Sunday, February 27, 2011

Shadow Cabinet – Do we have one in Malaysia?

By: Choo Sing Chye

By demanding the Opposition to form a Shadow Cabinet had at last removed any skepticism that there is a competing power to Putrajaya.

But this recognition is meaningless if barriers are put up at every single mile towards Putrajaya to thwart the Opposition from taking over.

Earlier, Khairy Jamaluddin and now Najib Tun Razak , both being educated in Britain should not have fallen into this fallacy of thought of demanding the Opposition to have a Shadow Cabinet.

They should have known better to call for such a scheme to be incorporated into the Opposition election menu without realising that the Malaysian Parliamentary system barely resemble to that of the Westminster model.

Not many will argue against the fact that it’s resemblance slants more towards form than substance – hence what one might call a counterfeit Westminster model.

Then again, bearing in mind with this one very crucial feature for the existence of the Shadow Cabinet which either Khairy or Najib failed or do not want to bring up.

This feature allows the Opposition leader and his Shadow Cabinet to have meetings with Government Cabinet Secretary and other Government officials once the Parliament in Britain is dissolved. (1)

The Cabinet Secretary and its officials through these meetings will be alerted and familiarised with the new style of administering the country and the possibility of policy changes should there be a change in government after the General Election. (2)

This is the most unique feature the Opposition in Britain enjoys. This is done, so as to have a smooth transition of power if the government party loses in the General Election.

Will it happen here? Remember Najib’s utterance of ‘crushed bodies’ and ‘lives lost’ is analogous to a impregnable wall built across the road leading to Putrajaya.

Apparently with the absence of this very crucial feature and couple with a host of many other additional elements like the independence of the Malaysian Election Commission and the media freedom had in fact made arguments towards having a Shadow Cabinet more of a philosophical estimation than a feasible one.

The Shadow Cabinet (Front Bench)

The CONVENTION of having a Shadow Cabinet in Britain is not new. All along from the beginning of the 19th Century toward its end, they were simply known as former Cabinet Ministers. Until the year 1880, the word ‘former.’ was replaced by ‘shadow, and hence the Shadow Cabinet. (3)

Pakatan Rakyat’s Parliamentary Committee

In Britain, each political party had its own way of forming its Shadow Cabinet and as a result all these can be tagged into three groupings.

In the first group, the Conservative Shadow Cabinet ministers are chosen solely at the discretion of its leader i.e., the Opposition Leader. He/she can sack or appoint anyone. (4)

But in the case of the Labour Party, it is the Parliamentary Labour Party’s Standing orders which initiate an election of members of Shadow Cabinet. Here the Opposition leader’s hands are tied. He/she cannot simply sack any Shadow Cabinet ministers as he/she wishes. (5)

And finally the Liberal Democrats approach in setting up a Shadow Cabinet differs to a large extent from the other two parties.

The Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Paddy Ashdown, who at the beginning of the 1945-5 Parliamentary session created eight Parliamentary Committees, most of which embraced more than one shadow portfolio. (6)

And this practice is akin to what Pakatan Rakyat is doing today with the formation of the Parliamentary Committee to shadow the government.

One can say that it is based loosely on Paddy Ashdown’s experience.

At this moment, this is the best option for Pakatan Rakyat to have because of the trend towards Populism where popularity of issues are engaged with fervor.

Apparently being contained in this charged ominous atmosphere where race issues are played to the hilt by BN, it would be an advantage for Pakatan Rakyat to have a Parliamentary Committee to encounter this.

The reason for having a Parliamentary Committee is that it can encompass more members of different races from outside the Pakatan Rakyat to expand the intellectual pool so as to encounter racism with greater effect. Otherwise engrossing oneself to shadow a huge XXL BN  Cabinet will be a futile and inconsequential undertaking.


1. Rodney Brazier, Ministers of the Crown, Oxford University Press (1997)

2. ibid.,

3. ibid.,

4. ibid.,

5. ibid.,

6. ibid.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Tun Dr Mahathir – abdicating his past unpleasant deeds?

By: Choo Sing Chye

For the past few months we have been seeing a seemingly similar pattern of white washing unpleasant deeds of the bygone era of Tun Dr Mahathir.

First it was the Papan Radioactive dump site issue then came the white washing of the Operation Lalang and now this – the abolition of ISA.

If one were to look carefully at these three issues, one could easily come to a conclusion that they hold a firm testimony of his desire to create an aura of innocence for himself.

In this article I wish to revisit some of Mahathir’s respond on the Papan radio active dump site issue (Star Online - 15 May 2010) which I believe is none other than yarn that is craftily spun.

Was he that reluctant and innocent at that time?

Definitely no! Here you will see why.

Mahathir: "In Malaysia, we do have nuclear waste which perhaps the public is not aware of . . .” "It is not radioactive but it is not good to handle. We had to bury it in Perak, deep in the ground… But the place is still not safe, and we have almost one square mile that is dangerous." (Star Online - 15 May 2010)

As always his style to show distaste at those who opposed him, he wittingly chose the “World Environment Day, 5th June 1984, to announce that his government would go ahead with the construction of the controversial radioactive waste dumpsite in Papan and that everything had been done to ensure the radioactive waste dump site was safe.” (1)

On top of this, he mockingly stressed that the government, “could not guarantee the safety of the people if they get in the area, dig the soil, bathe in it or throw it over their head.” (2)

One of his Cabinet Minister, Datuk Amar Stephen Yong, verging on absurdity alleged that “there is no way any radiation can affect anybody. People don’t really understand, but the government is concerned about their health and the environment.” (3)

Again with gusto, he defended the premier’s unattainable position by challenging critics of the proposed Papan nuclear dump to prove that it is hazardous to health and environment.” (4)

Mahathir: “(I) did not know exactly where in Perak the Amang (Thorium Hydroxide) was buried… We had to bury it in Perak, deep in the ground… Maybe it is a national secret but I know for a fact that we buried this activated material." (Star Online - 15 May 2010)

After a total rejection of the first nuclear dump site by the people of Papan and the surrounding areas, the government grudgingly decided to shift it to another new site.

In 1986 , the Perak Menteri Besar made an announcement that the nuclear waste site was to be shifted to a new place situated in the Kledang Hills 4.8 km from Papan and 3.2 km from Menglembu.

The new proposed site was approved by the CABINET before the Perak Menteri Besar made the announcement to the people. The site was selected by the Geological Survey Department, Minister of Health, Department of Environment and Puspati.

The proposed site should not be a secret to Mahathir because it was his Cabinet that approved the site in the first place with the endorsement of two very critical departments, the Geological Survey Department and PUSPATI. Moverover, the new site was explicitly announced by the Menteri Besar of Perak in the media.

But one mystery (not national secret) still lingers in the minds of people in Papan and Menglembu as to the question of the factory’s action to employ contractors to dump the radio active waste illegally?

Dr Sadao Ichikawa’s on his second visit to Ipoh on the 27th September 1986, found radio active Thorium Waste indiscriminately dumped around the areas not far from the factory with dangerously high radio active readings?

And worst, on further questioning by Dr Sadao Ichikawa, the factory contractor admitted that he and other contractors with their fleet of lorries had dumped (not buried) radio active Thorium Waste in places other than the proposed new site.

These illegal dumpings were fully reported by all the mainstream newspapers and as Dr Sadao Ichikawa and another Japanese journalist, Manami Susuki began to reveal more of this outrageous fact to the public and press, it became the talk of the nation – overnight it became an opened secret.

Apparently with all these manipulations of his past role, he hoped to tailor a new belief system for the purpose of imbedding his newly coined image of a reluctant and innocent actor in the Papan radio active dump site issue just as he had done in the Operation Lalang debacle and the abolition of ISA issue.

It is pointless to white wash a tarnished image, people still remember!

Here is one for you:

Evita, Argentina’s most famous First Lady who was once a prostitute. One day, when protesters taunted her while she was riding in an official car with an elderly Italian admiral, she turned to the admiral and said: “Do you hear that? They are calling me a whore.”

The old admiral turned and said: “Yes, I quite understand. I haven’t been to sea for 15 years and they still call me an admiral.” 5


1. Sahabat Alam Malaysia, “Papan Radioactive Waste Dump Controversy”
(Phoenix Press Sdn. Bhd.) Pg 76

2. ibid.,
3. ibid.,
4. ibid.
5. “The World’s Greatest Sex and Scandals,” (Mackays of Chatham – 2001, 2002) Pg 329