Selangor speaker tells Najib: Make cabinet 30% women

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PETALING JAYA: Two prominent female politicians from the opposition have questioned Prime Minister Najib Razak’s sincerity in increasing the participation of women in politics.

Selangor speaker Hannah Yeoh said if Najib was truly sincere in empowering women in politics, at least 30% of his cabinet members should be made up of women.

“This is totally within his control. No need to win big in GE14 to do it,” said Yeoh in a Facebook post today.

She was responding to a statement by Najib that Barisan Nasional (BN) would consider raising the quota for women senators if it wins big in the 14th general election (GE14).

Speaking at the Women in Politics Kuala Lumpur 2017 conference, the prime minister had said that the BN government must get the required vote majority if such changes were to be made.

“If we get the required majority, we could impose a quota for the upper house, that it must comprise no less than 30% of women senators,” he was quoted as saying when opening the international conference held in conjunction with this year’s Umno general assembly.

Yeoh pointed out that the Selangor state government had 40% women in the exco line-up in 2008.

She also challenged Najib to set aside 30% of Umno’s seats in GE14 for Wanita Umno candidates.

“Again, this is totally within his control. No need to win big in GE14 to do it.

“DAP had set aside 30% of their seats in Selangor during GE13 for women candidates.

“Having 30% (women) senators in the upper house is shortchanging Wanita Umno who he claims to be the backbone of his party,” said Yeoh, who is also a vice-chairperson with the DAP Women’s wing.

Meanwhile, PKR Wanita chief Zuraida Kamaruddin also criticised Najib over his remarks that BN would need a strong mandate to propose the appointment of 30% women senators.

“He did not commit to fielding more women for the upcoming elections so that there would be 30% women MPs.

“Instead, he asked for women’s strong support so that he could appoint 30% women senators.

“This is an insult to women. Women are not rubber stamps,” she said.

Zuraida said Malaysia had been independent for 60 years but had yet to reach 30% women participation in politics, unlike countries like Uganda where in the current Parliament, 135 (34.97%) of its 386 members are women.

“Uganda ranks 30th out of 193 countries for women participation. Rwanda tops the list with 61% women in Parliament.

“Sad to say, Malaysia ranks at 158 with only 23 women (10.4%) out of 222 seats,” she said, adding that these findings were compiled by the Inter-Parliamentary Union and published in October this year.

Zuraida, who is also Ampang MP, said the lack of women’s participation at parliamentary level was due to Umno’s interpretation of women’s role in the country.

“Women are being constantly told to be obedient, to stay at home and cook, and to only look after their families and husbands. They will definitely shun politics.

“This is because women who dare to be different are always branded as being manly.

“Wanita Umno has no stance other than to support Umno,” she said, adding that the women’s wing of a political party was important in furthering women’s causes and agenda.