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Governance 101: Forming A Powerful Pakatan Rakyat’s Shadow Cabinet

Superheroes Shadow Cabinet Comic

(Think of the wonders that will happen if the shadow cabinet is made of superheroes and they can do better to keep the current government on their toes? Image source:

Statement From Khairy Jamaluddin

Something interesting or rather brilliant from Khairy a couple of days ago:-

Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin said that he will endorse any institutional reform to support allocation of funds to a structured Pakatan Rakyat shadow Cabinet, if it was formed.

“If Pakatan can actually commit to coming up with a shadow Cabinet, I will personally support the structural reform to attend to Pakatan’s call for more resources in various ministries.

“People right now want to know what is the readiness of Pakatan, if they were to actually win the next general election” he said.

In rebutting Pua’s claims, Khairy said these were merely “excuses” and that funding was secondary to a commitment to appointing an individual from the coalition to a particular portfolio.

“Even if the excuse is the lack of civil service support, we actually want to see who is your shadow minister. It just goes to show that Pakatan is not as solid a coalition if you cannot even come together and appoint a shadow cabinet,” Khairy said.


Good idea Khairy but the thing is, in case you have not noticed, Pakatan Rakyat already has a shadow cabinet (established almost a year ago) but certainly not in the form that Khairy is trying to “fish”.

Shadow Cabinet from PR

Long before Pakatan Rakyat has made huge advances in the last general election, there have been calls for them to form some kind of shadow cabinet to keep very close eyes on BN led ministries.

A shadow cabinet was also expected to provide recommendations and reviews of the minister’s decisions – some turned out to be very unpopular with the people.

After a long pause in establishing a shadow cabinet, Pakatan Rakyat created one last year and it was done in a unique way too – a representative from each of PR’s component political parties. And it made sense too.

If PR had picked a particular person to be the “shadow” minister (as being fished by Khairy) – it would have been:-

1. Created some friction – there would have been troublemakers or sleepers (evident from the frogs jumped ships recently) who would have questioned on the “appointment” and BN would have fun time in coming out to say that PR is not united and that will be big trouble for Malaysia IF PR gains the majority in the Parliament

2. If the number of non-Malay PR politicians appointed to be shadow ministers exceeds the number of Malay PR politicians and such appointment was made purely based on the politician’s experience, skill and know-how and had nothing to do with skin of the colour, certain racial based group would have come out and said that such appointments (although does not impact the Government of the day) infringes the special rights given to the Malays (although in reality, the issue at hand had nothing to do with the special rights). They would have gone on to say that if PR becomes the Government, then the majority will be in jeopardy.

So, PR’s method of getting representatives from PKR, PAS & DAP avoids the above complications. Besides, there is a saying that 2 heads are better than 1 (in this case, 3 heads is better than 1).

Shortcomings in Current Shadow Cabinet

But the thing is, whilst it makes sense to come up with a 3-in-1 kind of shadow cabinet and the effectiveness of the shadow cabinet aside (they will have funding problems and certainly access problems to civil servants and documents), what is questionable and something PR that need to work on very, very aggressively, is the composition of the shadow cabinet.

Problem No 1. Case of wearing too many hats

Those with state portfolios such as Lim Guan Eng, Abdul Khalid Ibrahim and P Ramasamy and those who been made excos (equivalent to actual cabinet at state level) – too many names in the list, should be excluded.

Let them concentrate on the state level administration. If things are not going well at state level, forget about stepping into federal level administration.

Problem No. 2. Case of having no experience/skills

Next, what is the experience or special skill that these people have when they were allocated to relevant ministries? Has it been properly evaluated so that they can do their job effectively? Or is has been another wild fill-in the blank kind of allocation?

Whilst I have no problem of having Karpal Singh under the Home Ministry (he had enough “battles” with the police), what about his son, Gobind Singh under the Works Ministry? Does he have an architecture or engineering background?

Please don’t repeat the same mistake that BN is doing of appointing the people to head ministries not based on their education or experience but rather based on their political standing or their hierarchy in the political party.

Final Say

We do not want PR forming a shadow cabinet for the sake of having a shadow cabinet. We need it to be effective too. We want the shadow cabinet to play a crucial role in improving the administration and provide what matters the most – check and balance the works of each ministry.

And if PR forms the next government, having a shadow cabinet will show the voters that PR do have the necessary people to take over the pilot seat.

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