Name: Mohd Shafie Apdal
Years as MP: Since 1995
Government position: Rural and regional development minister
Party position: Umno vice-president
Membership in parliamentary committees or caucus:
Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA), Malaysia chairperson
CPA International executive committee chairperson
Blog/Website: Facebook – Mohd Shafie Apdal
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 am well aware that currently there are some people who are calling for the immediate repeal of the Internal Security Act. The argument they put forward suggests that the state has misused and abused it.
At first glance, it might appear to some to be a very seductive argument, inviting an immediate response in the form of repealing. However, I think that is oversimplifying a complex issue, [which] would be a mistake.
Over the years since the Act became law – with the exception of 1969 – there has followed years of peaceful growth, increase in wealth and social stability. It is my contention that the residual powers contained in the Act have enabled successive governments to ensure a stable social and political environment in which the economy has flourished. You don’t throw that away lightly.
I accept that there may have been occasions when the Act was used unadvisedly, but bad cases don’t necessarily make good laws.
As with other policy changes and reviews, the acid test is the extent to which a repeal of the Act would be in the best interests of our national agenda, especially in ensuring continued peace, prosperity and stability. There first needs to be a general agreement based on good evidence that a review or repeal would meet this need.
Then we would simultaneously have to be sure that other laws are available and suitable to deter and prevent those who wish to use illegal and/or extra-parliamentary means to disrupt society, damage race relations, or cause hatred. No responsible government can leave itself defenceless against such threats.
Do you think Malaysia should be a secular or an Islamic state? Why?
The Federal Constitution clearly sets out the position of Islam as the state’s religion. At the same time, it ensures the religious freedoms of non-Muslims. Ironically, the constitution also provides for those of no particular religious belief, i.e. secularists. I see no need whatsoever to change this.
[Editor’s note: According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, a secularist is someone who is indifferent to or rejects or excludes religion and religious considerations. A person of no particular religious belief is an atheist.]
How do you define your role as an elected MP? Does Parliament provide you with the necessary infrastructure and support to fulfill your role?
My prime duty as an MP is to represent the people of Semporna and simultaneously to explain to them the strategies and decisions of government and Parliament. As AJ Balfour once said: “Democracy is government by explanation.”
In addition, I have to respond to the needs of individual constituents.
Of course, any MP would like to see enhanced infrastructure and MP support systems, but we have to weigh this in the balance of other budgetary priorities; the first of which is meeting the people’s needs.
Would you support a Freedom of Information Act? Why or why not?
This is another attractive proposition, and in principle it seems simple. It is not, for much would depend on the provisions of such an act. For example, much of the work of government is of a confidential nature involving such issues as national security, defence, some aspects of economic planning, and even matters concerning individual citizens.
The drafting of such legislation is extremely complex, as some other nations have already experienced. Again, this is an issue that requires close and thorough analysis of the gains that would be accrued. At this point of time, while there may be some advantages, I think that there are other more pressing issues.
If there was one thing you could do to strengthen parliamentary democracy in Malaysia, what would it be?
I would like to see an improvement in the quality of political debate. There is no doubt in my mind that people are fed up with petty squabbling and mindless points-scoring, especially in Parliament.
Quality debating involves an issue focus, and not the denigration of personalities or silly name-calling. The people expect us parliamentarians to set an example of decency and good manners. We should never forget that the vast majority of people are hardworking, and they have a right to expect us to show them respect through the dignity of our conduct.
Furthermore, in a parliamentary democracy such as ours, quality debating adds value to legislation and the country’s governance.
Do you believe in separation of powers between the government, Parliament and judiciary? Why or why not?
The Federal Constitution already defines the separate roles and functions of the three main organs of government and their inter-relationship. None of the three acts in a vacuum, and as with other forms of government across the world, there will always be some points of tension and even dispute.
It is for this reason that our constitution’s drafters not only defined the roles and functions but also the supremacy of Parliament and ultimately the head of state.
For other MP responses, see Full List of MPs
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