The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (BERSIH 2.0) welcomes the establishment of the nine working committees by Pakatan Harapan (PH) yesterday, 9 May 2021 (1). We are of the view that the establishment of these committees is a step forward for PH to organize themselves into a more constructive and effective opposition to compete with Perikatan Nasional (PN) government on policy issues.
The establishment of these shadow ministry-style working committees by PH is important as a measure to consolidate and coordinate the opposition to shadow the Cabinet. In the current political instability, these working committees will enable the opposition to focus on providing constructive criticism as well as alternative policies based on ideas, facts and data. It will also demonstrate their ability to be a government-in-waiting with good and viable alternative policies.
In the interests of parliamentary democracy and for PH to move forward as a viable government-in-waiting, BERSIH 2.0 further suggests the following:
- The chairpersons of the nine working committees should form a Core Shadow Cabinet, which should be chaired by PH’s Shadow Prime Minister.
- The Core Shadow Cabinet should meet regularly at least once a week, among others, to discuss and coordinate the direction of the opposition’s policies like a Westminster Shadow Cabinet so that the policies proposed by each working committee do not contradict and overlap with others.
- Each committee and its support staff should also meet on a regular basis at least once a week, before the Core Shadow Cabinet’s weekly meeting, just like ministries’ meetings before Cabinet meetings.
- The Core Shadow Cabinet meeting should be followed by a press conference or press statement where key decisions from the shadow cabinet meeting are presented to the public.
- The composition of the working committee as well as its chairperson should reflect inclusiveness and balance in terms of gender, age and geography.
BERSIH 2.0 calls on the PN Government to practice mature politics by welcoming PH’s move to compete with the government in the policy arena as a constructive opposition. BERSIH 2.0 emphasizes that all governments should provide adequate access of information to the opposition so that the opposition does not propose unrealistic policies that create unrealistic expectations towards the government.
At the same time, restrictions on access to public information should never be used as an excuse by the opposition to not to embark on policy contestation. PH has governed for 22 months and should leverage on their experiences during previous administration as well as any data available in the public domain.
Our country needs a functioning government as well as an effective opposition in order for the country’s politics to develop based on healthier and better policy competition, not who is more evil. Professional and mature politics will ultimately benefit the people as well as pushing the nation to be more prosperous, developed and democratic.
The Steering Committee of BERSIH 2.0