(source: parlimen.gov.my)Name: Joseph Salang Anak Gandum
Years as MP: Since 1999
Information, communication and culture deputy minister
Membership in parliamentary committees or caucus: None
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?
Do you think Malaysia should be a secular or an Islamic state? Why?
In the first place, Malaysia is not an Islamic state. It is not a theocratic state. I am sure there are varying views as to what it should be like, but I think in life there is no absolute bad and good. It is always something in between.
Personally, I think where we are is good for the people, if we do not push our weight around. I think even if people have strong views, they should not push it onto others. That is the essence of democracy — yes, you voice your opinions but there are others who also have their voice. You may not agree with them but democracy is a system where we agree to disagree.
How do you define your role as an elected MP? Does Parliament provide you with the necessary infrastructure and support to fulfill your role?
As you might already know, in the case of Malaysia, the MPs are not that adequately furnished, be it in terms of allocation, infrastructure, logistics or [personnel] to assist them.
I would guess it is because we are still a developing state, and we are not really facilitating lawmaking so much. Here the MPs are really playing the role of bridging the people with the national aspiration.
As for us in Sabah and Sarawak, we are faced with a slightly different situation compared to urban areas. We are, in a way, involved in bringing a mental evolution among the people, from the comfort of nature to the hustle and bustle of economic activities and a monetary economy. It is no longer what it used to be in the good old days, when there were plenty of fish, animals, wild plants or fruits. We don’t have that luxury anymore, so some of us are involved in that transitional period.
So to us, inculcating the values of education and all that is important. If you think about why some MPs are not busy with legislation, it is because our concerns and priorities are slightly different. We are more concerned about something that is basic, as compared to something that is already at a self-actualisation level.
Would you support a Freedom of Information Act? Why or why not?
I think we do have a certain amount of freedom. But then again, with the type of demography that we have and with the population mix, [some] restriction may also be good.
Yes, freedom is good if everybody is willing to be responsible. But freedom definitely needs to be cautioned with responsibility. So yes, I would support it up to one level. And not total freedom, like when you asked earlier with regard to the Internal Security Act. There must be certain elements of freedom, yes, but sometimes it is better to be careful than to be sorry.
If there was one thing you could do to strengthen parliamentary democracy in Malaysia, what would it be?
I would like there to be more moral and ethical so-called Honourables. (An elected MP or assemblyperson is referred to as “Yang Berhormat”, which is literally “The Honourable”).
Do you believe in separation of powers between the government, Parliament and judiciary? Why or why not?
Yes, it is a good and time-tested practice by the Westminster setup. It is good because, for example, Parliament enacts and does the necessary things, then the judiciary performs its function to interpret what is already legislated. Then the administrators will have to run the country.
Again, as I have said, at the stage of development we are in now, yes, sometimes we are muddled up as to who is the government, who are the legislators and who are the administrators. There is some blurring differentiation between the two arms of government. But it is good practice for us to have clear separation of power.
We are now moving towards that. I think the administration under Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak is very much towards that. Less interference from politicians and more transparency would be better, so people would know the consequences of their actions. We are not there yet but we are moving towards that.
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