PETALING JAYA: It is a question that most Pakatan Rakyat leaders have been avoiding and dreading to answer: When is it ever going to form a shadow cabinet?
For PAS Youth chief, Nasrudin Hassan, it has always been his dream to see the opposition alliance as a shadow cabinet to prove to the people that they are the government in-waiting.
"It's been burning at the back of mind. I really want Pakatan Rakyat to be able to capture people's hearts by becoming a strong opposition; a government in-waiting," he told the Star Online recently.
The newly-elected Temerloh member of Parliament said he wouldn't want an opposition that merely opposes or criticises every government's move or plays up rheotoric.
"It is important to have a shadow cabinet because when the day suddenly comes that Pakatan takes over (the Federal government), we will be able to deliver right there and then," he said.
When asked what's stopping the idea from materialising, the 43-year-old politician said there were many factors.
"For example in Parliament, most of the motions proposed by the opposition are buried deep inside the order paper. This shows that the opposition is not part of the government in developing the country," said Nasrudin.
Although the dream of forming a shadow cabinet seems far-fetched, he said PAS has formed its own government in-waiting to keep the ruling coalition in check.
"I was appointed as a shadow Minister of Education, (PAS deputy Youth chief and Pasir Mas MP) Nik Abduh Nik Aziz is shadowinging the Youth and Sports Ministry and (Kuala Krai MP) Dr Hatta Ramli is watching the Finance Minister portfolio.
"It is a small step, and I have received information that PKR and DAP have also formed their own shadow cabinets," he said.
In the one-hour interview, Nasrudin also spoke about his new life as an elected representative, the future of Pakatan Rakyat, the upcoming PAS election, and his conservative image.
Q: When Pakatan Rakyat failed to wrest federal powers in GE13, many claimed this was due to contradicting ideologies and infighting between the component parties. How do you think the opposition can survive as a pact in many years to come?
I am very optimistic that Pakatan Rakyat will remain as a strong pact if our policies and common grounds are respected. I do not deny that we have different ideologies and approaches in tackling some issues, but we definitely can manage our differences. I don't think we can have 100 percent in common, it is also impossible for Barisan Nasional to do that. I think it is nothing out of ordinary for us to have differing views, as long as our they are respected. Until today, Alhamdulillah, there has been no massive crisis that has put our relationship on the rocks.
How is your life now that you are a member of Parliament?
There has been a massive change on my life; firstly my routine consists a lot of activities with the people of Temerloh where I have allocated eight days a month to be with them. I am also focusing on turning Temerloh into a 'Bandar Ilmu' apart from being famously known as 'Bandar Ikan Patin'. We are working hard to spread as much knowledge as possible to the people especially through places of worship. We are also working closely with other Pakatan Rakyat elected state assembly representatives from Semantan and Mentakab constituencies in managing local council issues such as clogged gutters, piping, rubbish and other small areas that need immediate attention. This also includes giving out financial aid to the people affected by natural disasters.
We have also set a deadline to appoint a consultative panel to develop Temerloh. One of them, is none other than former Temerloh MP from Barisan Nasional, Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah. But we have yet to issue a formal letter to him.
Speaking of Datuk Saifuddin, how's your relationship with him?
We have been on good terms since the beginning. During the campaign period, when we went against each other, we considered the contest to be between friends instead of foes.
Many Pakatan Rakyat supporters have voiced their disappointment when they found out that Datuk Saifuddin lost in Temerloh against you, because they said that the former Temerloh MP was a modest man and had moderate approach in solving issues, something vey rare to have in Barisan Nasional. Your thoughts?
I never expected to stand against Datuk Saifuddin when I was chosen as candidate. I was really surprised by it because before that I heard I would be fielded in either Rompin (Negeri Sembilan) or Maran (Terengganu). When I was announced as a candidate, BN had yet to decide theirs. So I called Datuk Saifuddin personally and asked whether he would be fielded. He said he didn't know his position yet until his name was announced at the last minute. I also had no choice but to accept the party's decision to field me and of course when you enter any contest, you would hope to win.
Personally, I respect Datuk Saifuddin because to me, he is a good leader. Although our parties offer different policies, he is someone I truly admire and respect, but the contest was inevitable. And the contest was not between two individuals, but between two parties. That is why I didn't regret anything for contesting in Temerloh, although Datuk Saifuddin is someone I have high regard for.
How's the response from the people in Temerloh?
To be fair, we can't run away from two contradicting views. There are some who support you, there are some who reject you. This is what I am facing every day but I am handling both situations positively. Those who support me make me motivated to work and those who criticise me make me improve on my weaknesses. Until today, the people still give me space to do all that. It's been three months now since I was elected and I admit that I need to give something back to the people. However, we won without the federal powers in our hands and this has limited our movement financially. I hope they understand this. When Temerloh was hit by a storm the other day, we had to raise funds to help the people because as a member of the opposition, we are denied from getting any federal allocations. So we couldn't give financial aid on the spot. In the end, we had to get funds from non-governmental organisations and concerned citizens.
Pas Muktamar and party elections are coming soon. Have you decided whether you want to defend your position as Youth chief or are going for vice presidency, especially now that you have surpassed the age of 40?
Until today, I have not made any final decision to contest yet because this is all up to the members in the party. Usually I would wait for the nominations to come in and see which suitable positions the delegates have decided for me. However, it never bothers me because when we work for the party, it is not our objective to lobby for power.
Would you support the idea of no contest for top two posts like Umno?
In our party constitution, we never stop from people from contesting for these posts. It's just that there's no one who wants to step forward and challenge the incumbent leaders because the people in PAS are not struggling for power, but it is about those who can bear the responsibility in navigating the party. In PAS, there are more who reject positions rather than accepting them. That is why if a leader is doing well leading the party no one will challenge him. However, please note that there have been contests for these top two posts before. But I believe that many still have the confidence in Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang's leadership and would want him to stay.
You have always been seen as one of 'conservative' leaders in the party. Do you think people can change their perspective on you?
I get asked this a lot. I would like to tell the people that wearing a jubah (robe) or a turban does not mean that one is conservative. Instead, they have to look beyond the clothes we wear and judge us based on our personalities and our actions as leaders. Maybe they think that I am conservative because I always go against entertainment shows such as concerts, which I believe, are overboard. But it is okay if I am labelled as a conservative, as long as I fight for what the religion asks us to do. I will go to great lengths to defend what's right and fight against what's wrong.
However, we have taken a different approach in spreading our message to the youth. For example, at the recent Metallica concert, instead of staging protests, we gave out leafleats that highlight the importance of moral values through a programme we launched called "Ekspedisi Dakwah" because we realise that protests do not work in tackling this matter. Besides, we don't have any power to stop people from going or joining such events. That was the least we could do and we received positive feedback from the ground.