(Source: parlimen.gov.my)Name: Zahrain Mohamed Hashim
Constituency: Bayan Baru
PKR (Opposition) (quit 12 Feb 2010)
Independent (from 13 Feb 2010)
Years as MP: Since 2008
Government position: None
Party position: None
Membership in parliamentary committees or caucuses:
Asean Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar caucus member
Gender 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 fully support the ISA’s abolition. It is an outdated law, draconian, and subject to abuse.
While we should also not disregard the need to ensure security in the country and to make sure the people are protected, there are other laws that can do this. The problem with the ISA is that it can be abused because you allow one person to decide your fate in indefinite detention. On that basis it is a cruel law. It violates justice, human rights and freedom.
Do you think Malaysia should be a secular or an Islamic state? Why?
I believe in freedom and democracy. So to me, if the majority in Malaysia want an Islamic state, so be it. If the majority want a secular state, so be it.
But what is more important is that values of democracy, justice and freedom are practised. So, it’s up to the rakyat. It’s not what I want or what I wish. The people should decide how they want the country to be.
How do you define your role as an elected MP? Does Parliament provide you with the necessary infrastructure and support to fulfill your role?
MPs should do more research and gain more knowledge because we are expected to debate bills and issues that pertain to the running of the country and the good of the people. Besides that, we also have to go to our constituencies to see what are the issues there that we can raise in Parliament, and what problems the people are facing.
Sometimes voters’ expectations are different. They expect MPs to address personal issues like blocked drains. MPs can help with these things, but these are really local government issues. So we need to educate voters to understand that an MP’s job is look at laws and debate them, so that the laws approved are really for the people’s benefit.
Parliament doesn’t provide enough support for MPs. I’m lucky that I have other businesses and sources of income other than just relying on my MP’s salary and basic allowances. In other countries, governments are fully supportive of all MPs.
Parliament should seriously look into providing not just salaries for MPs but also research [assistants]. Right now, we are given the allowance and it’s up to us to appoint staff. But I would appreciate having four or five staff to help me with my service centre, to take care of the constituency, to do research.
There are a lot of things an MP has to do. What we are given now is not sufficient. It costs easily a few thousand a month to run your service centre. The government should specifically assist in things like service centres and staff. It would make any MP more effective.
Would you support a Freedom of Information Act? Why or why not?
I believe in democracy and freedom, and therefore, information should be free. People should know what the government is doing. With 1Malaysia and the various programmes and policies the government is launching, it’s fair that the rakyat knows what the government is doing.
If there was one thing you could do to strengthen parliamentary democracy in Malaysia, what would it be?
There are certain areas where Parliament could be more democratic. This means having more committees and caucuses to increase MPs’ participation. Caucuses should not be restricted to just Barisan Nasional MPs or Pakatan Rakyat MPs. We need to have more assimilation among MPs.
I see it happening, but [it’s] not overall. We should all see ourselves as MPs first, then only as party members. If you prioritise yourself as an MP first, then it’s good for democracy.
You should not only have to vote according to your party line; you should be allowed to vote according to your beliefs. There may be certain issues which you personally support or believe in, but here, party members have to vote according to their party even if they disagree.
In America, you find Democrats who won’t necessarily support certain bills their party is pushing for, and this kind of freedom is accepted there. If we can practise this in Malaysia, it would show that our parties understand democracy.
Do you believe in separation of powers between the government, Parliament and judiciary? Why or why not?
I think the prime minister is trying his best to instill separation of powers. Previously, I think there has been some abuse, especially between the judiciary and the executive.
I think with certain acts in Parliament recently, like the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Act and the [Enforcement Agencies Integrity Commission Act] to oversee the police, effort is being made towards ensuring true separation of powers.
It has to happen, because if it doesn’t, Malaysia will move backwards. We want to move forward to show the world we are a democratic country. So if the government takes steps to instill separation of powers, I think we will get more respect and support internationally.
For other MP responses, see Full MP list
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