Years as MP: Since 2008
Government position: None
Party position: Youth chief
Membership in parliamentary caucus or committee: 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?
Let me first say that we should move away from viewing the ISA question in terms of binary opposites. Rather, we need to elevate the debate to find a middle ground, which encompasses legitimate concerns for national security without compromising on civil and political rights.
As such, I would support the review of the Internal Security Act or even its abolishment if it is replaced by another Act which allows for preventive detention under strict guidelines. I trust the people accept that the demands of national security require for some allowance on the government’s part to detain would-be terrorists. But most importantly, these powers should never be used to stifle legitimate political dissent.
Thus, I would urge a relook at the extensive powers granted to the home minister under Section 8 of the Act. Here, I believe judicial review should be reintroduced. I also feel that those detained under the ISA should have guaranteed access to legal counsel.
Do you think Malaysia should be a secular or an Islamic state? Why?
If we’re speaking in purist, theoretical terms, then my answer would be neither. Malaysia is neither an Islamic state as understood in a sense that we are a theocracy, nor are we a secular country where there is a clear demarcation between religion and state.
We have both Islamic and secular elements within state institutions. For instance, we practise parallel judicial systems. For non-Muslims, syariah laws generally have little impact on their actions, and they can live by, if you like, “secular” or civil laws. But the same cannot be said for Muslims.
Notwithstanding the above, our constitution spells out that Islam is the official religion of the state, and state funds are channelled towards the religion’s development in the country; for example, in the construction of mosques. Now, clearly this would not happen if there was complete separation between state and religion.
I don’t believe non-Muslims have a quarrel with this fact. Rather, it is Malaysia’s perceived Islamisation that has reignited the debate about whether our country is Islamic or secular.
I think the more important test in facing all the tough issues relating to this debate is whether common sense prevails. Important as they are, the constitutional or legal questions pertaining to the caning of women for consuming alcohol, or the rights to the body of a deceased family member must not supersede the questions of humanity, empathy, compassion and common sense.
How do you define your role as an elected MP? Does Parliament provide you with the necessary infrastructure and support to fulfil your role?
As a young Barisan Nasional (BN) MP, I see my role as necessarily multi-pronged. Chief of my concerns is, of course, my primary constituents: the people of Rembau. As their elected representative, it is my duty to serve as a community champion on issues that matter to my constituents — welfare, education and housing, for example.
But beyond catering to my voters’ needs, my role also encompasses the broader representative function of legislating national issues. To be an effective legislator in this right, it is incumbent upon me to be properly informed on the issues, motions and bills that are presented before the House before participating in parliamentary debates.
As one of the few MPs for BN under the age of 40, and as chair[person] of BN Youth, I feel that as an elected MP, I have a special role in representing the voice and aspirations of young voters, whether in Parliament or outside it.
As for infrastructure, I would like to see a few changes. I would start with a good resource centre that supplies a recent and comprehensive collection of magazines, journals and books, not to mention access to established online research portals. Presently, the majority of the research material is dated, and access to paid online resources is severely limited.
In addition, I would also like more financial and administrative support for bipartisan caucuses set up by MPs.
Would you support a Freedom of Information Act? Why or why not?
Yes, I would, because it would assist in the democratisation of Malaysia. Specifically, it would increase government transparency and accountability as well as reduce corruption across the board.
But similar to the ISA debate, we need to accommodate legitimate concerns that will not allow for complete public access to information. On the individual level, surely we would not want private information, including those pertaining to legal privilege of citizens, to be considered public. And in the interests of the country at large, information that can justifiably be seen to jeopardise national security or criminal investigations should also be kept guarded. Again, common sense must triumph.
If there was one thing you could do to strengthen parliamentary democracy in Malaysia, what would it be?
The driving force behind any democracy is the people. I believe it to be paramount that we always look for ways to ensure continuing utility and relevance of our parliamentary institutions to the people. Parliament should reflect, as well as possible, the public’s aspirations, which are more often than not nonpartisan.
In doing so, I would like to suggest the setting up of a parliamentary caucus made up of young MPs from both sides of the divide. The caucus will engage the young generation through varying means to better understand their wishes for, and even critique of, our parliamentary democracy.
Do you believe in separation of powers between the government, Parliament and judiciary? Why or why not?
Yes. Any democrat would appreciate the intrinsic and instrumental values of the separation of powers. But seeing how ours is a parliamentary democracy, it is by nature not possible to have complete separation of powers between government and Parliament. The party with the largest presence in Parliament is always the party of government, which is not the case in presidential or semi-presidential democracies like the US or France.
But it is the underlying principle of the separation of powers that I support. The three branches have their respective roles. While the executive and legislative branches may be intermingled, the latter should not be seen as merely furthering the former’s political agenda.
The demand for an independent judiciary is a much more clear-cut case. Here, the judicial system must not only be fair and independent, but must also be seen to be so.
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