【明報專訊】A rule book is supposed to serve as the arbiter of disputes which hopefully would vanish after parties' playing by the book. But what happens when there's a dispute on how to play by the book or even which book to play by? When witnessing Nicolás Maduro, the Venezuela president elected in a previous election in which opposition parties were largely banned, standing against Juan Guaidó, the interim President recently returned by the Venezuela National Assembly, we may be too dazzled to know which book to turn to. I mean whether it's a legal book or a political one.
Turning to the "parallel" meetings of the Legislative Council bills committee on the Fugitive Bill, we are pleasantly less dazzled. The book must be the House Rules of our Legislative Council which, inter alia, provide for the election of chairman and deputy chairman of the committees. As to the bills committee, the relevant rule is stated in Appendix IV to the House Rules and it says, "for the election of the chairman at the first meeting of the committee concerned, the member present who has the highest precedence shall preside at the election." A purposive and contextual reading of the rule must sensibly mean that the member of the highest precedence shall preside throughout that election of the chairman. Only a very imaginative and arbitrary (shall we just say "prejudicial for one's advantage" instead?) reading would render that that member of the highest precedence only presides the election commenced but unfinished in the first meeting and would subsequently be succeeded by the member enjoying the third highest precedence in the next meeting for the same purpose of electing a chairman. Alas!
Now at least we have more than thirty members of the Legislative Council who cared to ditch their sense expressively or declined openly to acquire some sense which they don't already have in bending the House Rules to suit their imagination. They even have bent the Rules not just once but twice! Last week they took all the trouble to urge the House Committee to issue a "guideline" to unseat that member of the highest precedence from the Fugitive Bill bills committee. And, amazingly and appallingly, the House Committee acceded to their demand. Their action in concert nicely echoes what Captain America solemnly reminded his co-Avengers before braving into that time-travel quantum tunnel in their Endgame, "We would do it together, at all costs!" Even Tony Stark the Ironman was touched at the scene!
Part of the costs these Honourable lawmakers afford to pay is to overlook Rule 20(g), which only says that the House Committee decides on the setting up of a bills committee and its order of priority to be activated. Once the bills committee is set up, the chairmanship thing is no longer the House Committee's business. And, for Christ's sake, how could such a specific and well measured decision to replace B by A be blatantly dressed as a "guideline" which, I won't doubt, should have the character of generality?
Nonsense, isn't it? "How're you going to be answerable to your baby?" Reportedly Claudia Mo so asked Eunice Yung, her fellow lawmaker, a mother to a new born baby.
When illegitimacy clad in its emperor's new clothes of procedural legality is parading itself in broad daylight, no innocent baby needs breaking the news as it's already viral in the news. However, the rule bending camp still protested, "I don't know... You don't even have babies!"
■By Lawrence Lau 劉偉聰
Lawrence is a life debater who has to debate with his life. Being a barrister makes him a living while reading and writing gives him a life. This is his cat (陳寅恪).