All opposition parties should initiate their own shadow cabinets

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Photograph: Wikimedia Commons

Such shadow cabinets will demonstrate the parties’ eagerness, determination and commitment to issues, asserts W H Cheng.

We applaud the move made by DAP recently to establish their own shadow cabinet to oversee and provide checks and balances on the current Barisan Nasional (BN) government following the ineffectiveness of the parliamentary shadow committees, which was established in 2008 and then became defunct in 2013.

We do not want to blame the Opposition coalition Pakatan Rakyat (PKR, DAP and Pas) over the ineffectiveness of the parliamentary shadow committees initiated earlier. But we should blame the BN government for its refusal to recognise the institution of a shadow cabinet in this country.

The internal bickering among component parties of Pakatan Rakyat is a secondary issue – as in a democracy of a coalition structure, the component parties should agree to disagree with one another constructively in order to be equals in the coalition. Compare this to the BN structure, where all its component parties need to be subservient to the dominance of Umno, the main and leading party in the BN coalition.

The BN government’s refusal to recognise the institution of shadow cabinet in the parliamentary opposition bench has resulted in numerous limitations and difficulties for the opposition parties to perform in the parliament – in terms of allocations and access to research facilities as well as other avenues within the administration.

This being the case, all opposition parties should depend on their own resources and expertise as well as donations from the general public to get their job done and to ensure effective checks and balances are being carried out on (and not against, as usually described) the BN government’s administration and its day-to-day state of affairs.

So all opposition parties are urged to establish their own shadow cabinets or a team of shadow spokespersons to effectively oversee the current BN government. The more, the better as they will liven up parliamentary sessions with focused questions, debates, discussions and exchanges of views. The BN government will not be able to sit peacefully and just cover up whatever issues or challenges that arise daily.

We are not encouraging disunity among component parties of Pakatan Rakyat. But given the non-existence of the shadow cabinet institution and no recognition from the establishment, PKR, DAP and Pas should go on with their own shadowing business competitively – but they should still coordinate one another, supported by their own resources. They have no choice but to function separately in order to stay relevant.

DAP has made their its move, and it is PKR and Pas’ turn to start one each, within their own parties. There is no time to waste now as we are already in the middle of the 13th parliamentary term.

Besides, functioning separately with this shadowing business will demonstrate the parties’ eagerness, determination and commitment to issues and matters involving the state of affairs of the nation as well as keeping close tabs on the BN government’s performance and administration.

So, let us all stop wasting our time and forget about pushing for a single shadow cabinet as its system does not exist at all in our country’s parliamentary framework. Let us all focus on the opposition parties individually so that these Pakatan Rakyat members of parliament can perform effectively and competitively.

We certainly would like to see not only an effective but also a competitive new government in the near future. wouldn’t we? In so, let them do their own stuff – in checking this BN government from all corners with no holds barred.

Opposition parties outside Parliament (Non-parliamentary opposition parties)

Now, coming to opposition parties which do not have any legislative representation or with only one or two elected representatives in Parliament (and state legislative assemblies) – this should not be an excuse for not having any shadow cabinets within their party framework.

These opposition parties include Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM), Parti Kesejahteraan Insan Tanah Air (Kita), Parti Rakyat Malaysia (PRM), Green Party of Malaysia (Parti Hijau), Parti Ikatan Bangsa Malaysia (Ikatan), Parti Buruh Bersekutu Malaysia, State Reform Party (Star), Parti Bansa Dayak Sarawak-Baru (PBDS-Baru), United Sabah National Organisation-Baru (Usno-Baru), Human Rights Party (HRP) and Sarawak Workers’ Party (SWP).

Yes, it would be a little awkward if we suggest a shadow cabinet for an opposition party which has no members of parliament or state legislators in its fold. Perhaps these parties could have a team of shadow spokespersons overseeing government ministries’ portfolios instead.

Besides shadowing the federal cabinet portfolios, this framework can also be used to shadow the state executive councils (state governments) as well as city and municipal councils. It totally depends on which area of interest an opposition party wishes to focus on.

Apart from this, having opposition parties without representatives in the parliament or state legislative assemblies (also known as non-parliamentary opposition parties) establish their own team of shadow spokespersons enables them to demonstrate their expertise in various areas to the voters. They can offer the people an alternative (rather than to totally depending on a two-party system) and show the electorate that they too are worthy and ready to be elected.

Today, we are living in a modern and sophisticated world. Many are not only looking at the manifestos of political parties but also expecting political parties to discuss the major issues affecting our nation and its people. They also want the parties to check the government of the day in its administration and attitude towards the people.

Having vocal and issue-sensitive non-parliamentary opposition parties in the political arena will also attract our people, especially the younger generation, to see the effectiveness of these parties. These people may then later decide to join and participate with these parties instead of totally depending on either the Barisan Nasional (governing) or Pakatan Rakyat (opposition) component parties to resolve matters or tackle issues.

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