PETALING JAYA: A women’s group has given a gutsy reaction to the police questioning of Dr Siti Hasmah Mohamad Ali, saying it shows that her voice is significant enough to make the authorities feel intimidated.
Abby Latif, who leads WOMEN: Girls, an NGO dedicated to empowering women and children, said the police had, in a sense, given recognition to women’s power.
Siti Hasmah, the wife of Pakatan Harapan chairman Dr Mahathir Mohamad, was questioned yesterday over her involvement in a protest rally last Sept 10, which was billed as “Women Against Toxic Politics” and saw the participation of about 1,000 people. She gave a brief speech at the height of the protest.
Speaking to FMT, Abby said the police would not have interrogated Siti Hasmah if they thought her voice was insignificant.
“It goes to show that women’s voices will not go unnoticed,” she said. “I really don’t think it will instil any sense of fear in women when it comes to speaking up. In fact, that it is big enough for people to demand an explanation validates the fact that our voice accounts for something.”
Quoting former US president Barack Obama, she said: “Nothing right in the world ever occurs without a fight or at least some discomfort.”
The Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) criticised the police move, saying Siti Hasmah and every other Malaysian woman had the right as citizens of a democratic country to participate in any rally.
“It’s important for women, as half of the population, to speak up and be heard,” WAO communications officer Tan Heang-Lee told FMT.
“We condemn any attempt to silence and intimidate women from exercising their democratic rights, regardless of their political affiliations.”
She disagreed with Abby, saying the police action served only to “hinder women from speaking up, assembling freely and participating in the democratic process”.
Another women’s group, Empower, said it was the government’s duty to promote and protect the right of women to assemble, especially over issues affecting them.
“If anything, the government should protect the right of women to assemble peacefully and to speak out against sexism, misogyny and hate speech, which feature strongly in Malaysian politics these days,” said Empower director Angela M Kuga Thas.
“Calling in Siti Hasmah now reflects poorly on the state’s commitment to women’s empowerment, especially in relation to women’s freedom of expression and especially in the face of the Women’s Empowerment Year 2018 as declared by the prime minister.”
She said she understood that it was the police’s duty to ensure the safety and security of Malaysians, but she noted that the protest took place without incident.
“In fact, the police were on hand and did their duty well in protecting and regulating the women’s protest march against toxic politics.”