Tougher penalties for misbehaviour by lawmakers would be welcomed by public

PUBLISHED : Monday, 28 November, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 28 November, 2011, 12:00am
 

An election is always a good way of gauging the public's mindset.

Before and after the district council elections, I visited constituents in various districts. Regardless of their background and financial status, the people I met shared a common resentment of the disruptive behaviour they had seen in the Legislative Council chamber, which has become endemic. This resentment was reflected in the election results. Clearly, many people believe it is time to alter the rules that govern the conduct of lawmakers in Legco.

At the moment, when Legco members persist in an act of disobedience, including throwing objects and using abusive language, the Legco president can denounce them or order them to leave the chamber immediately. In Britain, members of Parliament who are charged by the speaker of the House of Commons with persistent disorder can be suspended for up to 20 days. They are unable to attend parliamentary debates, and their salaries are deducted to cover the period of suspension. This penalty is an effective deterrent for MPs thinking about flouting parliamentary rules. However, for those Hong Kong lawmakers who break procedural protocol, the punishment is so lenient that others are bound to follow the example they have set.

Another thing to note from the district council election results is the public's strong desire for improvements in the environment and people's livelihoods. Voters were opting for candidates not because they were well known but because they were committed to their community.

During the election campaign, some people accused the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong of providing free food and gifts in the hope of getting people's votes. Such an accusation is groundless. Hong Kong people are mature enough to exercise their own judgment when casting their votes. Furthermore, on special occasions like the Mid-Autumn Festival, it is customary to distribute gifts like mooncakes to elderly people living in poverty, and it was the DAB's way of showing that we care about them.

Besides, middle-class voters care nothing for trivial gifts. They are sophisticated voters who take a very pragmatic approach when choosing a candidate. Our priority is to deal with concrete issues. For instance, regarding proposed developments in the Kowloon East area, we have hammered out a detailed proposal for the government's consideration.

Holden Chow, chairman, Young DAB

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