KUALA LUMPUR: The appointment of seven female parliamentarians to the Malaysian cabinet, helmed by Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, reflects a number of things, but more importantly, it reflects the strength that women offer in the political arena and the significant role they play in the development and well being of the country.
Prime Minister Najib’s new cabinet has two women who are full ministers and five who are deputy ministers.
Having been elected in their respective parliamentary constituencies, the appointment of these seven ‘iron women’, who had defeated their fellow candidates to make it to the cabinet line-up, also marks a new era in the history of achievements of women in this country.
It also acknowledges the importance of women’s contributions and energy in jointly ensuring the successful realisation of the country’s aspirations towards a developed nation by 2020.
While the percentage of female participation in the 2013-2018 cabinet may seem small, considering a total of 58 ministers, comprising 32 full ministers and 26 deputy ministers, their appointments nevertheless reflect the continued appreciation of female politicians in the country.
For the record, 168 female candidates contested for the parliament and state seats in the recently concluded 13th General Election (GE13).
Barisan Nasional (BN) had fielded the highest number of female candidates, with 22 for parliament seats and 49 for state seats.
Veterans And New Faces
The seven women in the cabinet are a line-up of both seasoned and new faces, with veteran politicians being Datuk Rohani Abdul Karim, Datuk Rosnah Abdul Rashid Shirlin, Datuk Noriah Kasnon, Datuk Halimah Mohamad Sadique and Datuk Azizah Mohamad Dun.
Nancy Shukri and Datuk Mary Yap Ken Jin, meanwhile, are fresh faces in the political arena.
Nancy Shukri won the Batang Sadong Parliament seat in Sarawak, beating Pas candidate Mohamad Jolhi with a majority of 11,260 votes.
Mary Yap, who contested on the BN-Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) ticket, won the Tawau Parliament seat in Sabah in a four-cornered fight with a majority of 4,979 votes.
In the analysis of cabinet appointments, one point may raise some attention — the fact that no Wanita Umno representative has been given a full minister’s post this time around.
Two female MPs appointed as ministers in Najib’s cabinet are Kenyalang Bumiputeras from Sarawak, namely Rohani, the Member Parliament for Batang Lupar, and Nancy Shukri, both of whom had contested on the BN-Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) ticket.
Development Of Women
Another interesting development is that the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development (KPWKM) this time around will be headed by two women from Sarawak and Sabah respectively.
The KPWKM minister’s post is usually held by a Wanita Umno MP. The last minister to hold this post was Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil from Wanita Umno.
She had announced her resignation from the post effective April 8, 2012, which also marked the end of her tenure as a Senator.
Shahrizat did not contest in the general election.
Meanwhile, Rohani, 58, has been appointed as the Minister for Women, Family and Community Development while Azizah, also 58, has been appointed as her deputy.
Rohani saw an astounding win in the elections, capturing the Batang Lupar Parliament seat with a total of 15,625 votes and defeating PKR candidate, Abang Zulkifli Abang Engkeh, with a majority of 10,964 votes.
She had held the Deputy Minister for Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism post in the previous cabinet.
Azizah, the MP for Beaufort, Sabah, won her seat in a three-cornered contest.
The former Sabah State Minister for Community Development and Consumer Affairs, Azizah, holds a degree in law and had previously served as the Deputy Minister in the Housing and Local Government Ministry, following her capture of the Beaufort Parliamentary constituency in the 2004 general election.
In 2008, she had contested for the Klias state seat.
The appointment of Nancy Shukri as a Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, meanwhile, has been welcomed with much pride, especially by the people of Sarawak.
Nancy, 52, was previously the Political Secretary to Sarawak’s Chief Minister, Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud.
She holds a Master’s Degree in Business Administration from Ohio University, the United States, and a Bachelor’s Degree in Law from the University of Hull, the United Kingdom.
With her strong educational background, Nancy is expected to play a major role in the formulation and implementation of government programmes, especially those related to the welfare of women.
The appointment of Papar (Sabah) MP, Rosnah, to the Deputy Works Minister’s post, meanwhile, is expected to provide the minister with new experience after having held the post of Deputy Health Minister prior to the election.
Rosnah, 41, is the Head of the Puteri Umno Movement.
Like Rosnah, the MP for Sungai Besar (Selangor), Noriah, will be having a new portfolio as the new Deputy Minister for Plantation Industries and Commodities.
Prior to the May 5th general election, she was the Deputy Minister for Women, Family and Community Development. The change in portfolio is expected to open up new dimensions in the political careers of the two MPs.
Halimah, MP for Tenggara (Johor), meanwhile, is no newcomer but a veteran politician in the state of Johor. She won her seat for the second time after her first win in the 2008 election.
A powerhouse to reckon with, Halimah defeated Pas candidate Muhamad Said Jonit with a total of 25,698 voters electing her and assuring her of her seat with a majority of 17,196 votes.
She has been entrusted with the post of Deputy Minister for Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government in Najib’s cabinet.
The appointment of Tawau (Sabah) MP, Mary Yap, as the Deputy Minister for Education and Higher Learning, meanwhile, has a special significance for educationists in the country considering that the minister is a former teacher herself.
Mary Yap was in the field of education for more than 36 years prior to her retirement in 2007.
Said to be rightfully placed in the cabinet, Mary Yap’s appointment is expected to provide a huge impact in the education sector of the country, particularly in the development of human capital.
A Host Of Issues
Whatever the portfolios these strong ladies have been entrusted with, the expectations of the people would nevertheless be high and these women would be expected to make a difference in tackling the important and common issues that would benefit all parties.
All these ‘iron ladies’ have the experience and expertise in making their respective contributions by ensuring that national transformation programmes are a reality and in carrying out BN’s election manifesto.
Besides continuing with efforts to empower women generally, other issues that would require their attention would be cases of social ills involving women, including the number of juvenile crimes, an increase in the number of unwed mothers, drug trafficking as well as family related issues.
The government’s efforts to counter the problem of domestic helpers are also expected to be given attention, with promises made to provide more 1Malaysia child care centres for the convenience of working parents.
All said, with the ball in their court, the next five years will definitely be a period of evaluation of the capabilities of these seven strong women in carrying out their respective duties and staying relevant for GE14. — Bernama