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Chong Eng (Bukit Mertajam)

BUKIT Mertajam Member of Parliament (MP) Chong Eng’s response to the MP Watch: Eye on Parliament project, which asks all 222 MPs six questions.

Chong Eng

Name: Chong Eng
Bukit Mertajam

Party: DAP (Opposition)
Years as MP:
Since 1999
Government position:

Party position:
Wanita DAP chief

Membership in parliamentary committees or caucus:
Women’s Parliamentary Caucus deputy head member
Standing Order Committee member


1Would 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?

As a peace-loving and law-abiding citizen of Malaysia, I fully support the abolition of the draconian ISA. We say it is draconian because the principle of justice presumes a person innocent until proven otherwise; but [it is] not so with the so-called pre-emptive ISA where a person can be detained without trial.

The ISA also disregards the rule of law and the judiciary by placing the power of prosecution in the hands of the police and a politically-appointed minister. The home minister has the power to order for a person to be detained without trial for up to two years. It is no surprise then that ISA has been abused to persecute and weaken political opposition.

Malaysia has sufficient laws to prosecute criminal and civil offenses, so there is no  reason why the outdated ISA should not be totally abolished.

2Do you think Malaysia should be a secular or an Islamic state? Why?

I think this is a western political categorisation which is unnecessarily forced on Malaysia. If by a secular state we mean that the government or the country is atheist and has no respect for religion, then obviously we are not a secular state and we can never be one.

Article 3 of our Federal Constitution accords the religion of Islam as the religion of the federation, while Article 11 provides for the freedom to profess other religions. The first principle of our Rukun Negara states a belief in God. Religion is therefore in-built in Malaysia. We have had no problem with this all this while.

Our problem begins when overzealous politicians manipulate religion to further their political interest. We have seen how, [for example], Umno tries to portray themselves as the defender of the Islamic faith against self-created invisible enemies. They want to scare everyone into toeing the line.

While we cannot deny our society’s religious nature, we must not allow a monopoly of a single religion to the point that other beliefs are oppressed. We also cannot subject non-adherents to religious laws, which is why the nature of our constitution is neutral, rather than secular. 

3How do you define your role as an elected MP? Does Parliament provide you with the necessary infrastructure and support to fulfill your role?

As a Member of Parliament, I represent the wishes of the people in my constituency in the Dewan Rakyat. We are, so to say, proxy rulers and administrators, that is, we make decisions on this country’s direction on behalf of all citizens of Malaysia.

Which is why it is important that we must take into consideration not only voters, but also those who are not yet voters and also those who cannot vote, including future generations. It is a heavy responsibility, almost sacred, but sadly, some people see an elected office as an opportunity to enrich themselves.

My colleague in Parliament, and party comrade, Liew Chin Tong, said in his book Speaking for the Reformasi Generation that the primary task of Malaysian MPs is [assumed] to be [about] attending social functions rather than to discuss and debate in Parliament, because while we are given transport allowance, we are not given allowance for research staff.

Let’s not talk about the western world. We can take the examples of our Southeast Asian neighbours. The Cambodian Parliament allocates an office and one assistant to each MP, while our Thai counterparts are given five assistants. MPs in Singapore are also given allowance to hire secretarial and legislative assistants.

If we are aiming to be a first world Parliament, then the quality of our debate must be improved. MPs must be given adequate research facilities because our country’s fate lies in the results of parliamentary decisions.

4Would you support a Freedom of Information Act? Why or why not?

I fully support a FOI Act because I believe it will promote accountability and combat the rampant abuse of power and corruption within the government. A government of the people should not be afraid to divulge information about its operations to its people.

We can understand if it is sensitive information about homeland security. But other than that, the people should have the right to access information such as details of budget, contracts awarded to private companies, government departments’ operations and cabinet decisions on these matters.

5If there was one thing you could do to strengthen parliamentary democracy in Malaysia, what would it be?

Refer below.


6Do you believe in separation of powers between the government, Parliament and judiciary? Why or why not?

The purpose of the separation of powers is to reverse the old system of autocratic rule by a dictator, whether a king or an elected ruler. The saying, “Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely” applies in this case. When power is concentrated in the hands of a single person or a single political party, corruption ensues.

There is a need for check-and-balance of power. In this aspect, it is sad that the Malaysian Parliament is not playing its role as an independent ombuds[person] of the executive. Rather, it is now seen to be the executive’s rubber stamp. The same can almost be said of our judiciary. When this happens, the people will be denied of both justice and good governance. 

To answer Question 5, it is vital that we restore the independence of the three branches of government — the executive, the legislative and the judiciary. Only then can Malaysia move forward with a more accountable, competent, just and transparent government.

For other MP responses, see Full MP list

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3 Responses to “Chong Eng (Bukit Mertajam)”

  1. KohJL says:

    I think our MPs are confused. Maybe they should have looked up a dictionary.

    If atheistism = No god
    Then secularism = No comment.

    An example of atheist state would be the Soviet Union, which actively attacked and suppressed religious practice. Especially in its early days.

    Lenin himself denounced religion as “opium of the people”.

    Though an atheist myself, I’d rather not live in such a state.

    On the other hand, a secularist stance on religion would be a neutral and non-interfering one. It does not endorse and suppress any religion, or even the lack of it.

    A hallmark of such a state would be: 1) Freedom of religion, and 2) separation between the church (and mosque, and synagogue, and temple and whatnot) and state.

    Isn’t that what she is advocating in all but name?

  2. Sonic says:

    For a few years now, I’ve really respected Chong Eng as a responsible people’s representative. Although I’m not from Chong Eng’s constituency I will continue to support her for her dedication to our country and people.

  3. AvgMsian says:

    I agree somewhat with KohJL, except I think it is important to clarify that the secular state is a state that is committed to freedom OF religion not freedom FROM religion – that would be an atheist state (e.g. Khmer Rouge regime).

    While I fully believe the elements of our constitution allow for the creation of a secular state, it also recognises the position of Islam as the official religion of Malaysia. Hence, the beauty in our constitution lies in the fact that it fundamentally includes the separation of church and state, but recognises the importance of religion in the community.

    Secular countries like Germany for example, still recognise the Lutheran church as the “official state belief”; Turkey – closer to our own country, is a secular state with an overwhelmingly Muslim majority. Compare this with the other extreme, Iran, which is a theocracy (or the Vatican which is the Christian version of it) whereby their constitution allows for the dominion of a single religion viz. Shi’a Islam.

    Hence, to say that Malaysia is not a secular state would be inaccurate from the standpoint of our constitution.

    I think though the response she made was a fairly diplomatic one given the many misconceptions that exist. More so when one has an overtly zealous element seeking to subvert the statements of MPs.

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