By Deborah Loh
(source: parlimen.gov.my)Name: Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar
Years as MP:
1990-2004 (Batang Lupar)
Government position: None
Central committee member
Membership in parliamentary committees or caucuses:
Deputy Speaker of the Dewan Rakyat
Asean Inter-Parliamentary Caucus member
Rules Committee chairperson
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 don't agree with abolishing the Act. Other countries like the UK and the US have enacted similar laws. And if you say that we have detained so many under ISA, look at the US, they just use other mechanisms. They have Guantanamo [Bay], they have other [detention] centers outside the country so that it will be outside their legal system and you cannot get any remedy. So America also violates human rights, in that sense, so as to protect their American way of life.
If we talk along these lines, why should we amend our ISA when we also want to protect our way of life? [We are a multiracial and multi-religious society and we need to ensure our national, political and economic stability]. I would agree to review the ISA, and to amend where necessary, to give more authority to the judiciary to review decisions made by the [home] minister. Whenever the executive decides something, then the judiciary can prevent extreme suppression by the executive. So I agree to a review, but not to abolition.
Do you think Malaysia should be a secular or an Islamic state? Why?
This is a question of interpretation. There's nothing in the federal constitution to say that we are an Islamic state. The only thing is that priority is given to Islam as the official religion of the nation while others can practise their own beliefs.
But I believe, we don't have to worry so much about the form, whether we are secular or Islamic. Rather, we should look at what is substantive. This is better than calling ourselves an Islamic state or a secular state. We're not going to call ourselves secular like Turkey, and we're not going to call ourselves Islamic like Iran. It's better to marry both [and find a way] in between, and follow what the constitution says. I think this protects the country better.
How do you define your role as an elected MP? Does Parliament provide you with the necessary infrastructure and support to fulfill your role?
This is what I am always saying to the MPs. Your role as an MP is not only getting elected. Once you become an MP, you are responsible for this country, not for your constituency alone. You represent this country, from Perlis to Tawau in Sabah.
You represent the people's voice, their grievances, their wishes and aspirations. Your role comprises the responsibility to see that the country's policies and laws are consistent with universal values. You have to make sure that government policies are good. But that is not enough. You have to make sure that implementation and public delivery are good or the people will be shortchanged. So don't be so political in the Dewan. Know what the policies are and make sure they put the people first.
Parliament doesn't provide enough infrastructure and resources. Did you know that MPs in Malaysia are one of the lowest paid MPs in the world? This is a fact. For MPs who have other means of earning, they are alright. But for those who don't have the means, can you imagine surviving on an MP's salary?
There are always people coming to see you, weddings, funerals and kenduri to attend. In Malaysian politics, if you don't attend, you are condemned by the people. If you only give RM10, people say you are a stingy MP. The minimum you can give is RM50. And when people take your envelope, they don't put it in the same pocket with the others. They put it in a different pocket because they want to see how much they received from their MP.
MPs in the UK receive almost 1 million pounds a year. Malaysian MPs are paid about RM10,000 per month, including allowances, but the basic salary is only RM6,000.
In Morocco, an MP's salary is about the equivalent of RM25,000 a month. Fiji is a poor country but they pay their MPs higher. Not to mention Indonesia and Thailand. MPs there can focus on lawmaking because they are paid well. They can be more involved in parliamentary work, and they can practise the parliamentary committees system.
The government has got to consider providing more for MPs. Of course, if all MPs were to push a Bill to raise salaries, it will be passed. But politically, nobody even dares to bring such a motion because they will be condemned. Your name will be all over the media as the MP who is "gila duit". The public may not understand.
Would you support a Freedom of Information Act? Why or why not?
This is a good Act. But it must also be strengthened so it will not be abused. We are a young democracy and people may overdo things when there is too much freedom. I support freedom of information but people must understand the limits.
If there was one thing you could do to strengthen parliamentary democracy in Malaysia, what would it be?
I have written a memorandum to the Speaker on some ideas. I would like to re-introduce the Parliamentary Services Act. It was introduced in 1963. It gave financial and administrative independence to Parliament.
Then, I would like to have a committee for the House to oversee what the government is doing. Only then [would it mean that] we are really doing our parliamentary work. We may not be able to afford having 25 select committees, so I have suggested that we could perhaps have ten select committees, combining and merging portfolios, like foreign policy together with international trade.
In other countries, these committees sit almost all the time. We should try to follow international parliamentary practices of using select committees. This would be a good start.
Do you believe in separation of powers between the government, Parliament and judiciary? Why or why not?
I do. The only way democracy can work properly is through the separation of powers. In England, people first began to understand the concept in the 1600s, when the chief justice was also the Speaker of the House, and also the adviser to the king. People began to realise that one person cannot serve two [or more] heads.
It took a long time, hundreds of years, before the separation of powers was fully implemented in England. So we can also start slowly, but we must do it. I've told [Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri] Nazri [Aziz], that we could make a start by introducing a law-drafting committee in Parliament. Take this function away from the Attorney-General (AG) and put it under Parliament. Any ministry that wants to propose a Bill must send it to Parliament first.
Currently, the law is ready by the time it is sent to Parliament. If that is the case, we are not actually legislators. We are approving what the executive asks us to do. If we really want to be legislators, we must have this concept of a law committee in Parliament. Or at the least, it can be done by the AG but it must still go through such a committee instead of going straight to the House for debate.
Only a committee [of MPs] can understand what the public feels. I appreciate the AG's skills and knowledge. But he [or she] is only concerned that the law is good. As MPs, we are concerned with the social and political implications. We can decide whether this Bill can go straight to the House or to the people first for more feedback.
This is how the separation of powers must be done.And don't touch the judiciary because it is the bedrock of democracy. It protects the people's interests and protects the country from any kind of failure on the part of the executive or anybody else.