Practically speaking, it only needs a few effective Pakatan MPs and a few non-MPs to shadow the immensely bloated Barisan Nasional Cabinet, writes Choo Sing Chye.
One evening, a tired newspaper editor was dining alone at the university cafeteria while while waiting to deliver a long monotonous lecture on Journalism that same evening.
He tried to finish his food as quickly as possible so that he could catch a few minutes of rest.
Then suddenly, it seemed out of nowhere, a student appeared in front of him and threw a question at him on the subject of a ‘shadow cabinet’.
The editor, being polite, looked at him and briefly answered him.
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Not satisfied, the student persisted with the subject.
Looking agitated, the editor, not wanting to prolong the conversation, responded, but in a rather ominous manner.
“Look here, young man, I suppose you are not a student of politics, and if you were, you won’t be standing here asking this question. But anyway I will not beat around the bush to answer your question.
“My paper is only interested in three persons in the Canadian mainstream politics: one, the Prime Minister; two, his Finance Minister (his successor); and three, the Opposition Leader.
“Anybody falls between or beyond them, I’m not interested nor my journalists.
“The shadow ministers or critics that you mentioned, only interest me when they are caught sleeping with somebody’s else wife or husband, that’s all to it … can I continue with my dinner?”
For your information Najib, in the United States, the offer of Cabinet posts (secretaries) before any Presidential election stands on a precarious border between what is permissible in law and what is not.
It is often seen as a bribe.
And for this reason, presidential candidates steer clear of this issue of selecting candidates for Cabinet posts before any elections.
Somehow, this idea of illegality had slipped into the Canadian political system.
Although it is a British conventional practice used in Canada, they avoid using the term ‘shadow ministers’. In place, the term ‘critics’ is used as a common designate.
That is why in Canada, shadow ministers are referred as ‘shadow critics’ not ministers – thus, leaving the naming of new Cabinet Ministers till after the general election and not before.
In Malaysia, Pakatan Rakyat has a Shadow Committee and its main function is to shadow issues not ministers.
The reason is that not all the ministries have issues. Thus, why bother shadowing them and disturbing their routine of spending their entire day playing golf?
Rest assured, Najib, Pakatan will definitely shadow them when issues start cropping up in their ministries just like the ‘cow scandal’ involving the family of the Minister for Women, Family and Community Development.
This scandal was effectively shadowed by the then relatively unknown, Rafizi Ramli.
Hence, in the meantime, having an MP shadowing them will be a waste of time unless the Pakatan MP is crazy about playing golf.
Practically speaking, it only needs a few effective Pakatan MPs and a few non-MPs to shadow the immensely bloated Barisan Nasional Cabinet.
Najib, if Pakatan were to mark your ministers one-to-one, Pakatan needs to have a bloated ‘shadow’ to track your XXL Cabinet.
As for now, all Pakatan needs is to have a lean and mean Shadow Committee to hammer the hell out of your incompetent Cabinet Ministers in the House – which they are doing right now with devastating effect.
In addition, NGOs too are shadowing your Cabinet. One good example is Suaram and another is Bersih.
Suaram’s role in shadowing you and the Defence Ministry is so effective that your government is putting all its resources to pin them down.
You are doing likewise to Bersih.
After all these, if you still insist on a shadow cabinet from the Opposition, then please provide the funding, set up offices for the shadow cabinet ministers and also provide the workers.
And one very important thing for you to do is to allow the Federal Government Chief Secretary to have meetings with the leaders of the Opposition so that in the event of a victory by the Opposition, there would be a smooth transition. This is a standard practice of a Westminster system.
If not, it will make you sound silly for harping on this non-issue day in and day out.
Najib, one last advice from me, please listen to your own Deputy Higher Education Minister Saifuddin Abdullah. He is intelligent and speaks more sense than Khairy and your Deputy put together.
Concluding this article, I wish to quote from one British politician on this subject:
“There is no reason for the Shadow Cabinet to exist in our system of government which is already bloated with ineffective Ministers. We don’t need shadow ministers as displays – we have enough.”
Choo Sing Chye served as politcal secretary to the late P Patto and is a former state assembly member.