Someone mentioned to me that some of the people he spoke to think that the Legislative Council is just a rubber stamp and that all the legislations have already been approved - indirectly, saying that this is a waste of time.
I wrote about the Legislative Council process almost a year ago which I am sure not many people have read. Click on it, so that I won't have to bother to describe the legislative council process anymore. Members of the public can actually request from the Council's office for a coupon to enter and watch the proceedings. I have sat through the entire sessions for this year, so far I have not seen anybody from the general public.
In a way, the people are right. No doubt, the Supply Bill (the Act that enabled the government to spend) that will pay for the government's operation will be passed at the end of the Legislative Council session which will end tomorrow. But then, in most countries, supply bills are passed too despite all the debates about it. There are very few instances when these bills are not passed.
As in most countries, the most interesting part is not the bill in question, it is the questions raised by the members of the Legislative Council during the debates about the bill. This is about the only time that ministers and the government can be scrutinised and done in public. If you read last year's Hansard (the ad verbatim report of the proceedings) which you can download from the main BR website or go directly to the Legislative Council website, you will realise just what subjects the members can raise.
This year's debate is more intense than last year's. The members are flushed with 'victory' after raising the issue about salary and getting the rise for government servants last year. Most members now understand how the process work. Most members too have done their homework and judging by their questions and their proposals are coming up with both practical and fantastic wishlists of their constituents. Among others, requests for parking areas for the Kampung Ayer residents, free parking for hospital visits, government not spending enough in certain sectors, salaries for medical specialists too low, debt relief fund for people who owed money to the banks, government not controlling interest rates for loans, one school principal who has not been confirmed in his post despite being acting principal for the last 2 years (huh?) - the questions are varied but it does give a sense what can be raised by the members.
We civil servants, spent a couple of months helping to prep our ministers with the many expected questions and answers and unexpected ones too. Practically all the ministers are now prepared for the session. You would see a whole battery of us civil servants in the public gallery backing up our ministers just in case there are facts and figures that the ministers need assistance with when answering queries from the 'other side'. Despite that, the members still managed to come up with penetrating questions that in a few occassions, the ministers will just own up and say that they will look into the matter raised by the members or that they will take the issues raised into account when reviewing certain policies.
I have visited other parliaments in other countries. The process is the same. Obviously there are other dissimilarities such as how the members are appointed or elected. No system in the world is perfect. But the most important thing is that the government have taken a step towards being publicly accountable. And that process is the most important and precious of all. We should not waste it.