Desperately seeking a credible opposition

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Photograph: Wikimedia Commons

A credible and strong opposition will help maintain the robust democracy Malaysians have been longing for, says Mustafa K Anuar.

As hard reality kicks in following the stunning victory of the Pakatan Harapan coalition in the recent general election, starting with the revived probe into the humongous 1Malaysia Development Bhd scandal, the question of a credible and loyal opposition stares squarely in the face of concerned Malaysians.

As a mechanism of checks and balances in a parliamentary democracy, the opposition, particularly its leader, has to play a vital role, especially in a Malaysia that looks forward to reforming its democratic institutions.

Politicians on the other side of the divide, namely Barisan Nasional, must get their act together to rise from the ashes of their unprecedented electoral reversal as soon as possible, given that the new parliamentary session starts soon. It, therefore, stands to reason why Segamat Umno Youth leader Bastien Onn recently reminded his party and BN to identify their leader – so that they can move forward as a functioning opposition.

Lawmaker Lim Kit Siang, who was opposition leader six times in his political career, is very much aware of the important responsibility of the opposition leader, that is, to stand up for the interests of the people and country, as well as his political interests. The leader also has a duty to organise opposition MPs when it comes to questioning the government, as well as coordinate appointments to various select committees.

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In an era where many members of the public are wide-eyed politically, debates in Parliament and state assemblies are expected to be closely watched. Thus, the leader to be chosen from the opposition must be one who is intelligent, articulate, and ready to criticise and offer alternative views with the interests of the rakyat in mind, especially those who had voted them in.

Malaysians expect, in other words, lively and civilised debates on matters of public and national importance. (In the past, certain pressing issues of public concern had been cast aside by the speaker as not being urgent.) They long for opposition lawmakers who are not only diligent in finding the finer details, but also good at deliberating in an intelligent and persuasive manner.

Lawmakers who still resort to the bad habits of name-calling and using sexual innuendoes in a desperate attempt to hide their intellectual incapacity or laziness must be stopped in their tracks. Such puerile talk of “leakages” by the likes of the irrepressible Bung Mokhtar Radin should no longer be tolerated, as it does not contribute to anything useful. Any attempt of this nature in the future does not deserve merely a slap on the wrist.

Unlike in past parliamentary sessions, the opposition leader and his cohort should now be accorded ample opportunity to debate on issues of public importance and introduce private member’s bills when necessary.

Given the promise of a new era, there is a need for the opposition to consider setting up a shadow cabinet, so that they will be able to monitor the various ministries in a more systematic fashion, and also, their views can be taken with the seriousness they deserve. Besides, their long experience in government is useful for the proposed shadow cabinet.

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The views of the opposition should also merit the attention of the media, so that the public will be made aware of ongoing debates in Parliament and the issues confronting the nation. This is especially so where the opposition constitutes a tiny minority in PH-dominated state assemblies. Their views must be heard, loud and clear, if vibrant democracy is to be prioritised.

It needs reminding that a credible and strong opposition will help maintain the robust democracy Malaysians have been longing for.

Source: The Malaysian Insight

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