(Source: parlimen.gov.my) Name: Teo Nie Ching
Party: DAP (Opposition)
Years as MP: Since 2008
Government post: None
National publicity assistant secretary
Membership of any parliamentary committee or caucus:
Asean Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar 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?
Definitely yes! Detention without trial violates the fundamental principles of human rights and justice. Everyone is innocent until proven guilty. But under the ISA you are guilty if the home minister feels so.
[The ISA] is also a violation of the doctrine of separation of power. The home minister as the executive cannot and should not be allowed to confer on himself [or herself] such judicial power.
I visited the Kamunting Detention Camp after I was elected. Some of the detainees had been detained there for more than seven years without trial. They had no idea when they would be released. Even a rapist or murderer [has some] certainty about his or her judgement. What type of [criminal] (in the case of ISA, as yet unproven as well) deserves such mental torture? And don’t forget, the ISA does not only punish the detainees, but also tortures their family and friends.
Do you think Malaysia should be a secular or an Islamic state? Why?
Malaysia is definitely a secular state and should remain so. At the same time, Islam is our official religion. The Federal Constitution is very clear on this. For decades, this question was never an issue, and I hope this question will not be an issue anymore.
How do you define your role as an elected MP? Does Parliament provide you with the necessary infrastructure and support to fulfill your role?
I am a policymaker. I am also [tasked with] speaking up for the people, to let their voice and views be heard in Parliament.
[As for Parliamentary resources and support], definitely no. I have more than 97,000 voters in my constituency. I definitely need help to serve the rakyat. But Parliament does not provide funding for me to engage assistants.
Besides, as a policymaker, we need to debate and discuss bills. But without proper research, our knowledge on certain issues will be very limited. Parliamentarians need to employ researchers to improve the standard of our debates.
Would you support a Freedom of Information Act? Why or why not?
Of course I would. Freedom of information is important so that the rakyat can make informed decisions. Besides, freedom of information is an important foundation for transparency.
We want freedom of information, but that does not mean we want absolute freedom of access to information. Certain information pertaining to national security and defence should not be disclosed to the public unnecessarily.
However, the mindset of the bureaucracy must change. Currently, everything is “rahsia” unless stated otherwise. To me, everything should be accessible unless categorised otherwise. And when a minister or civil servant wants to categorise certain information as “rahsia”, he or she must justify the need to do so. Currently, the Official Secrets Act is being abused to cover the government’s mistakes or wrongdoings.
If there was one thing you could do to strengthen parliamentary democracy in Malaysia, what would it be?
Reform the election system. Before 3 March 2008, the Barisan Nasional (BN) was always the ruling party and has had a two-thirds majority in Parliament since 1957, with the exception of 1969. But it has not always had two-thirds of the votes.
In 1999, Barisan Alternatif got 42.39% of the votes but only 23.31% of the seats. In 2004, the BN won 63.85% of the votes but got 90.87% of the seats. That’s a huge difference. Also in 2008, the BN only got 51.5% of the votes and 63.06% of the seats. Obviously with our current system, seats do not represent the percentage of votes in the elections.
Only when elections are clean and fair can Malaysians be real [determinants] of their own destiny and expect holders of public office to act with accountability, and effectively.
Do you believe in separation of powers between the government, Parliament and judiciary? Why or why not?
Yes, this system works quite well in other countries.
It doesn’t work in Malaysia, simply because we have had one coalition ruling the nation since Independence. I believe things will improve after a real two-party system is established.
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