Ex-Secretariat chief says consensus will bring an end to filibuster tactics
T h e L e g i s l a t i v e C o u n c i l ’s Rules of Procedure have been severely abused in recent years by the opposition camp which is using them as tools for filibusters, says Pauline Ng Manwah, former secretary-general of the LegCo Secretariat.
In her view, the rules should be reviewed and amended from time to time as necessary, as amendments had been made many times in LegCo’s history. She suggests that these can be carried out by consensus in the legislature.
Ng, who was secretary-general of the LegCo Secretariat from 2008 to 2012 when Jasper Tsang Yok-sing was LegCo president (2008-16), told China Daily that discipline at LegCo meetings has “gone mad” following her retirement.
A pioneer of the LegCo Secretariat for more than 20 years since 1990, Ng said the LegCo Rules of Procedure are in reference to those of the Parliament of the United Kingdom on the understanding of mutual trust, mutual respect and effective operation of the legislature.
Unfortunately, Hong Kong’s opposition camp launched their first massive filibuster in May 2012 to counter the government’s legislative proposal to prevent lawmakers who have resigned from joining by-elections within six months after their resignation.
“A l t h o u g h t h a t f i l i b u s t e r eventually failed, it hurt many people’s hearts and has left a deep and far-reaching impact, with mutual trust dropping to the lowest point and people unwilling to listen to what the opposite camp says,” she recalled.
The opposition’s most common filibuster tactic is making repetitive speeches during the amendment stage of bills and misusing the quorum bells to waste time.
In the past few years, many LegCo plenary meetings had to be aborted due to such tactics, with amendments to the Medical Registration Ordinance (which aimed to reform the
Amendments should be made by a near consensus in the legislature to ensure the new arrangement is mutually acceptable.”
medical watchdog body) being the biggest victim and dragged down during the last meeting of the 2012-16 legislative term without proceeding to debate.
On the quorum bell issue, Ng said she’s aware that many foreign parliaments have abolished the practice of a member requesting the speaker of the house to establish the quorum at any time during a meeting. She also notes that the quorum in foreign parliaments is very low. In the UK House of Commons, the quorum is merely 40 out of 650 members; while
Pauline Ng Man-wah,