“Wouldn’t it show Pakatan Rakyat was more serious if it can come to a consensus on who would be ministers?” a young man asked at a public forum here last night that was meant to discuss what it means to be Malaysian.
When PR came together in 2008 after a wonderful showing during the General Elections, this was one of the first things that i called for — the formation of a shadow government. Not only would it give PR the chance to create positions directly responsible to track what the BN Cabinet was doing, it would also give the people a chance to see what PR would do if they had a chance to rule in BN’s place.
The principle is very easy — criticising the ruling Cabinet is not a difficult job. Anyone with a brain and a half can do it; God knows they get themselves into enough messes to provide a target rich environment. Throwing stones is very easy, especially if your objective is to break a glass house. But try building the glass house (and keeping it safe from stones thrown at you!) — that’s a skill in itself. My challenge to PR in 2008 was to prove to us that they were not only stone throwers, but also house builders. I’ve got a feeling that’s the same sentiment the crowd had last night, the same question Tony Pua tried to fudge around for an answer.
The reason he gave?
“As to whether we pinpoint a person to be pointman for finance, for trade… I’m not sure if that really matters. A lot of people feel it is important but I don’t feel so,” said Pua, who is also Petaling Jaya Utara MP.
The Oxford-educated first-term legislator’s brush-off appeared to rub some members of the audience the wrong way.
Another young man, who identified himself as Andrew Pang, fairly bristled at Pua’s statement that PR assigned specific portfolios to focus on because it lacked the resources to scrutinise each and every ministerial section.
“Lacked the resources”? I’m sorry Tony, but that earns you a “WTF” from me. If you lack the resources to tell me what your competitive policies are on a day to day basis from the ruling party, then you’re also telling me that you don’t have the “resources” to run the nation as well. What? You’re going to magically find the resources to rule once we’ve voted you in? No, sorry that’s not good enough. That’s like saying, give PR the shovel to dig the hole before you even know its a hole you want to dig.
Perhaps Tony Pua made an error; perhaps he didn’t expect the question, and wasn’t prepared. It’s ok, it happens to the best of us. All i’m saying is that his response is insufficient. Getting the vote to rule from the people is asking for a leap of faith; that won’t happen until you’ve passed your test of faith. A shadow government, to me at least, is a strong question in that exam.
One of the main things i think many people would like to know is how you’ll divide up the Cabinet between PR once you come to power. Who gets control of the ridiculously over-powered Ministry of International Trade, or the game-changing Ministry of Finance, or even, the nation building Ministry of Education (and Higher Education). If you tell me that someone from PAS will be in charge of education, perhaps that’s something i won’t be happy about for the sake of my children and how i prefer them to be educated. Even if you tell me that DAP will control MoF, i’ll want to know exactly what their policies will be when faced with real world situations such as the one concerning the property bubble today.
It’s about being transparent. It’s about giving the people the confidence that you know what you’re doing. It’s about telling us exactly how you’re different when it comes to decisions that matter, not tomorrow’s decisions, but today’s.
“Going by the Westminster model… to hold every ministry accountable… it can be a waste. The approach taken currently, to assign a portfolio to a committee is working quite well,” Rafizi said.
When you rule the nation, you’ll still have committees to help you decide what to do, just like Rafizi Ramli claims that PR “committees” play the role of a shadow cabinet today. That’s not the point — unless you intend to rule your ministries through committees too, you’ll still need to have a person (man or woman) sitting in the hot chair and making the final decisions. The point is that we would like to know now whom you think these people will be, so that we can judge for ourselves whether this is the future that we want to vote for.
That’s not such a difficult concept to understand, is it?