A legislator – a legal expert

Published: 24/03/2010 05:00



“The people are very smart. They know that the National Assembly has many forums and many modes of operation. They see the NA’s activities on TV,” said deputy Tran Dinh Nha .

Deputy Tran Dinh Nha was born in 1955 in the central province of Ha Tinh. He currently lives in Hanoi. Nha holds a doctorate in law.

Major General Nha was elected to the NA when he was Party Secretary and Chief of the Legal Department of the Ministry of Public Security. He is now Vice-Chair of the NA’s Committee for Defence-Security, a full-time legislator.

Nha is a former chief of the Ministry of Public Security’s Legal Department and has served in NA sessions, so being a legislator is not a strange job for him.

VietNamNet: Are there many legislators who are legal experts like you?

Tran Dinh Nha: Besides deputies who have law degrees, others learn about the law themselves, especially from NA sessions. Many deputies compare an NA session to a course at the university.

VietNamNet: What do you explain about the fact that some laws approved at an NA session were amended in the next one or two sessions?

Tran Dinh Nha: Laws are subject to fine-tuning because of changes in society. Our awareness, regrettably, is limited. It is said that as the times change, laws must change.

Many people complain about amendments. I think it is normal. It is necessary to change and amend laws to make them more specific and better.

Some also complain that we have too many laws, but I think we still lack laws. Laws are still supplemented by circulars and decrees.

VietNamNet: How do you respond when constituents say the laws are amended many times because of their low quality?

Tran Dinh Nha: It is very difficult to measure the quality of laws. A law that is impractical, unspecific and infeasible is considered of low quality, such as the regulations on protecting witnesses and victims in the Law on Criminal Procedure.

VietNamNet: In the Law on Criminal Procedure, the Law on Combating Corruption and the Law on Drug Prevention, who is protected, who is responsible for their protection and how?

Tran Dinh Nha: The rights and duties of citizens are not only defined in the Constitution, but they need to be specified in laws. The more specific they are, the easier the implementation is.

To make more laws more quickly and of higher quality, the NA must improve its organization and operations. The NA’s assistant apparatus must be strengthened in terms of quality and quantity and the number of full-time deputies should be 50 percent.

According to the law, legislators can submit laws, but they need assistants and funding to do that job.

VietNamNet: Did it take time to prepare for presentations at the NA?

I need a certain time to collect and research information, especially about large issues on which I must express my view. Sometimes when I listened to other deputies’ speeches and I didn’t agree with them, I had to speak immediately, without preparation.

VietNamNet: For new topics, it is better and faster for you to ask for expert assistance, isn’t it?

Tran Dinh Nha: It is so good to have experts, but they can only help. They cannot do the job for me.

Each field has its own experts, but the numbers of experts are limited. For example, if the NA discusses nuclear power and all legislators ask to see experts, it is better to let them speak once at the NA. In this case, it is the best to have research documents.

VietNamNet: When you were an official in the Legal Department of the Ministry of Public Security, you “looked on” during NA sessions. At that time, did you think that if you were a legislator, you would do the job better or you would do it this way or that?

Tran Dinh Nha

: I was recommended to the NA by my agency and elected by my constituents. The new job suits my expertise and career.

The responsibility of legislators is very great, so legislators cannot speak freely.

When I worked at the Legal Department, I spoke very freely at seminars and, if there was anything wrong, others would fix it. But it is different at the NA.

Before speaking at the NA, deputies have to research and synthesize information. Your opinions must not only express your own view, but also that of the constituents.

If you don’t know an issue well, but your constituents ask you to speak about it, you have to reflect on their aspirations. Legislators not only present the matters, but they also suggest solutions.

VietNamNet: You are interested in fighting corruption, but you don’t speak much about corruption prevention at the NA. Why?

Tran Dinh Nha: Combating corruption has been my concern for a long time. I’ve researched forms of corruptions and spoke and written about corruption in many forums.

At NA sessions, many deputies have spoken about corruption and suggested the same solutions as mine, so I think that I don’t need to talk more about corruption. There are many ways to contribute opinions.

VietNamNet: Which ways?

Tran Dinh Nha: Legislators not only speak at NA sessions, but also in group meetings, meetings of the NA Standing Committees and others. At the convention hall, seven minutes is not enough.

In the beginning, I couldn’t present my opinions within just seven minutes. After that, I offered opinions by sending written documents.

VietNamNet: But if you contribute your opinions that way, constituents may think that you are not very active. Is that a disadvantage for you?

Tran Dinh Nha: The people are very clever. They know that the National Assembly has many forums and many modes of operation. The things that they see on TV are part of the NA’s activities.

VietNamNet: Is it necessary to shorten the time for reading documents so that deputies will have more time to speak?

Tran Dinh Nha: Before discussion, the issue must be presented.

Draft laws are sent to deputies already, but in the meeting hall, the ministers – as chiefs of the draft groups – must present the draft documents. It is a chance for ministers to understand the laws more thoroughly in order to answer deputies’ questions.

I think it is necessary to let deputies to finish their presentations, even though the meetings may be longer. The NA is established to hold discussions.

VietNamNet: Not many heads of NA committees question cabinet members. Could you explain why?

Tran Dinh Nha: They have many opportunities to meet and talk with ministers. Perhaps if they have questions, they ask ministers directly so that the NA forum is open for other deputies.

VietNamNet: How can we measure the contributions of a legislator?

Tran Dinh Nha: We can look to the Law on NA Organisation to see how a deputy performs their three functions as stipulated by law.

When the NA discusses national issues, part-time deputies have practical opinions because they have specialized expertise and experience as well as the assistance of the executive and judicial apparatus. But full-time deputies have a more important contribution in supervising and building laws because they have time for research. That’s why I stated that the next NA should have 50 percent full-time deputies.

VietNamNet: How are your relations with the media? It seems that you don’t speak much with reporters?

Tran Dinh Nha: I’ve never refused to talk with the media, but my principle is to let others talk about things that they know better than me, while I listen to learn and think.

I can only talk about what I know very clearly, for example legal and security issues.

Once a journalist questioned me about why the NA’s Committee for Defence-Security didn’t speak out about the sea and island issue and about the appearance of strange boats to attack our fishermen.

I answered that the State had assigned a spokesman to speak about such issues. If I talk about it, I can only repeat what the spokesman has said.

Le Nhung

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