“A deputy can’t hide from the people’s eyes”

Published: 07/04/2010 05:00



Deputy Nguyen Van Thuan is a top legal expert and he wishes that the legislature had more staff, more full-time members and more time to study drafts put forward by the Government.

Though his voice is often heard in National Assembly (NA) debates, the Chairman of the Legal Committee rarely talks to the press. However, VietNamNet managed to snag Nguyen Van Thuan for one of its ‘Know Your Deputy’ reports.

Deputy Nguyen Van Thuan, 58, represents Quang Nam, a central province, in the National Assembly, though he was born in Bac Ninh, near Hanoi and has long been a resident of the capital. A doctor of law, Thuan was first elected to the Assembly in 2002 and now is both a member of the NA Standing Committee and the Chairman of its Legal Committee.

VietNamNet: You are often invited to speak first during NA Standing Committee sessions. Why’s that? Do you find it difficult?

Nguyen Van Thuan: I like to think the committee wants know the opinion of the chairman of the NA’s Legal Committee about bills to ensure the constitutionality, legality and the unity of the legal system.

It is not especially difficult to speak first but what matters is whether my opinions or statements are correct.

VietNamNet: Your committee is charged with ensuring the coherence of the legal system. To fulfil that mission, does the committee review every bill? If not, how can the committee ensure the unity of the legal system?

Thuan: This is the most important mission of the NA’s Legal Committee. It is a challenge to complete that mission under current conditions. We have tried our best but actually we cannot fully satisfy the requirements.

The Legal Committee ought to verify every bill and draft ordinance but it is very difficult to convene a meeting because most of its members are only part-time deputies and they work in different locations. The committee has only six permanent members.

An even bigger problem is that most of bills are sent to our committee very late, though the regulations say otherwise. We deputies have to do our own research work and arrange for experts to testify. You can see that it’s difficult for the committee to fulfill its mission.

We have raised these problems annually in our work reports, but nothing changes.

VietNamNet: You’ve always been a person of the legislature, not an official. With that background, would you say you are more of a ‘straight shooter’ than those who come from the Government side? In your role as chairman of the NA’s Legal Committee, have you ever compromised?

Thuan: The NA is a deliberative body. We make decisions according to majority rule, whereas in executive agencies, the boss’s decision is final. As you suggest, before I was elected to the NA, I was one of its expert advisors for several decades, so I’ve been influenced by the outspoken and collegial atmosphere of the legislature.

I don’t know that I’m more outspoken than other members of the NA Standing Committee. Each deputy has his or her own style. However, I know who I am and what is my responsibility. I support the things that I believe in.

The NA is a public forum; that means it is necessary to speak both democratically and outspokenly but also to maintain a high level of civility, integrity, mutual respect and cooperation.

VietNamNet: Has the NA’s Legal Committee ever rejected a bill?

Thuan: In the last term, the committee asked the NA Standing Committee not to submit two bills – the draft Law on Real Estate and the draft Law on Registered Transactions. After discussion, the Standing Committee decided to not put these bills to the NA for approval.

Certainly, the drafting agency was unhappy but we thought our position was in the public interest.

VietNamNet: Your committee is assigned to verify many thorny and important bills, such as the Law of the Sea, Law on the National Capital, and the pilot scheme to abolish district-level People’s Councils and the election of commune chairmen. Do you feel heavy pressure?

Thuan: All bills are important, but in different ways. The ones just mentioned are very important and our committee worked with the drafters from the very beginning. Verification is a critical process but it doesn’t mean you just accept or oppose something. We must find out the solutions that best fit our way of life and society.

You asked about ‘pressure.’ I suppose that would be a situation when someone wants us to agree to something that’s not reasonable.

VietNamNet: Do you worry that the voters will blame your committee for weakness when called on to review important bills and proposals, for example the expansion of Hanoi’s territory?

Objectively, the NA’s Legal Committee’s opinions are shown in its reports, which are discussed publicly and democratically in meetings and based on a scientific and practical foundation.

However, our committees and other committees of the NA only review draft bills and make recommendations. The NA as a whole makes the decision. So if constituents criticize us, we have to accept that.

VietNamNet: For a bill to become law, it has to pass through many “doors”. If the NA makes decisions based on the majority, why do people complain that the quality of laws is not high?

Thuan: The quality of a bill depends on many factors, including the way each ‘actor’ in the legal construction process does its work, from drafting and verifying through making comments and decision.

As I have said, we often receive draft bills at the last moment, and that affects the quality of verification. But it is the drafting stage that decides the quality of a bill. There are some problems at this stage. For example, each bill has a drafing group and an editing group but the participation of group members is uneven.

Our transformation from a planned economy into a market-based economy has posed many new issues. Our contingents of policy makers are still weak. We lack many experts on basic issues that a bill requires.

VietNamNet: How do you like being judged by your constituents?

Thuan: My opinion doesn’t matter. I always think that perhaps you can hide from the eyes of some individuals, but not from the eyes of the people as a whole.

Khanh Linh

Provide by Vietnam Travel

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