KUALA Selangor Member of Parliament (MP) Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad responds to the MP Watch: Eye on Parliament project, which asks all 222 MPs six questions.
Name: Dzulkefly Ahmad
Constituency: Kuala Selangor
Party: PAS (Opposition)
Years as MP: Since 2008
Government position: None
PAS central committee member
Membership in parliamentary committees or caucus: None
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 totally support the abolition of the ISA, as it is a piece of draconian legislation that provides for detention without trial. It is against the universal principle of justice and incidentally runs contrary to the Islamic legal maxim of Al-aslu bariatul zimmah or the equivalent of “innocent until proven guilty”. Every citizen must have access to a defence counsel and the right to defend himself or herself in [a] court of law.
Historically, [the ISA] was enacted to combat the armed insurgency of the Malayan Communist Party during the Emergency. The emergency ended in 1960 but the power of preventive detention continues.
The ISA has also unfortunately been widely perceived as a tool against bona fide lawful dissent, and [has] conveniently [been] misused against opposition politicians.
I totally support the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) in recommending that the ISA be repealed (not reformed) and replaced by new comprehensive legislation that, while taking a tough stand on threats to national security (including terrorism), does not violate basic human rights.
Do you think Malaysia should be a secular or an Islamic state? Why?
Let me begin by asserting that I’m an Islamist democrat. Like a social democrat in the DAP, who believes and advances social democracy in its political advocacy, I believe in advocating Islam as a social and political order; besides being a religious conviction per se, within the ambit of parliamentary democracy.
In a multi-party a la-Westminster parliamentary democracy, all contending parties have their right to advocate, compete and seek for electoral mandate in an electoral process that should provide for a free and fair political contestation on a more or less level playing field.
Viewed from this perspective, I must emphatically say that I’m least bothered whether Malaysia should be or is a secular or an Islamic state. I’m least concerned as to whether you call this country secular or Islamic. What matters to me is the provision of equal opportunities. [This includes] free and fair elections where every contesting party or coalition is accessible to the electorate.
That is critical and vital for a democrat rather than [to] be engaged in the endless worthless polemic of whether this country is secular or Islamic. If the entire electorate decides democratically that the country is secular, Islamic or otherwise, so be it. The ability to accept the majority’s decision, based on a functional democracy, is a democrat’s defining criterion.
As an Islamist democrat, I stand to defend others their right to advocate political convictions and I expect to be accorded the same right. As democrats, we are expected to accept the outcome of the political contestation and not take extra-parliamentary actions to subvert and undermine the state and its institutions.
Being part of the Pakatan Rakyat, PAS and other component parties are striving to achieve a truly democratic and functional democratic state, wherein rule of law and the federal constitution are upheld, and an open, transparent and accountable government is put in place.
This is more important, and a critical prerequisite in establishing a strong foundation for nation rebuilding, and securing a level playing field for everyone and every contending political party.
How do you define your role as an elected MP? Does Parliament provide you with the necessary infrastructure and support to fulfill your role?
There are two aspects of my role as an MP. Firstly, as a law-maker in the Dewan Rakyat. Secondly, as a “servant” of the rakyat in my constituency.
The second role is the tougher one, especially in a rural or semi-rural setting like Kuala Selangor, where the electorates do not differentiate whether you are [a state representative] or an MP. They expect you to [function like a] municipal councillor and look after their sampah, longkang and rumput, besides sometimes their daily needs.
I’m not complaining as I have put in place a good working squad that caters to such needs and as much as possible, [for me to] be present personally, because they want to see and “touch” their [elected representatives].
Going by academic and professional background, I feel I’m quite equipped to assume the role of a legislator. I usually will come to the House quite prepared. I must say that an MP has to read a lot. The amount of material, especially the various bills, are enormous besides other supplementary readings. You just have to keep abreast of situations, local, national and abroad.
Finally, the delivery part. I must also say that for an MP, speaking in Parliament is the [ultimate] satisfaction.
On infrastructure, I must say that there is still room for improvement. If an MP truly utilises the current set-up, I think it is sufficient for the usual needs of parliamentary debates. However, I look forward to the days where an MP will be equipped with a research assistant or given extra budget to enhance his or her research capacity.
Would you support a Freedom of Information Act? Why or why not?
Doubtless, I would support for a FOI Act. Democracy is about voters making informed decisions. Openness and disclosure is inversely proportional to corruption. The more informed the rakyat is, the lesser the chance for the executive and those in the civil service to engage in corrupt practices as they will be checked and balanced by the rakyat.
If there was one thing you could do to strengthen parliamentary democracy in Malaysia, what would it be?
Too many things are required, but empowering the rakyat with information would certainly be the first. By that I mean for all avenues of information, including the media, to be accessed by all contending political parties, non-partisan organisations, social activists, thinkers etc.
In Parliament, I would like to see opposition motions and private members’ bills be given their due importance. There must be equitable division of time for motions and bills of the government and those of the opposition. The opposition’s motions and bills represent the rakyat’s interest. Currently, there’s hardly any chance that private members’ bills of the opposition will ever see the light of day in Parliament.
Do you believe in separation of powers between the government, Parliament and judiciary? Why or why not?
It is always good to be talking about this doctrine. But to date, I’ve failed to see any truly workable model, a la Westminster, where the executive doesn’t intrude and exert undue influence, particularly on the judiciary.
The Attorney-General (AG)’s position is the critical link between the two branches of government. Perhaps there is a need to review the arrangement for a “political” appointment so that the AG can be made accountable to Parliament as opposed to the current practice. This may serve as a better check and balance between the executive and the judiciary.
Where a government is too strong with a two-thirds majority in Parliament for decades, as seen in our own country, the idea of “check and balance” by Parliament on the executive and judiciary is a big joke. Parliament has in fact turned out to be a big rubber stamp for the executive.
The electorate must be [smart] enough not to make the government of the day too arrogant by giving it too big a majority in any election. The idea of a two-party or two-coalition contest provides for a built-in mechanism to check and balance against the executive’s excesses. The rakyat is now given a choice. Choice is another essence of democracy.
For other MP responses, see Full MP list
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Eloquently and wonderfully answered. This is the type of MP that most people would like to have in their constituency. Dr Dzulkefly, you can certainly fly when given the opportunity to act as a minister in the future. Do continue to stand steadfast in your belief of the real democracy for Malaysia and not those practiced by the demon-crazy type.
More power to you, Dr Dzul! The fact that someone like you chooses PAS over Umno speaks volumes, and I am inspired.
Kuala Selangor says
BN has managed the country for more then 55 years, even [though] they said they want to do transformation within themselves, however, I believe to bring radical change to BN is to change the government in the next election. BN will only change radically after BN has lost their power.
I 100% support PR to take over PutraJaya. I as a non Muslim, always worry about implantation of Islamic policy into the country. If this really happens after PR takes over power, I will support BN to take over power after one term by PR.
Well said, Dr.Dzul. I am impressed with your high-level thoughts and ashamed that most of the other MPs still tend to bicker over non-issues.