2 sexist Malaysian MPs condemned – joint statement by ASEAN MPs

Joint Media Statement by ASEAN MPs (and former MP) from the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia and Malaysia in Tokyo on Tuesday, 22nd May 2007:

Sexism by two male MPs in Malaysian Parliament on May 9 an affront and outrage to all ASEAN MPs and ASEAN women — deserves fullest condemnation by all ASEAN Parliamentarians and ASEAN civil society as sexism has no place in a progressive ASEAN

We, the undersigned ASEAN MPs (and former MP) attending an international conference in Tokyo have decided to issue the following joint statement:

We are very distressed by the rank sexism in the Malaysian Parliament on May 9 when two male MPs made crude vulgar, derogatory, sexist and gender-offensive remarks at the woman MP for Batu Gajah Fong Po Kuan, which have been regarded as a shame and dishonour to Po Kuan, Malaysian Parliament, Malaysian women and Malaysia’s international reputation.

It is more than that — it is also an affront and outrage to all ASEAN MPs and ASEAN women and deserves the fullest condemnation by all ASEAN Parliamentarians and ASEAN civil society as sexism has no place in a progressive ASEAN.

In fact, it is also a global affront and outrage, which was why MPs and State Legislators attending the GlobalPOWER (Partnership of Women Elected/Appointed Representatives) 2007 Conference in Washington May 7 — 11, 2007 was the first global response to the “sexist and demeaning statements that male Members of Parliament in Malaysia made to their women colleagues”.

The GlobalPOWER 2007 statement, issued by woman Parliamentarians from four continents, i.e. Asia, North America, Europe and Africa who attended the Conference, pledged that they “stand in solidarity with our sisters in the Parliament of Malaysia and demand that the Parliament censure the Members who verbally insulted and denigrated their colleagues”.

The GlobalPOWER 2007 statement said:

“We declare that these remarks are an affront not only to our sister, the Honorable Fong Po Kuan and other women MPs in Malaysia, but to all women elected officials worldwide, to the women of Malaysia and, indeed, to all women worldwide.

“The failure of the leaders of Parliament to take action to censure the offending Members makes the entire Parliament complicit in this behavior. The failure to act further implies that this sexist behavior is acceptable and will continue to be tolerated and condoned by Parliament. This is unacceptable to all of us who, as Members of Parliament, stand in solidarity with our sisters in Malaysia and worldwide.”

It is most regrettable and deplorable that 12 days after the unacceptable exhibition of male chauvinism in the Malaysian Parliament, there has been no proper and honourable closure of the disgraceful incident and the two errant MPs had been able to get away with their deplorable conduct with impunity.

We fully agree that the seeming apologies which the duo had made last Friday merely added insult to injury, as they were not genuine apologies at all on close examination but back-handed justification of their unacceptable sexist conduct.

There was not only no remorse or contrition on the part of the duo for their sexual harassment of Po Kuan and insult to women of Malaysia, ASEAN and the world, they stubbornly made clear their intention to repeat their irresponsible conduct if the same set of circumstances presented themselves again!

In the era of information and communications technology, we are now in a borderless world. ASEAN will be celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. Both these factors must be inspiration for ASEAN MPs to come together to express the ASEAN community spirit for justice, fair play, freedom, solidarity and respect for women, children and family.

Let the Po Kuan case be the first for ASEAN MPs to act and declare that an affront to and attack of a woman MP in one ASEAN country because of her gender is an affront and attack on all women and men MPs in ASEAN and deserves the fullest denunciation of the ASEAN Parliamentary community and civil society.

We endorse as an acceptable ASEAN formula the five-point penalty for the two recalcitrant MPs as proposed by the public forum “Respect Women’s Dignity Towards a 1st World Parliament” in Kuala Lumpur on 17th May 2007, viz:

1. Six-month suspension as MP.

2. Six-month community service with women groups.

3. Donation of the their entire parliamentary allowance during suspension to women groups.

4. Full apology to Fong Po Kuan and Malaysian women.

5. If no full apology, the six-month suspension and community service to be extended to 12 months.


Senator Aquilino P:imentel
(Senate Minority Leader, Philippines)

Nursyahbani Katjasungkana
(MP — Indonesia)

Lim Kit Siang
(Parliamentary Opposition Leader — Malaysia)

Son Chhay
(MP — Cambodia)

Buranaj Smutharaks
(Former MP — Thailand)

22nd May 2007

  1. #1 by humanly on Wednesday, 23 May 2007 - 10:05 pm

    Continue to press on until its successful conclusion of an unambiguous apology. Those who urged the campaign to stop fail to see this involves a very basic fundamental human dignity issue.

    If parliament cannot get this right, all other issues are also not important to the BN.

    Someone had said we are all sexists. If that is so, we have to stop tolerating crass jokes. You will not lose your sense of humour as there are so many other funny things one can joke abt.

  2. #2 by lianchan on Wednesday, 23 May 2007 - 10:19 pm

    the ball is over to your side of court, Barison Nonsense

  3. #3 by Jeffrey on Thursday, 24 May 2007 - 1:32 am

    It pains me that racist remarks uttered in Parliament against minorities, which are just as hurtful as sexist remarks, if not more, are not in the position to be escalated, as the offence of sexist remarks could, to the international level to secure same kind of solidarity from ASEAN MPs or organisations akin to GlobalPOWER 2007. This truly reflects the political power of women that makes a woman demand for gender equality sounds to me more like a concession from a party which is more superior!

  4. #4 by ahkok1982 on Thursday, 24 May 2007 - 7:23 am

    well, it is true that racial slurs uttered in parliament do not get the recognition and condemnation similar to this gender slur but then there is one stark difference. the racial slurs used are on the chinese and indians where there arent that many in those other asean countries. however, in the gender issue, around 50% of the people in those countries are women. so it is the common ground that gains this level of publicity and condemnation from the other asean countries. common ground -> commen sentiments -> joint condemnation. although this should not be the case…
    anyway, as most of us have been criticizing our own gov about not walking the talk, would these countries act in accordance to their condemnation? what will they actually do if those two bigot MCPs do not apologize or bodohland leaders do nothing to punish them? will these countries then prohibit them from entering their countries or will it be business as usual? will they exclude bodohland from any form of asean meetings or gatherings? i would really like to know…

  5. #5 by sotong on Thursday, 24 May 2007 - 7:28 am

    ” Two Recalcitrant MPs ” – This sounds fimiliar…..I am sure there are more in government who behave like their former leader.

  6. #6 by Jeffrey on Thursday, 24 May 2007 - 8:30 am

    I meant to highlight the apparent incongruity here :

    · that ASEAN MPs have deemed it fit to condemn Sexism by two male MPs in Malaysian Parliament based on “the promotion of democracy, human rights and obligations, transparency and good governance and strengthening democratic institutions” being one of the key objectives of ASEAN member countries pursuant to its constitution ASEAN Charter 12th December 2005;

    · that based on same principle of human rights violation, ASEAN, as a group, condemns and has condemned Myanmar junta in detaining more than 1000 political dissidents including Opposition leader and Nobel Peace Prize-winner Aung San Suu Kyi;

    · that somehow ASEAN as a group or its MPs do not apparently view racist remarks and slur within Parliament against the whole minority community as a matter of human rights violation deserving condemnation but somehow sexist bochor remarks against one Opposition female MP do to redress her grievance as well as grievance of all women in Malaysia, and the world, as well.
    How does one reconcile this? How does one explain the different treatment of what essentially is the same – human right violation contrary to ASEAN’s stated objective as per its 12th Dec Charter – with hurt and pain inflicted on those attacked?

    I point this out because it (ie different treatment of what to me is basically same issue) gives rise various following implications to think about:

    1. I don’t think any of this ASEAN countries – I would like to point out Singapore in particular – tolerate (openly at least) blatant racist statements. Does it mean that what we consider here as racial dichotomy and Ketuanan is not considered by ASEAN member countries as “racial” and infringing human rights as per its 2005 Charter? Or does it mean that to ASEAN member states and their MPs, they doe consider it a human rights issue but however it is subordinated to other objective of the Charter – “the right of every state to lead its national existence free from external interference, subversion or coercion and non-interference in the internal affairs of one another”?

    2. If the latter were the case, why is it then that the condemnation by ASEAN MPs of the sexist statements by two BN MPs in Malaysian Parliament not considered (as in the case of racist statements uttered in the same chamber) inconsistent with “the right of every state to lead its national existence free from external interference, subversion or coercion and non-interference in the internal affairs of one another member”?

    Is it because, from human rights violation perspective, the violation of gender equality right of a woman is more serious than (say) violation of the right of minorities comprising both men and women in minority category? If so why? Is it because gender right of Malaysian women is a universal human right, the violation of which is more grave than say violation of equality protection right based on race that is national and not universal? Or is it that women as a group are held in higher esteem than the other context of men and women in a minority group? Or is because we give credence to Shakespeare’s insight that “Hell hath no fury than a woman scorn” so that her grievance is priority above everything else?

    I raise this ‘different treatment’ point because it is connected importantly to the other necessary issue that if ASEAN MPs today can show solidarity with DAP MP (Poh Kuan) to the upholding the human right of equal gender protection, is it not now a precedent that ASEAN MPs can equally show in the future solidarity to the upholding the human right of equal protection for all races, so that the next time a BN racial bigot makes a derogatory racial slur against minorities here or Fong Poh Kuan in particular, YB could equally galvanise ASEAN MPs on international level to issue a condemnation by way of pressure on the ruling party to ensure that its MPs desist from human rights violation in racial context?

  7. #7 by ENDANGERED HORNBILL on Thursday, 24 May 2007 - 9:45 am


    Can we get the UN to issue a similar statement of condemnation?

    Perhaps, we can also get the body administering the European Convention on HUman Rights to issue some kind of statement?

    This and perhaps others from organisations of repute will highlight the crass stupidity of parliamentarians like Bung and Said and their supporters from BN.

    Just can’t suffer fools in Parliament!

  8. #8 by grace on Thursday, 24 May 2007 - 11:03 am

    Do you think those two idiotic MPs will heed the letters.
    They are outright ‘KURANG AJAR’, yet they stillthink they are right!


  9. #9 by FuturePolitician on Thursday, 24 May 2007 - 12:27 pm

    grace, thats what u get for having a prime minister with a nick like “pak lah” , those 2 dumbF still think they live in the “kampung” with resident full of fools and dumbF like themselves. Well, good thing election is coming..We shall have our chance in changing our next 5 years..

    DAP please come up with something good…if you loose anymore seats..working with PAS or some other selfish parties..you bet we all would be voting for BN. Its better to vote for the evil then to a betrayer.

    If you cant stand on your own two feet or build your own structural party let me do it….the last election, I thought with LKS gone..DAP may have a chance to change..but heck no one is near LKS dedication and vocal expertise.. Looks like we are going to get the same of DAP deal again for this coming election.. result would be the same..but perhaps..when LKS really retires..it is the end of DAP..

  10. #10 by hawaiichee on Thursday, 24 May 2007 - 3:02 pm

    The ASEAN statement is a testament that we should stand up for the rights of all women as these are symbols that threaten the position of women. Gender inequality issues is like a cancer spreading through Malaysia which could spread throughout ASEAN if unchecked. That is why these leaders are adopting a proactive role and DO WHAT IS RIGHT.

    Many bloggers said that we should not jaga tepi kain orang lain and mind your own business when it comes to other race and religion. Nope, WE NEED TO STAND FOR THE RIGHTS OF ALL WOMEN EVEN IF IT IS ANOTHER RELIGION OR RACE. Same goes for ANOTHER COUNTRY as exemplified by these ASEAN MPs.

    Today I feel comforted and strengthened by the statement of Solidarity by the women of ASEAN. We are not alone. It is time we STAND UP FOR MUSLIM WOMEN IN KELANTAN WHO HAVE TO RUN AWAY FROM MUSLIM MEN when they do groceries. ALL MUSLIM WOMEN NEED TO BE LIBERATED.

    Our childrens generation need to see a change. We can not let women be looked down as a lower class citizen who needs to be hidden and told off what to do. Women have a brain and a life and a right to stand up to INJUSTICE.

    Angin perubahan sudah tiba. Wanita di Malaysia akan berdiri sama tinggi dan duduk sama rendah dengan lelaki.

    Change is inevitable as I always say. There is hope for women. Already many Muslim women like Zaniah Anwar and many others are championing the cause of Muslim women and correcting the screwed mind of the religious authorities. As I always said too, that the only way to change is to replace what is old with what is new and in this case, the religious authorities in Malaysia and once we have that, Malaysia will change for the better.

    What we need to do as women

    1. Increase our women solidarity by always saying comforting words to all women regardless of race.

    2. Stand up for Muslim women. The threat of gender inequality, sexual harassments among Muslims is a cancer eating the gender relations status in Malaysia. What affects the Muslim women affects all women in general. It is time women wake up and not be ignorant about gender relations of the Muslim women.

    3. Bagi paha, mahu betis. That is the mentality of the Muslim men. That is why we see the gender relations among the Muslim women now encroaching to Parliment and to every sphere of society. You give them the bloated self esteem that they are higher than women, and the Muslim men will want to claim that all over Malaysia. Time to draw the line and reclaim back all of gender relations including the Muslim women.

    4. Continue to fight against symbols that depreciate the value of women and position of women. This was how the blacks in America fought for their rights. Rosa Parks denied her seat to a foreigner men. Similarly, women should deny men the opportunity to be harassed at work place, at Parliment, at TV and newspapers. Increasingly, Muslim women should claim the right to be active in the mosque and fight for any discrimination and separation in places where women are not allowed to stand on the same ground as men.

    5. Lobby for more women leaders. It is time women take up leadership position and other women endorse them. It is time we lobby for women leaders as MPs. We need women to defend women rights.

    6. Lobby for laws that are discriminating women or who are bias towards protecting the welfare of women and family. Any laws that are not favoring the women should be lobbied for awareness for change. We should continue to read about gender relations outside Malaysia and laws that have been taken out in other countries that were deemed to be bias and discriminating against women.

    Change is inevitable. But, we need to be persistent about it. Be educated and spread the news to ensure we unite women.

    What can we do if some Muslim WOMEN DO NOT WANT TO CHANGE? What do you do when you see a wife gets beaten everyday and have a new bruise on her face and legs? Do you keep silent about it? Or do you persistently lend her courage and walk with her to the police station? And do you gather other women to lend her support and gain her trust?

    All women need that. All women of all races need to lend strength to their Muslim female friends and ask them about their family relations. When we listen, they will speak. When they speak, we lend them courage.

    Change is inevitable, but we must be willing to be agents of change. Else, it passes by and we lose the blessing of being part of the change process within our lives.

  11. #11 by shortie kiasu on Thursday, 24 May 2007 - 5:08 pm

    Where the 2 MP are going to hide his faces or are they going to have a make-over for the role of clowns?

  12. #12 by babique on Thursday, 24 May 2007 - 11:42 pm

    Did the joint statement by ASEAN MPs publish in the main papers? Star papers did not but i am sure of others.

  13. #13 by babique on Thursday, 24 May 2007 - 11:44 pm

    Oops! the last sentence should be “.. but i am not sure of others.”

  14. #14 by undergrad2 on Friday, 25 May 2007 - 8:30 am

    “Bagi paha, mahu betis. That is the mentality of the Muslim men.” Hawaiichee

    Huh? It does not make sense. I think you meant to say “Bagi betis, mahu paha.” If a man given the “paha” but then wants the “betis” as well he should have his head examined!

    The preoccupation of the Malay Muslim male has always been with the ‘betis’ and ‘paha’ for obvious reasons. I believe there is no equivalent in other cultures. Malay culture is a sexist culture. It is a culture that requires the woman to walk five feet behind the man – a Muslim tradition.

    If anybody needs to understand what a sexist remark is, this is an example of one. Why not say “give an inch and you want a foot”??

  15. #15 by BioLovepulse on Friday, 25 May 2007 - 4:29 pm

    The two sexist MPs really deserve condemnation from the international community. They are not merely insulting Po Kuan- they get to the all women in the world as well.

    Let this be a lesson for us. Those having inappropriate conduct should get out of the assembly, voluntarily (the best way) or accept judgement in the next cycle. Let them know that we believe in zero tolerance scheme for violation of basic human rights.

  16. #16 by BioLovepulse on Saturday, 26 May 2007 - 12:59 am

    They are condemned, so they really deserve this treatment! What can I say? Shame on them!

  17. #17 by DiaperHead on Saturday, 26 May 2007 - 6:03 am

    I don’t understand why the preoccupation with the issue of sexism. These MPs misbehaved in Parliamentary, making derogatory remarks and whatever else. In this case derogatory remarks were directed at a single DAP MP who did not even realize that she was being insulted in that way. She was probably thinking they were talking about the roof leaking!

    Sexist remarks? That’s the least of our problems since Malaysians are sexist in their behavior. What about the racial epithets etc??

  18. #18 by hawaiichee on Saturday, 26 May 2007 - 11:37 pm

    change is inevitable in this global world. As long as Malaysia is not an island, we will constantly be changing due to education, media. No men can stop women from learning and knowing that they are born equal to men. And men can not use any religion, tradition, custom or politics to bind women to the position they desire.

    It is utter nonsense where women can not be at the same location as men. In Kelantan, they even separate the women in the dining restaurants and even in the grocerry shop. Can you imagine what impact this does on the perception of women in the eyes of the children? Can you imagine what this does to a women’s self esteem and mind — Hurry, hurry, the men will see us. Let us move to the other side. The ulama will make a fuss if more and more of us are not listening to him. What about women not being able to sembahyang in the mosque at the same place as men? All this are psychological barriers meant to put women in a lower position and has been a cancer that is eating up the country. Gender relations has not been improving since Independence. In the time of the British, women played an important role in being exemplary teachers, headmistress and was recognized for their dedication. Nowadays, despite globalization and education, women in Malaysia are getting hounded by religious authorities and this affect the morale of women and their self esteem.

    Women in Malaysia, wake up! We need to do this for the sake of our children. We need to stop the cancer of gender inequalities in Malaysia from spreading to our children’s generation. We can make a difference by reporting any gender inequalities even if it is stemming from cultural and religious backgrounds. Like Lina Joy and Rosa Parks, we need to stand up for what we believe in. We are not going to be pushed around. Women may seem weaker physically than men but our spirit and determination will change the course of Malaysia.

You must be logged in to post a comment.