By Ding Jo-Ann
(source: parlimen.gov.my)Name: Mohamed Azmin Ali
Party: PKR (Opposition)
Years as MP: Since 2008
Government position: None
Pakatan Rakyat chief whip
Membership in parliamentary committees or caucuses:
Asean Inter-Parliamentary Association member
Inter-Parliamentary Union member
Would you support the abolition/review of the Internal Security Act (ISA), in particular the provision that allows for detention without trial? Why or why not?
I support the view that draconian laws such as the ISA need not only be reviewed, but abolished. The detention without trial provision is a gross infringement of basic human rights.
Even under syariah principles, it is wrong to detain someone without according the person a fair trial in an open court. The [detained] person should also be accorded his/her counsel and given the opportunity to defend themselves.
If a person is accused of a particular wrongdoing, the burden is on the accuser to adduce evidence to justify the accusations. However, ISA vanquishes this burden of proof from the prosecutor. ISA gives unabashed power to the Home Minister in deciding whether to detain someone on the pretext of “national security” or “public order”.
While some compare ISA with the US’s Patriot Act, there isn't any check and balance to the ISA, unlike in the Patriot Act which has provisions for judicial review. We have sufficient existing laws to govern security.
Do you think Malaysia should be a secular or an Islamic state? Why?
The debate on whether Malaysia should be, or is, an Islamic or secular state is counter-productive. Political rhetoric must give way to sound leadership for the nation's well-being.
Our [founding leaders] created Malaysia based on the Federal Constitution that we uphold as citizens. Keadilan upholds the Federal Constitution which recognises Islam as the religion of the federation. We also defend the constitutional guarantees for citizens of other faiths to practise their religion.
Malaysia needs to be a country that treats its people with respect and dignity.
How do you define your role as an elected MP? Does Parliament provide you with the necessary infrastructure and support to fulfill your role?
Elected MPs should focus on formulating, debating and approving policies for the people’s betterment. Policies must be according to the people’s wishes, and fair to all.
Conventionally though, our MPs are expected to do a lot more than just strictly being a lawmaker. Malaysian MPs are required to attend functions from weddings to funerals in their respective constituency, to the extent of addressing the issue of blocked drains and the like. However, this interaction and engagement between MPs and the locals allows us to hear the grouses and constructive criticisms from local leaders and civil society.
Our Parliament is not a world class parliament. Other well established democracies provide funding for researchers and staffers that are attached to each MP. Every MP requires two to three researchers to ensure that their debate and formulation of policies in Parliament is of quality.
We hope that researchers and staffers as well as proper funding can be accorded to all MPs which will enable them to serve in their truest sense.
Would you support a Freedom of Information Act? Why or why not?
A Freedom of Information Act is required to ensure transparency and integrity of the system. Taxpayers are entitled to know how their monies are being spent.
We can say that sensitive security information would compromise the nation if revealed but would that hold water if details of long-term mega contracts are revealed? For example, agreements between independent power producers with Tenaga Nasional Bhd, and also toll concession agreements.
Freedom of information is generally something that any democracy should uphold as it will reduce tendencies for abuse of power; stifle corruption; and most importantly improve the public delivery system.
If there was one thing you could do to strengthen parliamentary democracy in Malaysia, what would it be?
To ensure that any new Bills [go through a form of public discourse] prior to being presented to Parliament to be passed. What has been in practice in Malaysia is that Bills which are introduced in Parliament rarely go through any form of public debate.
Civil society and interest groups should be allowed to take part in discussions [and be engaged] before laws are constructed and presented in Parliament.
For example, the controversial GST Bill which did not go through the due process of discussion and debate was not received well by the public, and the government had to withdraw the Bill from the current session. I was told the government, through Bank Negara Malaysia, will implement a new scheme to cover third party bodily injury and death [insurance] in the third quarter of this year. And yet again, the government has not consulted any of the relevant stakeholders such as the Bar Council and public interest groups. The proposal seems to be driven solely by the insurance industry on the basis of profitability without any consideration being given to social responsibility.
I will support the public engagement process with civil society and organisations such as the Bar Council, chambers of commerce, consumer associations, religious bodies and so on. This should be exhausted prior to the introduction of any new laws or public policy.
Do you believe in separation of powers between the government, Parliament and judiciary? Why or why not?
Separation of powers is key to ensuring that the principles of fairness and justice are upheld.
Government, Parliament and the judiciary must have a clear line of separation so as to allow credibility and integrity in administrating the country. If lines are blurred whereby the demarcation of the three entities are diminished, it will lead to abuse of power, reduction of check and balance, as well as the increased likelihood of an autocratic regime.
Our judiciary is being tarnished with names such as “kangaroo courts” or “law of the jungle”, and we cannot afford this. It is imperative that our judiciary is seen to be insulated from any conflicts of interest and is not perceived as being under the executive’s thumb.
The government must concentrate on the process of governing and provide leadership for the people. Parliament must be allowed the freedom to decide based on the people’s conscience.