RASAH Member of Parliament Loke Siew Fook responds to the MP Watch: Eye on Parliament project, which asks all 222 MPs the same six questions about parliamentary democracy in Malaysia.
Three of the questions were selected by readers and three others by The Nut Graph.
Name: Loke Siew Fook
Party: DAP (Opposition)
Years as MP: 2008-
Government position: None
Negeri Sembilan DAP chairperson
DAP central committee member
DAP Socialist Youth national secretary
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?
Yes, I will support the abolition of the ISA. Detention without trial is against the principle of the right to defend oneself in a court of law. Our country has sufficient laws to deal with any security threat. The ISA has been misused by the Barisan Nasional as a political tool to silence critics and to sustain its political power. The ISA has also created an atmosphere of fear in our society by preventing people from speaking their minds, and in the process, has stifled critical thinking among our younger generation.
Do you think Malaysia should be a secular or an Islamic state? Why?
The status quo of the basic framework of the Federal Constitution, which is secular in nature, must be upheld. The status of Islam as the official religion of the federation will never be questioned.
However, separation of the state and religion is fundamental in any democracy. The country’s governance must be based on the written constitution. In short, any theocratic form of government is not suitable and is unacceptable in a multiracial society such as Malaysia.
How do you define your role as an elected MP? Does Parliament provide you with the necessary infrastructure and support to fulfill your role?
I view myself as the “eye, ear and mouth” of my constituents. I represent them in monitoring what the government is doing and how it spends taxpayers’ monies. At the same time, I communicate the people’s wishes to the government through our parliamentary debates and questions. We play the role of “check and balance” within the governance system.
Through our voices in Parliament, the government has to be answerable for all their actions. In the process, this creates a more transparent system.
No, the Malaysian Parliament has not given enough support to MPs. We need a fully funded office, backed up by full-time research officers and constituency assistants to help us play our role. Right now, all these expenses are borne using an MP’s allowances. Therefore, some MPs have to do fundraising to keep their offices running, which is unhealthy.
For opposition MPs, we have no say whatsoever in how our constituency’s yearly development allocation is used. MPs should be allowed to decide how this allocation is allocated, especially on small infrastructure projects. At the end of the day, we are answerable to the people.
Would you support a Freedom of Information (FOI) Act? Why or why not?
Yes, I would. Freedom to access of information is a democratic right for citizens and taxpayers. FOI can serve as a deterrent to corruption as free flow of information makes every decision by any level of government more transparent.
For example, the procurement costs for a government department will be more transparent with FOI. Any unreasonable expenses can be detected at a faster pace, and this serves as an important tool to cut wastages and corruption.
If there was one thing you could do to strengthen parliamentary democracy in Malaysia, what would it be?
Every ministry must be monitored by a Parliamentary Select Committee which consists of a few MPs. The committee can deliberate and question any matter and issue concerning the ministry at greater length. The ministry must be answerable to this committee.
At present, MPs have only limited opportunities in debates to raise specific issues concerning any particular ministry. This is superficial at best, and the ministers do not feel the heat to answer tough questions. This has encouraged arrogance among our ministers.
Do you believe in separation of powers between the government, Parliament and judiciary? Why or why not?
Separation of powers between the executive, legislative and judiciary is the basic tenet of any democratic government. It should not only be theoretical; proper execution of this separation must be put in place.
The simple reason for this is to ensure check and balance in the exercise of power in every branch of government. It’s wrong to presume that “government” only means the prime minister and his [or her] cabinet. This, unfortunately, has become the common understanding in Malaysia.
For other MP responses, see Full MP list
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Well answered. I hope he answered from his heart and must not waver should Pakatan [Rakyat] one day become the new ruling coalition.