Sunday 14 October 2012

No shadow cabinet is boon, not bane to Pakatan

  • Terrence Netto
  • 11:40AM Oct 14, 2012
COMMENT It used to be that the unwillingness of Pakatan Rakyat, or as critics would put it, its inability to form a shadow cabinet, was a flaw in its strategy to replace BN at the seat of federal government.
A few years back when this view began to gain ground, the fact the opposition coalition was in embryo and, therefore, not in any hurry for specialisation of functions by its key personnel was not regarded as reasonable grounds for the absence of such a cabinet.

Scepticism over Pakatan’s capability based on their lack of a shadow cabinet continues to persist - the existence of a shadow cabinet taken as an index of capability to assume command once electoral endorsement is obtained.

gerakan agm 309012 najib speechBN chief and Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak joined the circle of critics when he reproached Pakatan their lack of a shadow cabinet at the Gerakan annual convention last month.

“Don’t talk about forming the government,” chided the PM. “Form a shadow cabinet first,” Najib challenged Pakatan, to cheers from the Gerakan delegates.

This sort of point-scoring is only to be expected in the relentless volleys of a general election campaign.

There was a devious hue to the PM’s partisanship: he was trying to exploit internecine rivalries within Pakatan to show the public that the coalition lacks the cohesion to display a vanguard of ministers whose public naming, Najib implied, would trigger intramural spite within the coalition and its eventual disintegration.

Blossoming second-tier
But what has happened in the last nine months - the fifth year (if you take 2008 as Year 1) of Pakatan’s steady rise in credibility as a government-in-waiting - has obviated the need for the opposition coalition to form a shadow cabinet.


By the efflorescence of talent within its ranks, Pakatan has shown that it was not weakness but an intimation of its latent strengths that had led it to hold out against naming its shadow cabinet.

NONEThe wisdom in Pakatan’s disinclination towards premature specialisation did not just derive from a desire to allow “a hundred flowers to bloom” first before their pruning and display in labelled vases can take place.

It’s just that a certain amount of latitude must be granted for talent to preen before its quality and depth are assessed and streamed.

By that measure, this year alone has seen an extraordinary flowering of potential within Pakatan, especially in its second-tier of leadership.

From the manner in which PKR’s Rafizi Ramli (top) and DAP’s Tony Pua have analysed and exposed corporate shenanigans, and from the way they have unravelled sham accounting procedures in the running of government-linked companies, it is clear that Pakatan’s reserves of acuity in matters to do with financial and corporate governance are deep.

NONELikewise Fuziah Salleh (left) of PKR has tread an elucidating path of inquiry into the issue of the Lynas rare earth facility in Gebeng, Pahang, while Charles Santiago of the DAP has shown a torch on the water issues affecting Selangor - efforts that help an appraising public to enlighten itself at the often murky intersection between mercantile interests and public concerns.

Further, collaboration between Liew Chin Tong of the DAP and Dzulkefly Ahmad and Dr Hatta Ramli of PAS has produced a promising field of inquiry into mechanisms by which a non-partisan audit of the actual costs of policies and initiatives can be obtained so that an appraising citizenry can make informed choices between propositions competing for their support.

Premature cocooning of expertise

Down the ranks of PKR and away from media publicity, the party has people studying how low-cost and medium-cost housing schemes that can be reconfigured so that the concept of urban renewal is more holistic and more constitutive of the elements of human betterment.

This enumeration of latent talents sensing their long-waited opportunity to expose their range and utility to Malaysian society does not exhaust the list of capability just now welling up within Pakatan’s vaults.

NONEIn sum, the reluctance of Pakatan to opt for what would have been a premature crystallisation of expertise has provided the necessary freedom for their expanding pool of talent to engage in that free-wheeling apprehension of small details that combine and flow into large concepts; in that accumulation of insights that over time can finesse the best plans.

All this would conduce to improved governance seen as the outcome of an accumulation of nuances, success being a hundred things done a little better, failure a hundred things done a little worse.

In short, Pakatan’s reluctance to name a shadow cabinet was wise simply from the intuition of its supremo, Anwar Ibrahim, that the coalition’s political ascendancy would herald an agglomeration of talent and ability, his use of the term, ‘renaissance’, to describe it would not be adjudged as hyperbolic.

In such a climate, a shadow cabinet would be more hindrance than help in ushering a new schema of governance.

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