Second coming of the woman politician

Scott Ng | October 18, 2014
Free Malaysia Today

Malaysia has a new class of women leaders, and it’s time to take notice


Aung San Suu Kyi. Angela Merkel. Hillary Clinton. Margaret Thatcher. Dilma Rousseff. Gro Harlem Brundtland. Indira Gandhi. The last generation saw the beginning of the rise of women to prominent roles in government, sometimes to the pinnacle of their countries’ political structures.

But Asia has had the largest number of female chief executives in the world. Take Chandrika Kumaranatunga of Sri Lanka, for example. Her mother was the world’s first female Prime Minister, and she herself ascended to the role in 1994. Or Park Geun-Hye, who won South Korea’s latest presidential elections. Or former Thai premier Yingluck Shinawatra.

Malaysia finds itself with approximately 10% women representation in Parliament, just a few notches above Myanmar’s miniscule 6%. This is below the global average, and is not representative of the fact that women compose half of the entire human race, let alone the Malaysian population.
However, on the opposition side of the floor, we’re starting to see equity between the sexes with almost 30% of Pakatan Rakyat’s members of Parliament being women. And what women they are.

In the past, the torch for Malaysia’s female politicians was carried by Rafidah Aziz, former Minister of International Trade and Industry. A common sentiment was that if Rafidah had been a man, she would have long ago been a candidate for the illustrious post of Prime Minister. To a lesser extent, Shahrizat Abdul Jalil, was also a torch bearer for women politicians.

And then the political tsunami of 2008 happened and installed into power a new class of female politicians—young, driven by issues, passionate, intelligent, and most importantly, captivating. Nurul Izzah Anwar and Hannah Yeoh spearheaded this new movement, and they were joined a few years later by firecrackers like Dyana Sofya and Yeoh Bee Yin. These ladies have captured the imagination of the nation, speaking out strongly on the issues that matter not only to the youth, but the masses, powered by constant interactions with the communities they serve.

Hardly a day goes by without a Facebook update from one of these ladies showing them go about the work expected of a representative of the people, giving up their weekends to appear at worthy causes and filling up their weekdays to solve the problems faced by the people. Their male counterparts seem staid and held back by routine as their dynamic better halves go about their duties.

It’s obvious that these ladies are appreciated by their communities as well. Even on FMT, we’ve noticed the beginnings of support for a heretofore unlikely prime ministerial candidate—daughter of eternal prime minister-in-waiting Anwar Ibrahim, Lembah Pantai MP Nurul Izzah.

Spreading the word

So passionate is the response to Izzah that during GE13 her constituents even formed human barricades to impede what they thought were phantom ballots brought in to remove her from Lembah Pantai, and today they spread the word that they deem her to be worthy of leading this country.

Close behind her are her colleagues in Pakatan Rakyat, Hannah Yeoh and Yeo Bee Yin. Hannah has proven to be a popular figure in her constituency of Subang Jaya, where it is a common sight to witness her going about town to tend to the people’s complaints. Demure looking and yet feisty, her statements to the media have shown off an intelligence and belligerence that shows her as more than a match for the men.

Yeo only ascended to the position of DUN for Damansara Utama in 2013, where she won by a 21,800-odd landslide over her opponents. She then proceeded to force the nation to take notice with fiery oration at the Black 505 rallies after that election, speaking with a captivating intensity that held the attention of all in attendance.

Holder of a Masters in Philosophy in Advanced Chemical Engineering from Cambridge University, Yeo has only just begun her journey as a politician, but mark our words—she is definitely one to watch, with the brains and the spirit to take her far in the fallow corridors of the nation’s power structure.

Nurul Izzah, Hannah Yeoh, Yeo Bee Yin and newly minted star Dyana Sofya. These four women make up Malaysia’s newest hope for women. They represent the best there is to offer from the youth of Malaysia, all being under the age of 40, and yet so capable and driven on the important issues. And most importantly, they display the potential of Malaysian women in the field of politics. More so than their male counterparts, they are doing the heavy lifting of upholding the image of their parties among the grassroots and the rest of the public.

It’s not a totally impossible dream for Izzah to one day take the position of Prime Minister, perhaps even before her father has the opportunity to grasp the reins. What remains is the chauvinistic attitude manifested in remarks by politicians like Bung Mokhtar’s “bocor” comment, and recently expressed sentiments that seem to imply that women are not level headed enough to take command of the country, despite proof to the contrary shown by so many remarkable women worldwide.

Authenticity over perfection

Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, has said, “Presenting leadership as a list of carefully defined qualities (like strategic, analytical, and performance-oriented) no longer holds. Instead, true leadership stems from individuality that is honestly and sometimes imperfectly expressed…. Leaders should strive for authenticity over perfection.”

And it is this leadership that is currently being shown by the new guard of Malaysia’s women politicians. These are the leaders that are slowly but surely getting a firmer hold on the wheel that steers this country, and we are watching in breathless anticipation for the day one of them ascends to the title of Prime Minister of Malaysia, and that day cannot be too far off now.

It is up to these women to demonstrate through their actions that the dreams that our daughters may hold one day are not impossible. As they continue forging the path forward, we too can begin to hope that there is more than just “the one who would have been, if she was a man.”

So keep moving forward, ladies. You are the second coming of Malaysian female politicians, and that in itself is a heavy burden to bear. But you have shown that in every way, you are capable of shouldering it, and as you continue pushing that rock up the side of the cliff, you will draw the people to your purpose to push with you. But only if you never lose your flame, and you continue being the leaders we need in our turbulent times will you remain Malaysia’s hope for women.

  1. #1 by Noble House on Sunday, 19 October 2014 - 4:04 am

    Utopia has always been attractive for a certain part of mankind. Could be the soil of the land from which it grows stronger. Nevertheless, a growing numbers of people in all walks of life are beginning to question a false authority nationwide that would oppress the non-grasping, decent humans of our time. In any case, those who wanted to go the way of utopia, sooner or later, was left with nothing.

  2. #2 by boh-liao on Sunday, 19 October 2014 - 9:58 am

    Ai say man, 1M’sia oredi got 1 world class n famous FEmale politician
    Hardly a day goes by without a Facebook update on HER or without another nation giving award 2 HER
    Of cos, rakyat all know WHO she is
    D stumpy FLOM who has oredi ascended above PM

  3. #3 by boh-liao on Sunday, 19 October 2014 - 9:58 am

    Ai say man, 1M’sia oredi got 1 world cl@ss n famous FEmale politician
    Hardly a day goes by without a Facebook update on HER or without another nation giving award 2 HER
    Of cos, rakyat all know WHO she is
    D stumpy FLOM who has oredi ascended above PM

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