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Ex-DCM backs call for more women in polls
Published on: Sunday, April 23, 2017

Kota Kinabalu: Former PBS Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Ariah Tengku Ahmad supported Dewan Rakyat Speaker Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia's recent call to political parties in the country to field more women candidates in the next general election to enable more women representatives to sit in Parliament.She said many elections have come and gone but for whatever reason(s), Malaysia continues to lag behind in terms of women's representation in Parliament despite the much-bandied about ideology of gender equality and gender equity.

"In this respect, we don't have to look far for examples. Countries in Southeast Asia are faring much better than Malaysia.

These include Timor-Leste, Laos, Vietnam, Singapore, Philippines, Cambodia, Indonesia and Thailand.

"Based on the results of the 13th General Election in 2013, out of the 222 Members of Parliament in Malaysia, only 23 are women registering a miserable 10.3pc," she said, in support of Pandikar's call to field more women candidates.

Recognising the under-representation of women in Parliament, he made the call earlier this month after delivering a keynote address at the Commonwealth Women Parliamentary South East Asia Regional Seminar in Parliament (Kuala Lumpur).

Looking farther away, Ariah, who was also a former Minister of Social Services, said the Scandinavian countries (Sweden, Norway and Denmark) boast a strong representation of women in their respective national Parliaments.

"This is a fine example to the rest of the world, especially Malaysia."

"Amazingly, even a country like Rwanda (a landlocked East African country) has 64pc female Members of Parliament (MPs). This has been made possible by a law stipulating that 30pc of all parliamentary seats be held by women," she observed.

In an interview with the Daily Express in Sabah last year, Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies of Rwanda, Mukabalisa Donatile, said at 64pc, Rwanda is the first country in the world to have more lady MPs "simply because it is a gender-sensitive country".

On Pandikar's statement that based on his experience as Speaker for nine years, it was found that women functioned most effectively as Members of Parliament, Ariah said it was a complimentary remark.

"Very heartening…it is rare for male politicians to make adulatory comments about their female counterparts."

The retired politician concurred with Pandikar that the 30pc policy target for women in policy and decision-making in the public and private sectors would not be met if political parties were reluctant to increase the number of women candidates to represent their respective parties.

However, she noted that since the 2004 General Election, the women wings of political parties in the country have been making repeated calls for 30pc women candidates but to no avail.

"To correct the stark gender imbalance in Parliament, I really hope the powers that be will make this (30pc) happen in the upcoming 14th General Election," she said.

In the Malaysian context, the 30pc target dates back to the year 1995 when Malaysia sent a delegation to the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, China. Malaysia made a commitment to achieve the target for women in decision-making in the public and private sectors by 2000. - Mary Chin



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