PR can work, provided…
MARCH 20 — As Zaidel Baharuddin’s The Malaysian Insider article ‘Pakatan Rakyat to Pakatan Riot’ explains, there remain unresolved doubts about how PR parties can work together to lead the country.
Surely they cannot be given the reins to rule? Or can they?
I have been a long-time sceptic of PR. But having laboured long and hard over how they might share power, I am now warming up to them.
I am beginning to sense that they might actually be viable as an alternative to BN, provided they are willing to make some fundamental changes in the way they think about power sharing.
If they can discard the conventional wisdom that applies as to how a federal government should normally operate, and build a new model suited to PR, then it might just work.
Imagine three fuels. Leaded, Unleaded and Diesel. These fuels when mixed together cannot power any car. But yet each fuel could be used to run a specific kind of car quite effectively. And this is, to me, the key to solving PR’s power-sharing impasse.
If Malaysians insist on having Malaysia governed centrally as a single unit (like riding in one big bus with one driver using one fuel), then BN remains the only option.
Pakatan Rakyat fuels cannot be used for this bus when mixed together. But what if we threw out the ‘single bus’ model and opted for a ‘tag-team model’ instead?
The tag-team model would mean that there would be separate vehicles going forward independently, but yet working together, supporting one another, even competing with each other, and united and bonded by the desire to get everyone to the same destination.
Let me elaborate.
For illustrative purposes, Malaysia could be divided into three distinct socio-economic zones. Say, firstly, the West Coast of the peninsula; secondly, the East Coast of the peninsula; and thirdly, Sabah and Sarawak. Each zone is like a vehicle in this tag-team model.
The tag-team model would have the following governance structure:
Firstly, a ‘presidential-like’ prime minister, who would oversee all matters that truly relate to holding the federation together and bringing it forward for the sake of all Malaysians. His responsibilities would therefore include all portfolios, but only in so far as they are truly relevant at a national level (much like that of a US President).
He would then delegate his executive authority in relation to the administration of federal matters for each zone to an appointed viceroy. The viceroy for each zone would in essence be the driver of the vehicle in the tag team.
The viceroy’s federal responsibility for his zone might include finance, trade and industry, education, religion, health, infrastructure and human capital development, tourism, youth and culture, etc. The federal Cabinet will ensure that each zone is allocated a fair and equitable share of the federal budget to enable the viceroy to do his job. The viceroy would be a full member of the Cabinet and would remain answerable to the prime minister.
The viceroy for the West Coast might be from PKR or DAP (or this zone could itself be split into two to make for easier governance). The viceroy for the East Coast might be from PAS. And the viceroy for Sabah and Sarawak might be from a new PR component party representing those states.
The viceroy would be selected by the prime minister in consultation with party leaders. Although representative of the party to which he or she belongs, the viceroy must be independent and be willing to put the interest of the country first, before the zone or the party he or she represents.
The prime minister will manage all inter-zone affairs himself, for the interest of the country as a whole. But beyond that, each zone will naturally go forward based on policies of the PR party to whom its viceroy belongs. Yet the administration of the zones will be structured to promote and foster collaboration and co-operation, and be subjected to the collective accountability of the Cabinet and compliance with the Federal Constitution.
The struggle between PR component parties to secure other Cabinet positions becomes less intense, because via the viceroy, they each have effective administrative influence where real change can take place, especially in the zone where they have the greatest support.
Other federal ministries will focus on national policy development but no longer wield the authority to impact real change on the ground, since this is left primarily to the viceroy.
This would be a total departure from the BN governance model of today.
What happens to state governments? They remain as they are. To build state governments into the equation makes it too complex a model to manage. This is especially so if Barisan Nasional remains in control of a large number of state assemblies. This is only a proposal how PR could allocate federal responsibility between the parties should they come into power.
The net effect is that we have different parts of the country that will have different federal administrative styles. And as private citizens, we would be quite at liberty to move to the zone that we think most suits our lifestyle, and other people might move in the opposite direction for the very same reason.
So there will no longer be a ‘one-size-fits-all’ model.
I struggle to see how PR can ever look to run the federal government based on the ‘one bus-one driver-one fuel’ model, given their ideological differences. But if they offer the ‘tag-team’ model, then it might be an interesting proposition to consider.
For sure, if that were the case, it will make it so much easier for me to decide where to cast my vote at the next general election.
* The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.