Malaysia is one of the largest economies in the world and one of the most successful, setting itself as an example to countless countries that are increasingly getting crippled by recession. In an age when credit rating agencies are busy scurrying around trying to either downgrade ratings, sometimes even threatening to send it off to “junk bond” status, or cut lending power based on economic performance, Malaysia continues to maintain it’s A+ rating outlook. With the power of a newly industrialized market-based economy that is quite state-oriented, following an economic boom in the late 20th century, democracy in the country has been practiced efficiently since independence from the British Empire in 1957.
Rights of Malaysians, income equality for gender and races and increased public participation has seen an improvement since 2008, but faith in the government’s abilities to run the country effectively remains at an all-time low. One of the contributing reasons behind this can be counted as the lack of a shadow cabinet in the Malaysian Parliament, posting a photograph of a democracy that needs tending to in certain areas. PR, the main opposition party, has been very vocal about the distribution of power in the Malaysian Parliament, alongside other restrictive issues like, limits of public policy and the sovereignty of power in the country.
PR won 51percent of the popular votes in the general elections last year, so a true democracy would be one that would permit such a party to represent the hopes, aspirations and desires of its supporters in parliament. Only by working together, amicably, can a shadow cabinet be established, whose purpose would be to serve either parties, dutifully during their time in opposition. Presently, the opposition primary consists of a coalition of three parties: PR, DAP and PAS who disagree on many subjects, from control of territory to cultural values, but the motive here is to put Malaysia’s best interests at heart and overcome these differences and serve in parliament.
Governing at national level means that the coalition needs to have a proper perspective on how it would choose to do so and address a wide range of subjects, such as working towards diminishing ethnic minority tensions and promotion of peaceful co-habitation. Another issue that desperately needs to be looked into is how difficult it would be to chart a cabinet line-up in the face of ongoing internal-party conflict. A shadow cabinet could seek to enhance democracy much more by holding the government to account constructively, and engaging in dialogue and debate about the latest issues of the day. An engagement of conversation with the opposition would also enable both parties to address the causes that has given rise to lack of conciliation, for example, dispute election results, and more importantly how they need to be more responsible in their roles to serve Malaysians, by providing an alternative representative to their voices as well.
Party sources claim discontented leaders and parties bickering about how to allocate power amongst themselves as a reason for the opposition coalition constantly delaying forming a shadow cabinet. Apart from the democratic issue at stake here, another notable cause for concern is how PR doesn’t have any spokespersons for some of its policies – they simply delegate these tasks to individual MPs to handle. A shadow cabinet has considerable power in their own right, from pressurising the government to take action on a cause to liaising with key stakeholders in the region, to get results. Malaysians, are interested in repealing the New Economic Policy, it has even been stamped an urgent case, alongside the implementation of an education policy that is much more fair and committed to excellence, as well as progressing with proper integration; a shadow cabinet can help with these agendas and successfully and very democratically take them forward.
In the light of President Barack Obama’s visit to the country tomorrow, and hope of renewed ties between two relatively healthy-economies, USA and Malaysia, it’s important to take note how distinctive Prime Minister Najib Razak’s policies are from the former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammed. Najib has largely dealt with the issue of “China rising” rather controversially, such as choosing to downplay the maritime claims from China, in stark contrast to Mahathir’s often harsh and very outspoken point of views on a range of topics, especially US foreign policy. Because the forming of a shadow cabinet has been delayed so much, it would be in the best interest for both PR-dominated coalition and the ruling party, Barisan National, to set their differences aside and take a leaf out of the politics at Westminster, and craft a shadow cabinet to better serve Malaysia.