(Source: parlimen.gov.my) Name: Manogaran Marimuthu
Constituency: Teluk Intan
Party: DAP (Opposition)
Years as MP: Since 2008
Government position: None
Perak human rights bureau director
Membership in parliamentary committees or caucuses if any:
Asean Inter-Parliamentary Association committee 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 would support the abolition of the ISA, not a review. The ISA should be replaced by an Anti-Terrorism Act. Detention without trial is unlawful, inhumane, and violates the principles of fairness, justice and democracy. It is contrary to the notion that all persons are equal before the law. Detention without trial is an unjust system for the following reasons:
It can and has been abused for political reasons.
All persons must be equal before the law and are entitled to equal protection of the law (Article 8, Federal Constitution).
The ISA is too general and is a catch-all act.
The authorities now tend to use the ISA when they cannot get evidence to frame a charge in court.
The ISA can also be abused by non-politicians, e.g. business rivalry as the minister relies on police reports/intelligence from the ground.
The ISA also allows the minister to extend the detention every two years.
It is against all forms of international and universal justice systems.
It is outdated and cannot be relevant in these times, even if reviewed.
Do you think Malaysia should be a secular or an Islamic state? Why?
Malaysia should be a secular state for the following reasons:
The constitution is secular in nature. While Islam is the religion of the federation, all other religions can be practised without any hindrance.
Nowhere in the constitution does it say that Islam is more important or more special than the other religions.
I believe almost half of Malaysians are non-Muslims. Therefore an Islamic state is not relevant.
When Malaysia got its independence from the British, the non-Muslims never negotiated for an Islamic state.
All over the world, countries which have tried to govern using Islamic law have largely failed or have become failed states, e.g. Pakistan, Sudan, Ethiopia, Afghanistan etc.
Religion should not be mixed with the governing of a state. A state cannot be governed purely along religious lines, especially when every religion has different interpretations. No single religion should be allowed to impose its values on another community of a different religion.
How do you define your role as an elected MP? Does Parliament provide you with the necessary infrastructure and support to fulfill your role?
In Parliament, I must speak up and take part in the debates. Although I am elected by the people of Teluk Intan, I am the MP of the federation. Even our speakers in Parliament do not understand this when they refuse to allow us to ask supplementary questions regarding another constituency in a specific manner.
In Parliament, I must also do extensive research. As an MP, my most important role is to attend every sitting, take part in debates, vote on bills, raise constituency issues, and ask questions pertaining to any aspect or issue in [or outside of] the country.
Besides Parliament, I am required to attend to constituency work, which surprisingly includes going to the market; checking on uncut grass and clogged drains; attending meetings with various agencies, supporters and party members; attending kenduri, weddings and funerals; sitting at the service centre… the list goes on. So we are all “supermen” [and “superwomen”]. Especially if you are a part-time MP, and if your constituency is two to three hours away from your home.
The Malaysian voter is very demanding. If you don’t go down to the market and at least shake their hands, they will not vote for you next time. An MP must also give donations throughout the year. It does not matter that Pakatan Rakyat MPs do not get allocations from the federal government.
Therefore with all the above pressures, and with a family, children and a job to take care of, my role as an MP has become robotic.
Parliament only provides me with a basic salary and allowance. It does not support me enough to carry out all of the above.
Parliament can do one very important thing: educate the public about the role of MPs. It should also provide enough funds to maintain a service centre, staff salaries, etc. MPs ideally should concentrate and focus on law[-making], [and] reform and development of the law. Parliament itself must be reformed. MPs must play an important role in legal research to always find new and better ways to improve our law and government so we can be a developed nation.
The cost of me going to the constituency to check markets, drains and uncut grass, [instead of working] on legal and Parliamentary reform, is far too high. In the end, the voters and public lose out. If only local authorities and government agencies did the work they are set up and paid for, then the people would not run to their MPs all the time. In Malaysia, however, this is sadly not the case.
Would you support a Freedom of Information (FOI) Act? Why or why not?
I would support a FOI Act because every citizen is entitled to receive or seek information which [belongs in the public domain], except information that infringes on private individuals, as well as national security information.
If there was one thing you could do to strengthen parliamentary democracy in Malaysia, what would it be?
The one thing — and there are many — I would like in Malaysia is a strengthened parliamentary democracy. To get the Election Commission to implement an integrated system with the National Registration Department, which would register voters automatically when a person turns 21. This is because by the time the 13th general election comes, there may be close to five million eligible voters not registered to vote.
Do you believe in separation of powers between the government, Parliament and judiciary? Why or why not?
It is unbelievable that one would not believe in separation of powers. It is inherent in a democracy that Parliament (the legislative), the executive (the prime ninister and the cabinet) and the judiciary are clearly independent of one another. It is important that the three function separately.
Parliament formulates and passes laws, but in Malaysia, the attorney-general’s office formulates; and in Parliament, the bills, although debated, are passed nevertheless. Parliament should not pass a bill into law if [40 or 50] MPs are against it. It must be re-tabled.
There are, of course, overlapping areas. For example, the speaker heads Parliament but is appointed by the head of the executive. The head of the executive also appoints the head of the judiciary, or has a very important say in who is being appointed.
Judges also run into error when we hear them say that their duty is to interpret laws passed by Parliament. I would say that their duty is not only to interpret the laws, but to strike down laws that infringe upon the people’s rights, and those that are unconstitutional. If the judge’s work is only to interpret the law strictly as passed by Parliament, then there is no separation of powers, and the judiciary is just another government department.
Therefore, a functioning democracy must have these three pillars of democracy strictly separated in its true sense, and not as is currently practised in Malaysia. Here, even speakers in Parliament, MPs and judges do not understand their roles. Only the executive seems to understand its role and is trampling on Parliament and the judiciary.
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