KUALA LUMPUR, (Bernama) – The first meeting of the first session of the 15th Parliament will take place next Monday and Tuesday. While all eyes will be on Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and his unity government, the opposition bench helmed by Perikatan Nasional (PN) will also come under public scrutiny.
Most people are curious whether PN – comprising PAS, Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) and Gerakan – will prove to be effective in providing checks and balances for the new government.
PN has appointed Member of Parliament for Larut and Bersatu secretary-general Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainudin as the Opposition Leader in the Dewan Rakyat and it remains to be seen how well Hamzah, who is known to be very vocal, will perform in his new role.
Sitting on the opposition bench is not going to be a walk in the park for PN considering that they will be locking horns with a unity government consisting of three sizeable coalitions, namely Pakatan Harapan (PH), Barisan Nasional (BN) and Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS).
Universiti Putra Malaysia political science professor Datuk Dr Jayum Jawan acknowledged that PN has what it takes to be an effective opposition as it has sufficient representation in Parliament to be the voice of the people.
“Out of the 222 seats in the Dewan Rakyat, 74 belong to PN, thus allowing it to form its own shadow Cabinet. The Opposition Leader will serve as the shadow prime minister and it’s understood that PN will appoint one or two of their MPs to monitor each ministry… this is the right thing to do,” he told Bernama.
Malaysia, according to Jayum, has never had a shadow Cabinet although BN tried to create one in 2018 after the 14th general election but never got around to making it function.
“It’s clear that PN can establish a shadow Cabinet but those appointed (as shadow ministers) must handle their respective responsibilities seriously… this is because they are doing it on a voluntary basis and are not going to be paid,” he said, adding that only the Opposition Leader receives a salary and is provided with an office and other facilities in the Parliament building.
The establishment of a shadow Cabinet is in line with the characteristics of the Westminster democracy practised by Malaysia and it includes senior MPs from opposition parties that are tasked with the duty of monitoring the policies and actions of the ruling government as well as submitting alternative proposals.
Jayum said this strategy will keep Anwar’s Cabinet ministers on their toes and compel them to discharge their duties earnestly as they know they are being watched.
“This way, we are guaranteed a government that is trustworthy, transparent and fair,” he added.
COMBINATION OF NEW AND OLD
Jayum also said that PN’s line-up of experienced and new MPs will stand the opposition bloc in good stead as they can contribute fresh and innovative ideas as well as mature and constructive criticisms.
Even Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin’s appointment as chief of the PN MPs is a bonus for the opposition coalition as he has vast experience in politics and administration and was also the eighth prime minister, he said, adding that PAS president Tan Sri Abdul Hadi Awang’s wide experience will also enhance the stature of the opposition bloc.
“Besides Muhyiddin and Hadi, PN also has former ministers, menteri besar and state exco members in its midst who can guide the new MPs.
“However, hopefully, no one will raise sensitive matters during debates in the Dewan Rakyat as PAS is known to bring up religious issues. But with Bersatu (in the opposition) it will be more balanced… this will give the opposition bloc an advantage this time,” he added.
Meanwhile, Universiti Malaya political analyst Dr Muhammad Shamsinor Abdul Azzis said the presence of Abdul Hadi, who served as Opposition Leader from 2002 to 2004, will add more value to the opposition camp.
“PAS has been in the opposition for over six decades and I’m sure it will make use of its experience in providing checks and balances for the PH-led government.
“In the recent general election, PAS won the most number of seats. I’m sure people will be evaluating the PAS MPs to see if they are helping to improve the policies implemented by the government,” he said.
Initially, Abdul Hadi was expected to be appointed Opposition Leader as the Islamist party had won 43 Parliamentary seats in the recent general election compared to 31 by Bersatu.
PAS also created a record with its clean sweep of all eight Parliamentary seats in Terengganu and 14 in Kelantan.
Translated by Rema Nambiar
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