PR’s Shadow Cabinet: Why opposition supporters cannot treat politics like gamble

A misperception common amongst many opposition supporters is that democracy is actually a luxury, not a necessity. This view sees democracy as a fragile china that needs to be protected, rather than a sharp spear to attack.

When the supposed democrats have little faith in democracy, is there any wonder why democracy had failed to take off before March 8 and remain slow even afterward?

Unwittingly, we have become the slave of BN indoctrination. By not believing in the enabling potential democracy, we are believing in BN’s propaganda and disarming ourselves.

It’s time to examine our value system now before we talk more about regime change. Taking on the case against a PR shadow cabinet, I hope we can have a good and honest debate here.

My friend PYWong has posted another comment at thenutgraph. Here’s the gist:

“Chin Huat’s arguments make perfect sense in a normal democracy. Unfortunately, we are not in a normal democracy. We live in a pseudo-democracy. Look at how journalists are detained for “their own safety” for writing the truth, an MP is detained because an Umno leader told lies about her involvement in a petition on azan, a blogger was detained for writing in his blog. All of them under ISA. Do you think these shadow ministers will feel safe once they are identified?

Money politics is rampant in Umno. Will they restrict their activities to Umno only and not extend it beyond their borders to subvert Pakatan Rakyat?”

This line of argument is sadly quite common amongst opposition supporters: “because BN does not democratically, therefore PR cannot act democratically.”

I am sure you are familiar with a similar line amongst many supporters of UMNO, MCA and MIC: “because other races have not given up their racism, we must not give up ours or we will stand to lose.”

Malaysians must ask themselves: have they unconsciously been slaved by BN’s propaganda and indoctrination?

Let us examine the argument that a democratic practice like setting up a Shadow Cabinet cannot survive a “pseudo-democracy” because the shadow ministers will be either threatened or bought over.

It would stand only if we have very low confidence in the courage and integrity of people like Azmin Ali, Sivarasa, Tian Chua, Lim Kit Siang, Karpal Singh, Teresa Kok, Tony Pua, Dr Dzukifli, Dr Lo Lo, Khalid Samad.

Why? The Shadow Cabinet I propose is to choose only the best and not include every parliamentarian, so your fear can be easily addressed by excluding the meek and weak.

If PR cannot find enough good men and good women that can withstand threat and temptation to form a shadow executive team, what can we hope for in PR? It then deserves to lose to BN because it is no better, even though not worse.

Let’s be honest about why PR dare not set up a shadow cabinet. It’s not because that BN is evil, but because PR is weak and not confident. Someone at Malaysia Today has offered a more convincing reason: “But those who are not chosen, will try their luck with UMNO and the BN, resulting in further spits in the PKR even before it has a chance to be the government.”

Now, if this indeed happens and PR loses a few MPs, can’t PR take it back in next elections? Can’t the people punish them? Wasn’t this possibility used to justify the cross-over scheme? Have PR supporters no faith in the people?

Yes, there will be more electoral frauds, but can’t the people’s will overcome that if they feel strongly want to change the government? Shouldn’t they be angered by BN-triggered defections so that they would want to vote in PR with a stronger mandate? The Sabahan did that in 1985 to support PBS after its victory was nearly hijacked by KL-backed politicians.

What I feel deeply uncomfortable after March 8 is that many opposition supporters see the political tsunami as a lucky draw in casino, that this is one opportunity in a life time, that UMNO cannot be overthrown if Anwar does not seize the opportunity to trigger a mutiny in BN.

The “gambler” mentality is outrageous to me, not only because it leads to dangerous “desperado” behavior, but also because it implicitly sees the people – the electorate, the citizen – as cards and chips controlled by elite politicians.

If opposition supporters virtually see the people as morons who have no control of their own fate, then don’t call this a new dawn. (I can’t help thinking of the Bangkok middle-class demonstrators who see Thaksin’s supporters are stupid peasants.)

If you must call this a new dawn, then don’t treat politics like gamble.

Democracy should be like long-term investment, rather than short-term speculation, of which gamble is one form. It is in the long-term co-existence and interaction (“repeated game” in game theory jargon) that political elites will learn to behave rationally and moderately.

PYWong may not have in his mind any of the underlying thoughts and implications I have just fleshed out, my apologies to him if readers see that as his. But I feel strongly compelled to take this example to illustrate the contradiction commonly found in the opposition supporters’ “public sphere”.

It’s time we debate honestly and critically if we actually believe in democracy, which is more than kicking UMNO’s butt.


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