*Updated 4 April 2011
(Source: parlimen.gov.my) Name: Chua Tian Chang
Party: PKR (Opposition)
Years as MP: Since 2008
Government position: None
Vice-president* (since 28 Nov 2011)
Membership in parliamentary committees or caucuses:
Labour caucus member
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?
Any law that includes a provision for detention without trial has no place in modern civilised societies and must be abolished. The ISA does not provide public security. Instead, the people live in constant fear of political persecution.
Besides, being an anti-democratic law, the power for arbitrary arrest and detention can be easily abused.
Do you think Malaysia should be a secular or an Islamic state? Why?
The rhetorical debate on secular or Islamic state is a framework we inherited from an old political discourse. It is clear according to our Federal Constitution that Malaysia is not and cannot be a theocracy. In fact, most Islamic political thoughts reject theocracy.
Nonetheless, the constitution has also never clearly spelt out that Malaysia is a secular state. It is not my interest to engage in such debate. Instead, we should strive to be a true democracy where there must be separation of powers. Civil society, political and economic institutions should not be subjected under the power of religious authorities.
As democracy is also practised within a particular cultural context, government policies and the lawmaking process will never be totally free from religious influence within society. Undeniably, religious values often shape government law and policies one way or another. However, the substantial issues here are: How much religious freedom do citizens enjoy? How free are we to debate theological issues without intimidation? Have minority faiths been given respect and recognition?
For all these questions, the paramount guiding principle is none other than the doctrine of universal human rights.
How do you define your role as an elected MP? Does Parliament provide you with the necessary infrastructure and support to fulfill your role?
An MP’s primary role is by definition lawmaking. Unfortunately, in the Malaysian context, a legislator’s function has been obstructed by several factors:
Absence of facilities and funding with regard to research, resources, staff, etc.
Parliament standing orders, regulations and the domination of the ruling party results in a situation where opposition legislators have no input in lawmaking.
The mainstream media and a longstanding political culture cultivate voters’ expectation of MPs to help solve livelihood problems in the constituency. Without allocation of funds, this is an expectation that is quite difficult to fulfil.
Would you support a Freedom of Information Act? Why or why not?
One of PKR’s key reforms is to enact laws that ensure free circulation of information. A Freedom of Information (FOI) Act should be one of the indicators of democracy and transparency.
It is not only an ethical issue. FOI enhances transparency and a level playing field. While we must appreciate FOI in the light of human rights and democratic values, it is also a tool for economic development.
In the age of globalisation, a higher degree of transparency will promote public and investor confidence. At the same time, transparency and the free flow of information can reduce corruption and leakages. This will have a positive impact on economic growth.
If there was one thing you could do to strengthen parliamentary democracy in Malaysia, what would it be?
It is crucial to create select and parliamentary committees to allow input from MPs of various parties. Legislative processes must go through thorough discussion and consultation before being passed in Parliament. Bills should not be passed by the government merely exercising its majority in Parliament.
Do you believe in separation of powers between the government, Parliament and judiciary? Why or why not?
The separation of powers among the government, Parliament and judiciary is an essential nature of democracy. However, the reality is that in Malaysia, the judiciary’s independence has been highly suppressed, and Parliament is operating like the government’s rubber stamp.
Massive institutional reforms have to be implemented to restore the true spirit of separation of powers among the three pillars. A change of government is necessary if this is to materialise.
For other MP responses, see Full MP list