Name: Tan Tee Beng
Constituency: Nibong Tebal
Independent (from 1 March 2010)
Years as MP: Since 2008
Government position: None
Party position: None
Membership in parliamentary committees or caucuses: 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?
This is a multiracial country in which we need certain laws to [ensure] unity and peace. Any law is good, but the question we should ask ourselves is who executes it and how it is enforced. The ISA should not be abolished in a rush without a new law to replace it.
However, before a better law is enacted, we should “repeal”, “reform” and “review” the ISA. Detention without trial may be retained, but should be restricted to certain serious offences like treason and terrorism.
If the ISA is used to detain suspects [for crimes] which the police already have the power to arrest and interrogate, then I would strongly object. No racial issue should be within the ISA’s scope. If lawmakers agree for it to be included, that means our nation has failed to make a Malaysian Malaysia after decades of independence.
In conclusion, the ISA must only have limited power over certain offences and must not be abused.
Do you think Malaysia should be a secular or an Islamic state? Why?
Again, it depends on who are the executors. For example, Iran and Turkey — one can be radical on Islamic issues, while the other is very loose. Both are Islamic states. Therefore, I don’t see the importance, as long as all races, religions and cultures are respected, and there is common recognition of the effort of all races who have contributed to this country.
How do you define your role as an elected MP? Does Parliament provide you with the necessary infrastructure and support to fulfill your role?
Malaysian MPs can be divided into three groups. One group hardly goes to their constituencies but gives impressive speeches in the Dewan. The second group is always in the constituency but hardly speaks in the Dewan. The last group consists of those who hardly do [either].
I consider myself the second type of MP. Why? Because I [am exhausted from work] in my constituency, [which is a mostly rural area]. I spend three days a week in my area, even more than the state assemblyperson. Many MPs use their personal assistants to run the show, but I don’t. I’m trying to change because I believe an MP should be a lawmaker, not a councillor. I don’t blame other MPs, it is just the rakyat’s mentality in different areas.
I believe the Malaysian Parliament is the least supportive in Asia Pacific. MPs in countries such as the Philippines, Indonesia and South Korea are so well taken care of, and they can concentrate on lawmaking. Here, we have to be a super[hero] to fulfill our role. We use our salary to pay for our personal assistant, office, transport and more.
Opposition [MPs] have no [allowance] to upkeep their areas. We need to prepare speeches, defend our stand in Parliament; and then we have to view longkang, apply for lamp posts, and have endless kenduri and tokong dinners to attend. Therefore, we never move. Rich MPs may be looking for more contracts for themselves; poor MPs may later be tempted to be corrupt.
Would you support a Freedom of Information Act? Why or why not?
I support a Freedom of Information Act. It is a basic human right that should be upheld. However, an independent body or panel should be set up, consisting of non-governmental organisations, the government, the opposition, and independent representatives as well as citizens, to look into the truthfulness of information when disputes arise.
If there was one thing you could do to strengthen parliamentary democracy in Malaysia, what would it be?
I am not [stating the following just] because I am an independent MP now. My long-held position has been that we should hold an independent view, not biased by any political influence.
When I was in the Pakatan Rakyat (PR), we were instructed to follow the PR’s majority stand. This was only the view of a few leaders, and sometimes we were required to object just to embarrass the opposite side. I was once told to leave early because I told the leaders I wanted to vote for the opposite side on an issue. [Is that] democracy?
Do you believe in separation of powers between the government, Parliament and judiciary? Why or why not?
Definitely. But I see we have failed to [implement] that since many years ago. Although we adopted the British system, which has done well for centuries, we have derailed after only 50-something years of independence. Why? Simple. Don’t we see that the 8 March tsunami was due to the people’s perception of and disappointment with the non-separation of powers between the [executive], Parliament and judiciary?
But if you ask me whether the PR will do better than the Barisan Nasional if they take over the government, I am quite confident in saying probably not. Maybe they will show a mere 10% to 20% improvement, but is this what the rakyat expects?
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