In new Malaysia, opposition still floundering too, say MP, analysts

Opposition MPs have been told to be more engaged, and to put forth more substantial arguments to improve government policies. (Bernama pic)

PETALING JAYA: A PKR MP says although some opposition members have been vocal since their loss in the May 9 polls last year, many are “not yet fully fired up or engaged”.

Subang MP Wong Chen said those who have been active in Parliament include Barisan Nasional’s (BN) Wee Ka Siong, Khairy Jamaluddin, Ismail Sabri Yaakob and Ahmad Maslan, Che Abdullah Mat Nawi and Awang Hashim of PAS, and Nancy Shukri from GPS.

Overall, though, the opposition has been lacklustre, he added.

“I suspect this is due to them adjusting to their new role and being under-resourced,” he told FMT.

“Those who have said nothing may also be thinking of crossing over, while outside Parliament the situation is too politicised.”

Wong, who himself was vocal in the opposition before the 14th general election, urged the government to give opposition MPs now the same allocations and resources as those from Pakatan Harapan (PH) to enable them to better serve their constituents.

In the era of the new Malaysia, he said, PH should not perpetrate the “unfair system” installed under BN which supports government MPs but punishes those from the opposition.

“Fundamentally, I am interested in systemic reforms, and we have a lot of institutional reforms to do.

“I am not here to settle scores with Umno-BN for how they mistreated us in the past,” he said.

He nonetheless called on opposition members to be more effective in matters regarding policies and ministerial accountability.

He suggested that they seek to serve under the new parliamentary select committees and invest in more researchers.

“They should scrutinise fiscal items carefully during the budget period and on matters regarding finance bills,” he said.

“In fact, they should start preparing now for Budget 2020.”

Universiti Teknologi Malaysia analyst Azmi Hassan said the opposition should receive the same 5/10 grade that Dr Mahathir Mohamad had given his Cabinet.

As former government members, he said, they should have the experience to offer better criticism of the PH administration. However, he said this had only happened on a few occasions.

“The opposition should criticise policies based on fact, and not resort to rhetoric.

“Malaysians are basically seeing a pre-GE14 opposition again, albeit through different political parties.”

He told FMT that the opposition’s shadow Cabinet had not performed according to expectations, either.

He cited issues regarding Malaysia’s fiscal and foreign policies which he said had elicited only minimal response from shadow ministers.

“If the government introduces a new policy, the shadow Cabinet should introduce a counter-policy to make the government policy better. But this has rarely happened,” he said.

He agreed that Putrajaya could look into increased allocations for opposition MPs, but said it should also encourage feedback from citizens and academics even if they have opposing views.

Independent analyst Andrew Aeria said while the opposition had recently won a string of by-elections, it had not added value to Malaysia’s democracy and political culture.

He, too, said the shadow Cabinet had not done much to challenge shortcomings in government policies or implementation.

“The opposition needs to grow up and get serious about their role,” he said.

“There is a need for less racial and religious baiting, and more substantial arguments to showcase their vision for an inclusive and diverse Malaysia.”

Aeria, who was previously attached to Universiti Malaysia Sarawak, also suggested more parliamentary input based on research and mature speeches which address policy issues.

He said this should be done in a way which not only exposes the government’s shortcomings but also raises awareness about issues among the people.

He also proposed that the government provide funding for a parliamentary research office which can be freely accessed by all MPs.