Name: Mohd Radzi Sheikh Ahmad
Years as MP:
Government position: None
Perlis information chief
Membership in parliamentary committees or caucus: 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?
I do not support the ISA’s abolition, especially the provision allowing for detention without trial, as I believe in its usefulness. However, I do support a review of the ISA to make it more transparent and accountable to Parliament.
In such a review, I would suggest inserting the provision similar to the Dangerous Drugs (Preventive Measures) Act 1985, whereby the life of the Act is extended by Parliament every five years. By letting Parliament decide on the life of the Act every five years, MPs can debate this law, amend it, even abolish it. By allowing this debate, the public will be informed of the Act’s effectiveness, if there has been any mistreatment or abuse under the law, or how many have been detained, and other details.
This provision is absent from the ISA, which was enacted in 1960. When we did the Dangerous Drugs (Preventive Measures) Act 1985, I was then chairperson of the special select committee going around the country to get public feedback. Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye, who was then with the DAP, Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon, and the current Sarawak Deputy Chief Minister Datuk George Chan were also MPs and sat on the same select committee. I was the one who wanted that clause on the Act’s lifespan to be inserted. That Act is similar to the ISA with regards to detention without trial.
This provision should be inserted in the ISA under any review. It will keep the authorities on their toes. They will know that their actions will come before Parliament every five years.
Another part that should be reviewed is the first 60 days’ detention period prior to the two-year detention order. Sixty days is too long. I think 30 days is sufficient. But within that first 30 days, detainees must have access to legal representation, and they should be allowed to challenge allegations against them, not in a court trial, but in a hearing before some kind of board which makes recommendations to the home minister.
If the board recommends to the minister that he [or she] is to be detained for two years, the detainee should be given avenue for appeal within the first three months of detention to another board comprising persons of integrity with a public service record.
Before the end of the two years’ detention period, the detainee should be accorded legal representation if the minister intends to detain [him or her] for a further two years. The detainee’s family must be informed and his [or her counsel] allowed to be present. Police must also table to the board what progress the detainee has made during the last two years. And during the two years, the detainee must be given access to his [or her] family at least once a month.
Even other countries which have condemned the ISA have their laws on detention without trial, like Britain and the US.
Do you think Malaysia should be a secular or an Islamic state? Why?
I think Malaysia is neither a secular nor Islamic state. But the official religion is Islam. And this has worked well since Independence. We have religious tolerance. Although Islam is the official religion, we allow temples, churches and other places of worship to be built. I would leave it at that.
How do you define your role as an elected MP? Does Parliament provide you with the necessary infrastructure and support to fulfill your role?
Firstly, my primary obligation is to the people who put me in Parliament. That, I feel every MP must not forget.
I first became an MP in 1982. I go around the constituency attending to the people. You cannot just be an MP who attends official functions with all the kompang. You must be there for official and unofficial functions. You visit the sick, the elderly, the poor, attend weddings and funerals. You must always be accessible to your constituents. Nowadays the young people demand a lot of your time and attention.
As for resources from Parliament, it is not enough. I would love to have better infrastructure, but I understand it depends on the budget. I am only provided with a laptop, handphone, and travelling expenses for functions. But I do get annual government allocations to help my constituents.
Would you support a Freedom of Information Act? Why or why not?
I have no comment on this point, except to say privacy of personal information should be valued.
If there was one thing you could do to strengthen parliamentary democracy in Malaysia, what would it be?
I wish for more accountability by the government in a lot of aspects. And less talk and more action. For example, why should we wait for the media to expose environmental disasters before action is taken?
Now that we have the National Key Result Areas, the authorities should swing into action the minute a complaint is made by the public, and not wait until the media exposes it.
Do you believe in separation of powers between the government, Parliament and judiciary? Why or why not?
Of course. We have been practising it since Independence and should continue with it. But I would say that in Parliament, more time should be given for MPs to read the bills tabled and study and do research before debating them.
Bills should be handed out to MPs at least one session before. The opportunity must be given to everybody to do research and contribute to the debates. By giving them more time for research, the quality of debates can be enhanced. MPs won’t just be calling each other names. They can participate more meaningfully if they get the time to research and prepare.
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