Monday, March 03, 2008

Question time: PJU's Chew vs Pua

Clogged drains and potholes may be the concern of many voters in the mixed Petaling Jaya Utara (PJU) constituency but what are the candidates’ stand on national issues?

As election debates are rare in this country, Malaysiakini pitches 12 questions to opposing candidates to allow readers and voters to gauge their respective stand on several hot button issues.

For this round, we pit Barisan Nasional’s incumbent Chew Mei Fun against DAP’s ‘boy wonder’ Tony Pua Kiam Wee in the ‘battle royale’ for the PJU parliamentary seat in Selangor.

Chew still appeals to many voters based on her two-term service track record but pundits predict Pua will deny her a victory by riding the wave of a discontented lower and middle class.

The diverse PJU constituency has 76,618 voters comprising of 76.60 percent Chinese, 15.20 percent Malay, 7.40 percent Indian and 0.8 percent of others.

Chew Mei Fun vs Tony Pua Kiam Wee

1. Will you support the establishment of the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC)?
Chew (left): Yeah, I do agree with the setting up of the IPCMC.

Pua: Absolutely. The reason is very simple. We need to increase the credibility of the police force, we need to ensure that the police treat all victims as innocent until proven guilty. The police needs to be (subjected ) to laws themselves. There have been too many cases where the police have been abusing the laws in order to extract, say for example, confessions of the victims.

2. Will you support the implementation of local council elections?
Chew: There (are) many ways to make sure that local councils perform and from what I know the government is looking into the method of appointment of councillors.

Pua: Absolutely. That is one of our platform in this campaign. The reason why MPs and state assemblymen in Malaysia are forced to do some of the work of local councils is simply because local councillors are not effective. They are not effective because they are not accountable to the public and (as such) they do things according to their own personal vested interest. So local council elections can be introduced so they will be accountable to the people and if they are not, they can be booted out in the next elections.

3. Will you support that Petronas' accounts be made public?
Chew: I thought they already have their annual report. I thought the annual report is actually the accounts for (listed) companies to disclose to everybody.

Pua: Absolutely. I think it is important because Petronas controls a huge amount of wealth of the nation. Oil resource of the country belongs to the people and Petronas being the agent that manages the oil wealth of the country must be transparent for the people in order to show that the money has been invested and reinvested and distributed fairly.

4. Will you support the idea of retaining subsidies of oil and other essential items?
Chew: Yes, I think so.

Pua: I think the subsidy system at this point in time needs to be readjusted as such that it benefits the poor and marginalised more and less so the wealthy. So for example the subsidy system in existence benefits more of the wealthy because they use the product more, then it is an unfair allocation of resources.

So we believe in a system whereby grants are given directly to the poor and to the lower middle income to cope with the rising price increases. They are targetted and controlled, you won't find leakages. For example our subsidised diesel being sold by fishermen from Malaysia to Indonesian fishermen. So that is the problem with the existing subsidy system and those need to be resolved.

5. Will you support universities to be autonomous or agree to the abolishing of the University and University Colleges Act (UUCA) 1971?

Chew: I think university students to concentrate in (their) studies is something (that) they should focus on. But if there (are) weaknesses in the Act, then (there is) no harm to review and do some adjustment or some amendment.

Pua: I subscribe to the policy that the UUCA must be abolished. It does not make sense for the university to restrict the thoughts and inquiry of the students. Students must not be taught to think only in a certain way or prevented from being politically active for being politically active actually increases their awareness and critical thinking as well as their analytical skills to enable them to be more adaptable to the global environment when they graduate.

6. Will you support the idea of an Islamic state being established in Malaysia?
Chew: Under the constitution, everybody has freedom of religion. Islam is just the official religion, that's all. But Pak Lah (Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi) has already said that we are not an Islamic state and we go according to the constitution. The most important thing is according to the constitution. I think we are a secular state if you ask me.

Pua: Absolutely not. We believe that a multiracial and multicultural country such as Malaysia has to provide protection to all religions such as the freedom of worship. We believe that the best form of government to protect all religions including the official religion is actually a secular state.

7. Will you support the setting-up of the Inter-faith Council or a Non-Muslim Affairs Department?
Chew: The (BN) manifesto already answers your question.

Pua: Yes, certainly. I think the more we understand each other's culture, religion and practices, the more we are able to live in harmonious terms with one another. When there is a lack of understanding, chances of conflict and misunderstanding would be a lot higher.

8. Will you support the call that the Anti-Corruption Agency be placed under Parliament?
Chew: I think we need to make sure the ACA carry out their work fairly and (transparently) and make sure that they actually take action to investigate whatever, whoever (that are) involved with corruption. If you ask me, in my own opinion, yeah, I agree but this depends. Any how the government still needs to study and many of the issues (are) not that straightforward.

Pua: Yes. I think it is silly for the ACA to be placed under the Prime Minister's office because then it is subjected to tampering, instructions and lobbying by the PM's office. So under the Parliament which is elected by the people, it should have greater independence.

9. Will you support the idea of abolishing the Internal Security Act (ISA)?
Chew: I think the ISA somehow on some occasions does work like what happened in America. Before that they didn't have ISA and after the 9/11 (attacks), they now have their own. That's why this all depends and (it's) very subjective.

Pua: Yes. It is a draconian law for the simple fact that you are detaining people for months and years without access to fair trial. I think that breaches the natural laws of justice founded since ages ago. Everybody should be given a fair day in court if they are charged as terrorist, then they must be proven to be terrorists before they are jailed for a long time.

10. Will you support public assemblies being held without needing to apply for police permits?
Chew: I think police permits is a must in order to make the situation under control and everybody must be responsible.

Pua: Yes I do but on condition. I accept that no permit needs to be required but in the interest of public safety the police needs to be informed and it should be given sufficient time for preparation to ensure that traffic is orderly, the crowd is well controlled and well behaved but they are there to see through a peaceful assembly rather than to prevent a peaceful assembly from happening.

11. Will you support the idea of fixing a minimum wage for workers?
Chew: Yeah, why not? I mean there are so many levels [...] that it is not so straightforward to fix a minimum wage. But for those lower income (groups), I think we should, just to draw them (out) from poverty.

Pua: I think we support an idea whereby there must be a fair wage for workers and I think in order to not place a higher burden on employers it is important for the government to step in to ensure that these workers who are having wages below that of a reasonable level are subsidiesed additionally to make sure that they make sufficient monthly income to make ends meet.

12. Will you support the idea of abolishing the New Economic Policy (NEP)?
Chew: I thought the NEP has already ended. The most important thing is that we must make sure that [...] you can actually help one particular race but in the expense of the other race. Everybody must be given a chance to have their own business and work together to create a win-win situation.

Pua: Absolutely. We believe that the NEP as it stands today favours the rich, wealthy and influential particularly from the bumiputra community. It does not benefit the bulk majority of the bumiputras as well as the non-bumiputras in this country. So inequality in the country has been increasing rapidly and only with opposition and it's replacement with a policy that focuses on merit and needs, will the equality be reduced.
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