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Loh Gwo-Burne (Kelana Jaya)

KELANA JAYA Member of Parliament (MP) Loh Gwo-Burne’s response to the MP Watch: Eye on Parliament project, which asks all 222 MPs six questions.

Name: Loh Gwo-Burne
Kelana Jaya
PKR (Opposition)

Years as MP: Since 2008
Government position:

Party position: None

Membership in parliamentary caucus or committee:
Asean Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus 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 ISA’s abolition. The reasons are simple; the ISA was established at a different time when the nation’s situation was significantly different. I believe the ISA’s original objective has been served, and the circumstances which resulted in the ISA’s establishment are no longer relevant.

Any fair-minded person would acknowledge that the ISA has been constantly abused. The ISA has become more of a tool for oppression, providing security for those in power, crushing dissent from society, stifling any emerging political threats and preventing democracy from flourishing in Malaysia. If we are to move forward as a nation and a democracy, there is little doubt that the ISA has to be abolished. 

2 Do you think Malaysia should be a secular or an Islamic state? Why?  
Firstly, to avoid confusion, let’s make it is clear that the national religion for Malaysia is Islam. This is clearly indicated through the crescent moon on our national flag. But having Islam as the national religion and being an Islamic state are two different matters.

I only wish to say that we should look at the “social contract” which is clearly stated in the constitution. And I strongly disagree with those who suggest that the social contract is a series of unwritten agreements agreed upon before Merdeka.

Anyone who did not sleep through their jurisprudence class in university can tell you that during the initial stages of the formation of a society, natural laws of justice preside over society. As society grows larger into city states, the “social contract” emerges as an unwritten code guiding society and guaranteeing the people’s rights. When finally, society evolves into a nation, the social contract is then put in writing and it becomes the constitution.

Therefore the constitution is the social contract, and if one wants to look at the social contract, please look at the constitution in its original form. Please refer to the original form of our constitution for provisions expressly stating that Malaysia is an Islamic state.

Should Malaysia be an Islamic or secular state? I believe law and morality should be separated. Laws must be universally applied through all of society, and should be the yardstick for all matters regarding inter-human activity. In other words, I believe laws should only be applied to humans when their activities result in a tangible, physical and monetary effect on other humans.

Morals on the other hand are something personal, and alter with time. Morals are not universal.

I am of the opinion that we should not have a right to judge and punish others based on our own moral beliefs. The state’s realm should be restricted to the governance of laws, and laws should be restricted to governing the relationship between humans and human institutions. Morals and matters of the soul is God’s realm, and should be left to [God] alone. Therefore, I am of the opinion that the state and religion should be separated. 

3 How do you define your role as an elected MP? Does Parliament provide you with the necessary infrastructure and support to fulfill your role?

It is clear that the Malaysian Parliament does not provide the MPs with enough resources for us to function properly. Furthermore the current systems and conventions utilised by Parliament further erode an MP’s effectiveness. And to a large extent, this fact is what defines our roles.

When you compare the resources afforded to an MP in the Philippines or Korea, they are provided with a number of paid staff to aid them in their parliamentary work, which MPs in Malaysia are deprived of. This at the end of the day translates to the standard of our Parliament.

But the real problems are far graver and wider. One problem is the blind subservience of MPs in the ruling coalition; their behavior has all but turned the Malaysian Parliament into a rubber stamp. This results in the legislature losing all form of independence, allowing the executive to mould laws to suit their convenience.

Another problem would be the press, because at the end of the day when nonsense, lies and venom have been spewed, it is the press that has to ensure that politicians pay for their words said in Parliament. But sadly, that is not happening. So at the end of the day in the current structure, the MPs’ effectiveness as a law maker is severely restricted, regardless whether you belong to the ruling coalition or to the opposition.

The rot in public institutions is not restricted to Parliament. The Malaysian populace runs into problems at almost every corner when public institutions are concerned. And very often the MPs are relegated to providing social services to the people, providing a sort of last recourse for some of the problems faced by the average person. And these tasks often prove to be more meaningful compared to the often mindless rubber stamping in Parliament. But we continue to struggle to hopefully return Parliament to its rightful role, and we long to serve a wider role in our efforts to protect and safeguard the people’s rights.

4 Would you support a Freedom of Information Act? Why or why not?  
Public institutions in Malaysia have so often practised so much secrecy that you will find “sulit” stamped on far too many documents. Some matters understandably should be kept classified, but more often than not, secrecy is perceived as a cover for public administrative incompetence or even corruption.

For the sake of good governance alone, it is crucial that we allow the public access to information as to the workings of a public institution. This would empower people, and make politicians and civil servants more accountable. 

5 If there was one thing you could do to strengthen parliamentary democracy in Malaysia, what would it be?

In the case of Malaysia, the list is a long one. For me it would be a close fight between a free and fair judiciary and press freedom. While the judiciary is a democracy’s last line of defense, press freedom is the first. I pick press freedom by a narrow margin.

I am of the opinion that a free press would be able to make the government more accountable for their actions. The press directs the people’s attention to unpopular government actions and policies, and delivers their wrath. In the West, many politicians, ministers, even presidents have fallen, due to the press. Actions were made accountable, debts to society paid, all directly resulting from pressure from the press. If only this were so in Malaysia… 

6 Do you believe in separation of powers between the government, Parliament and judiciary? Why or why not?

The independence of a nation’s executive, legislative and judicial arms is paramount, because only when the three arms are independent will you have check and balance and a means to address abuses of power. And it is clear that this fact is universally acknowledged, even by those who would abuse it. Ask someone from the ruling coalition and he [or she will say] to you that the executive, legislative and judiciary are independent.

In Malaysia, I think we can see an example of how bad things can get when there is a lack of independence between the three arms, and how unaccountable governments can be. For example, dubious charges of sodomy are being leveled against an opposition leader despite the obvious lack of evidence. While oral sex by a leader from a ruling party is ignored despite there being video evidence and a public confession. Need I say more?

For other MP responses, see Full MP list

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