By Deborah Loh | 08 March 2010 | *Updated 4 April 2011 | **Updated 19 August 2011
Name: Fuziah Salleh
Party: PKR (Opposition)
Years as MP: Since 2008
Government position: None
PKR Vice-president* (since 28 Nov 2011)
PKR Kuantan Chief**
Membership in parliamentary committee or caucus:
Asean Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus
Asean Inter-Parliamentary Assembly
Women’s Parliamentary Caucus
Would you support the abolition/review of the Internal Security Act, in particular the provision that allows for detention without trial? Why or why not?
I support a review and, in the long run, abolition of the Act. Detention without trial is against human rights. I don’t deny the need to take care of national security, which is the argument always used by the Barisan Nasional (BN). However, if there is a need to detain a person, he or she must be brought to trial within a certain period of time. A detainee cannot be at the mercy of one person’s signature, the home minister’s, and be detained further every two years indefinitely.
Do you think Malaysia should be a secular or an Islamic state? Why?
I think the country should remain as it is. We are a constitutional monarchy, where the constitution says Islam is the religion of federation. In that way, the issue of an Islamic state does not arise because if Muslims want implementation of Islamic law, the constitution allows for that.
We have the syariah courts. We can empower the syariah courts further and expand them by giving them more provisions and [a bigger] budget so they can give better services. And even expand syariah jurisdiction to cover criminal law, apart from marriage and family. We are able to do so under the Federal Constitution as it is.
How do you define your role as an elected MP? Does Parliament provide you with the necessary infrastructure and support to fulfill your role?
As an MP, there are a few areas in our scope of work. Number one is our performance in Parliament. We must participate in debates, we have to pass the law, and bring up issues our constituency faces.
Secondly, constituency outreach work is very important. We must know the issues and problems of the various stakeholders in the constituency. This involves many facets: making sure our service centre performs well; working with the various government departments; working with non-governmental agencies; problem solving; being a community leader; even instilling good values and nurturing civil society.
Thirdly, we must constantly communicate with our constituents as they need to know what we stand for, our values, and what we are promoting. We do this by various means, whether it’s through leaflets, through Facebook, blogs, or appearing in the media.
Parliament has a responsibility to support MPs in terms of research, but it doesn’t. Our parliamentary research unit has only 16 research assistants to serve 222 MPs. Compared to the United States, the 200-plus Congress members are served by 700 staff in the Congress research unit. Even in Indonesia, each MP has two staff paid for by Parliament. One is the personal assistant of the MP who will continue the MP’s work in the constituency while Parliament is in session. The other is the research assistant.
In Malaysia, we are still a long way off. We receive no assistance, and yet we are expected to perform. As lawmakers, we should also be having select committees, but Parliament doesn’t provide for this. Our parliamentary role is very superficial, and it’s a concerted effort by the present BN government to ensure that our parliamentary roles are minimised.
Would you support a Freedom of Information Act? Why or why not?
Yes, I would certainly support such an act because the public has the right to access information. Transparency must be part and parcel of good governance. But I’m not saying that everything must be open. There will still be some things that should be kept secret.
However, when things affect the public, for example the Bukit Antarabangsa landslide, the public has the right to know the outcome of the inquiry, and the report should not be classified as secret. There must be respect for things like national security matters, but there must be public accessibility if the people are affected.
If there was one thing you could do to strengthen parliamentary democracy in Malaysia, what would it be?
There is no real parliamentary democracy here. If we look at the way laws are made here, they are promulgated under the Attorney-General (AG)’s Chambers. The AG’s office is directly under the prime minister. This is wrong because Parliament should be independently formulating laws through special committees, and then debating them in chambers.
Here, we don’t have a parliamentary procedure on the formulation of laws. Laws are tabled by the executive, when it should be Parliament that is responsible for formulating laws. It should be the legislative telling the executive what to do, not the other way around.
In the US, any representative can formulate a law and bring it to Congress and the rules committee will decide. For example, as an individual MP, I would be able to table a law myself to protect [the fishing community] in my constituency. And then the fishing community can see how I am acting in their interest.
As it is now, MPs just endorse and rubber-stamp laws. Whatever we say in debates is not listened to.
Do you believe in separation of powers between the government, Parliament and judiciary? Why or why not?
Definitely. The separation of powers must be very clear, not only in practice but also symbolically. For example, the fact that we have a cabinet minister in charge of Parliament is rubbish. It practically says that there is interference by the executive. The executive cannot be responsible for Parliament. This is contrary to the separation of powers. For the sake of democracy in our country, it is best that those in power and the rakyat understand that the separation of powers is very important to ensure we can promote democracy.