erstwhile Office of the Unofficial Members of the Executive and Legislative Councils in 1990.
After retiring in 2012, Ng spent four years compiling a chronicle — A Companion to the History, Rules and Practices of the Legislative Council of the HKSAR — at the request of then LegCo president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing because perti- filibuster tactics. The rule says a member may table a motion at the meeting without prior notice but “pand e m o c r a t i c ” l aw m a ke r s argue that “a motion” does not mean “one motion” and they often ask their assistants to print and submit countless similar motions during meetings.
“Lawmakers cannot amend the government’s financial proposals and they have to vote for or against them, but Section 37A allows them to give their views apart from saying ‘yes’ or ‘no,’” Ng explained.
“A lawmaker may table more than one motion without prior notice if they are related, ye t (submitting) hundreds or thousands of such motions is clearly an abuse of the rule,” she said.
At the same FC meeting on July 19, which was divided into four two-hour sessions, Chan ordered “pan-democrat” lawmaker nent documents were scattered around.
Ng currently runs a social enterprise and a website, providing useful information to the elderly.
She was one of the former public servants who had helped Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor in the 2017 Chief Executive Election, serving as Lam’s campaign office manager, responsible for office and staff management, compliance of electoral law and regulations.
Quite important but little known, she helped Lam keep records of her meetings with electors, stakeholders and people from all walks of the Fernando Cheung expelled in the early stages for refusing to sit down. But, Cheung returned to the next session because the four sessions were deemed as separate meetings.
Many lawmakers cry foul of this rule. Chan also agrees that it should be amended to ensure that expelled lawmakers are not allowed to attend meetings for the rest of the day.
“FC meetings normally take about two hours. But this can be changed if the chairman thinks more time is needed. For example, he can convene a meeting of six hours, with short breaks in between. It’s good if the Committee on the Rules of Procedure discusses this,” said Ng.
She added that amendments to the Finance Committee Procedure will be passed by the committee itself without the need to go to the plenary meeting. community, particularly concerning their advice, suggestions and expectations.
After the election, Ng sent a total of 104 sets of records to Lam’s office to enable her and relevant officials to follow up.
Ng revealed she has been acquainted with Hong Kong’s new leader since the early 2000s. She was a clerk with the LegCo Finance Committee while Lam was deputy secretary for the treasury who represented the government on the Finance Committee and both had worked closely together for several years.
Pauline Ng Man-wah,