(source: parlimen.gov.my)Name: Siti Mariah Mahmud
Constituency: Kota Raja
Party: PAS (Opposition)
Years as MP: Since 2008
Government position: None
Central committee member
Muslimat central committee member
Election machinery deputy director
Membership in parliamentary committees or caucuses:
Women’s caucus member
Would you support the abolition/review of the Internal Security Act, in particular the provision that allows for detention without trial? Why or why not?
I am for abolition, not review. It goes without saying that I disagree totally with detention without trial. Not only is it morally and religiously wrong, it transgresses our basic human rights. [People are] innocent until proven guilty.
Do you think Malaysia should be a secular or an Islamic state? Why?
That is a tricky question! It depends on how you understand what a secular or Islamic state is. Without going into semantics, I don’t think our country can be totally secular, where religion is never considered in governance or administration.
After all, [with] syariah laws, there can never be total separation between state and religion.
Neither can we be a total Islamic state (if we imagine that an Islamic state is like, for example, Saudi Arabia) with the present situation and circumstances. Even PAS’s constitution [doesn’t] say we want to establish that type of Islamic state. [It says we want] “Islamic values and laws” upheld in the country’s administration.
Almost all Islamic values do not contradict universal values [although] we have our differences in moral codes with the rest of the world.
With regards Islamic laws, all of us are aware the punishment for criminal laws in syariah, that is hudud law, conflicts with current norms. However, I believe there has never been sufficient discourse on this amongst Muslims and what more amongst non-Muslims. Many people view Islamic criminal laws simplistically, Muslims included.
Even among Muslim scholars, there are different views on the need or urgency of the implementation of such laws. Most of us are making our judgement on Islamic laws based on perceptions and not on knowledge.
Let’s leave the constitution we have now intact. What is important is to empower the judicial mechanism, enhance democratic space, return citizens’ basic rights, restore good governance, decimate corruption and ensure distributive justice.
There are many more important and urgent matters that we need to set right, all of which do not contradict Islamic values. In fact, this is what Islam stands for hence it is our obligation to struggle for these things before we start to bring in issues that will divide us.
One of the aims of syariah, or maqasid syariah, is to ensure the protection of citizens’ life, property and dignity. Upholding justice and good governance is the mainstay of the so-called “Islamic state”. If we can achieve all these objectives with the current constitution and at the same time have peace and prosperity, why dismantle it? I want to see the substance of Islam understood and practised rather than [just] the symbols.
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 are always referred to as lawmakers. But we are only debating and passing or voting against laws drafted by the government in Parliament. We are never involved in drafting the laws or enactments unlike other parliaments. After all the debates, not a comma or a full stop will change.
We have a single session to brief us on the administration of Parliament. After taking the oath (as MPs), there are no courses for MPs to empower them. Most of us are problem-solvers and self-directed learners, so we find our way.
But there’s a lot of time wasted. We don’t have research officers assigned to us but we do have access to the parliamentary pool. We don’t have offices at Parliament. Of course, the perpetual argument is that opposition MPs do not get any financial aid to help them in their constituency work.
As a first-term MP, I spent a lot of time on the ground trying to understand the problems faced by citizens and how the enacted laws, regulations and policies affect their lives. I never knew how uncoordinated some laws or policies are between the ministries, government agencies and local councils, and also between different Acts passed in parliament.
All these make it hard for government servants or agencies to enforce laws and solve citizens’ problems. It may sound trivial to some for example, [issues of] illegal parking, developers not fulfilling their obligations and illegal burning. But many of the laws enacted do not side the ordinary citizen and recourse is bureaucratic, torturous and expensive.
Sometimes I have to mediate between the authorities and citizens and also become their “envoy” when their applications and grouses have not been addressed appropriately.
Would you support a Freedom of Information Act? Why or why not?
Absolutely. If we want to be transparent and decimate corruption, citizens must have access to information.
If there was one thing you could do to strengthen parliamentary democracy in Malaysia, what would it be?
Do you believe in separation of powers between the government, Parliament and judiciary? Why or why not?
This is fundamental to a democratic system. I would be insane to disagree! If there is no separation of powers, [there would be] abuse of power and injustices as we are seeing now. We would be heading towards an autocracy and dictatorship.
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