The debate around Wan Azizah’s suitability as Mentri Besar Selangor has gone on too long. It has gone on too long because of two main factors. One is the opposition of certain male leaders in Pas who act as though they are living in rigid and conservative Islamic nations when the role of women is to be subservient to men. However even in such societies as Pakistan we have seen women leaders such as Benazir Bhutto accepted as the highest ranking political leader of the country. So why is it unacceptable to Pas leaders and other Malays that her selection should meet with so much resistance?
“Women hold up half the sky”. This is a famous proclamation made by Mao Zedong to bring gender equality to China. It applies not only to China but to all countries of the world, including Malaysia. In fact Pas and others that are living like frogs underneath their coconut shells should realize that women not only hold up half the sky but they hold up more of the sky than men. This is because women outnumber men in most if not all countries in the world besides having longer life expectancies. In Malaysia women have life expectancy of 77 years compared to men’s 73 years!
Pas Must Abandon ‘Ketuanan Lelaki‘ Ideology
Pas leaders should also realize that women voters out number males. The party can never come to power with an ideology of ‘ketuanan lelaki‘ or “male superiority or male dominance. Malaysian may be a Muslim society but our Malay women are just as, if not smarter and more advanced, than men. The proof of this is in the public universities where Malay women form the majority of undergraduate students and consistently top the men in the examinations.
The second factor is the attempt by certain quarters to promote resistance to the replacement of Khalid Ibrahim by a new MB candidates selected by the party coalition having the majority in the Selangor state government. Thus a loud whispering campaign has been started especially by pro-UMNO and pro-BN bloggers questioning the qualifications and suitability of Wan Azizah. “Is she really MB material?”; “will she be a proxy for Anwar Ibrahim”; “does she have the political smarts to bring about the development of Selangor?”
Wan Azizah is bersih and fully qualified
To many Malaysians though, there is little doubt that Wan Azizah has all the makings of an outstanding Mentri Besar whose appointment will bring a breath of fresh air to the jaded ranks of our male-dominated and scandal ridden political leadership. Unlike the outgoing MB, Khalid, her name is not associated with cronyism and hanky panky deals involving millions of ringgit but with service to the society, initially as a government doctor and later as a leader of various voluntary bodies. Not only is she seen as bersih but she is also admired for her role in helping Anwar survive as a political leader and in building PKR to become a force in Malaysian politics.
Why Selangoreans and Malaysians Must Support Wan Azizah
Selangoreans and Malaysians must not forget that following the arrest of her husband on 20 September 1998, Wan Azizah became the leader of the fledgling Reformasi movement. She also first led the Social Justice Movement(ADIL), a civil rights NGO, before helping to establish the Parti Keadilan Nasional on 4 April 1999. The establishment of the party saw Dr. Wan Azizah being elected as the first party president. She also brought the party into a merger with the older Parti Rakyat Malaysia, thus paving the way for the establishment of PKR which now promises to be the party together with its coalition partners which will finally break the authoritarian and abusive monopoly of power than the BN has imposed on Malaysians. .
There is consensus that PKR’s huge gains in the 2008 general election – winning 31 seats and becoming the largest opposition party in parliament – could not have come about if she had not braved and overcame the ordeal by fire that she, her husband and her colleagues were put through.
Wan Azizah has survived tests of leadership, character, stamina and courage such as few politicians – male or female in the country – have experienced. That is a fact!
Since Anwar’s return to active politics, Wan Azizah has retreated to a less prominent role. This is understandable given the importance of Anwar to the political struggle to break Barisan’s grip on power in the country. But she has continued to be the President of PKR and to be an active and involved influence in PKR and Pakatan party dynamics behind the scene in ways that are not easily discernable or visible to the public.
Now that Anwar is again facing imprisonment and renewed attempts are being made to destroy his political career. Wan Azizah has to step up to the plate one more time if the reform movement in Malaysia is to succeed. But it is not only Wan Azizah whose mettle is being tested.
Malaysians, beginning with the rakyat of Selangor, are also being tested. If we deny her the support she needs to take up the position of Mentri Besar, then we would only have ourselves to blame should the fight for justice, good governance and democracy in Selangor and throughout the country fall further back.