It takes a great courage for Dr Malcolm Puthucherry to write a soft criticism of Anwar Ibrahim's assertion that he does not need a shadow cabinet because Pakatan had set up parliamentary committees to mirror the ruling party's cabinet.
Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s assertion that Pakatan Rakyat (PR) does not need a shadow cabinet is nothing less than an admission that the three-party pact he leads is very much less than the sum of its parts.
No, the real reason for not having a shadow cabinet which Anwar, ever the consummate political creature, refuses to tell the public is plain and simple: PR lacks the necessary cohesion and collective vision to come to an agreement between its member parties as to which ministerial portfolio ought to be entrusted to which party and the courage of conviction to announce it to the public. No amount of obfuscation by Anwar or any other PR leader can cover up that vulnerability of the pact.
Real proponents of a two-party system would have been able to view the issue in a broader perspective. It is sad to find the writer, Malcolm, being personally and viciously attacked by Anwar's hardcore supporters. By doing so, these supporters are missing an opportunity to urge Anwar himself to take a serious look at the gains and losses he has made since the last general election.
Malcolm's argument on the need of a shadow cabinet is legitimate and logical. It has been my fear that Pakatan coalition members may not have a post Putrajaya plan. What happens after winning the federal power? The ideological and policy differences may be easily diverted and avoided for the moment because these parties are bounded by a common aim to bring down the Barisan government.
It is impossible for us to be convinced that Pakatan is ready to govern if the Anwar-led Pakatan does not convey to us a comprehensive and detailed roadmap to governance.
It is illogical and desperate to suggest that any announcement now will render these shadow cabinet members to vicious attacks from Perkasa, Utusan and Umno. Any Pakatan politicians hope to be part of the next cabinet must be able to withstand any political onslaught. If they cannot take the heat now what make us think that they will be able to do so later?
The only Pakatan MP who is actively engaging the ruling government is MP Tony Pua. What have happened to the rest? Where's Pakatan alternative budget if there is a whole parliamentary committee mirroring the finance ministry? How can Pakatan reverse the fortune of PKFZ, Bakun dam and a host of other financially disastrous projects? I don't think these issues can be easily swept under the carpet.
I would like to go beyond the issue of shadow cabinet. I would like to urge Anwar to take a deep look at his own leadership of Pakatan and PKR.
He must address these issues if he is hoping to make bigger gains/inroads compared to 2008:
1) Organisational weakness within PKR and Pakatan. Surely Anwar cannot walk on a moral high ground for what had happened to the defections in Perak, Penang & Selangor. Anwar must answer to the political chaos of Sabah PKR which has badly affected the coalition's chance in the next state elections.
2) Anwar must initiate a sincere and honest audit of his own leadership. It has become rather meek and unconvincing to continue positioning the whole coalition's fate on Anwar's leadership alone. Anwar's own political star is waning. The coalition needs to offer something more and something new to complement Anwar's oratory ability and personal charm alone. Anwar needs to facilitate and groom a list of next line leaders who are capable to take over from him. No one is indispensable and Anwar has appeared weary and tired compared to the 1999 reformasi movement. Age is a contributing factor. Next is complacency in his own party ranks.
3) Anwar must seriously ask himself if he had contributed to the dispersion and disintegration of the opposition front. Anwar was also a contributor to the creation of UBF, Kita, MCLM and others. If he had not being distracted by the latest sodomy scandal, a lack of new ideas to organize his party better and possibly poor decision to back some wrong individuals in his party these new forces would have been created because there is no real reason for their existence or need.
4) Caught in the web of sodomy scandal 2, Anwar should have made some strategic decision to initiate a leadership transition in his party and the newly minted coalition. I am not saying that we should use the sodomy case to push down Anwar. But Anwar should know who the authority is up against. A way to divert the attention away from him which may slow down the progress of his party and the coalition to build on the 2008 gains is to divert the target and attention away from his leadership of PKR and Pakatan. New leaders should have been groomed to take over his reforms agenda and work on strengthening the party and coalition.
It is still not too late for Anwar to rethink his own political strategy and positioning.
Meanwhile, I hope pro-Anwar supporters would react more kindly to criticism. By doing what they did to Malcolm is not going to set Pakatan supporters apart from the Barisan's.