A giant step for women in Malaysia

The appointment of Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) Pres ident , Datuk Ser i Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, as Malaysia’s first female Deputy Prime Minister is a giant step for women in Malaysia. She was appointed to the post after the Pakatan Harapan (PH) opposition pact scored an upset victory over the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition in last Wednesday’s (May 9) General Election.

PH Chairman, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad announced the appointment as soon as the party was declared victorious in the GE14. The extraordinary election result ended the 60-year rule of the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition in Malaysia; BN has been ruling Malaysia since it stopped being a British colony in 1957. Of the 222 parliamentary seats, PH captured 113, BN 79, Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS) 18, Warisan Sabah 8, Solidariti Tanah Airku 1 and Independent candidates 3.

In Sarawak, the State BN, a coalition of four component parties, won 19 of the 31 parliamentary seats up for grabs.

Parti Pesaka Bumiputer a Bersatu (PBB) won 13 seats of the 14 seats it contested, Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) three out of the six seats it contested, Sarawak United People’s one out of the seven seats it contested and Parti Demokratik Progresif (PDP) two out of the four seats it contested. Earlier on, Chief Minister, Datuk Patinggi (Dr) Abang Johari Tun Openg was confident that BN could win 29 seats in the GE14. 25 of the BN candidates were men while six were women.

With the shocking defeat of the BN coalition in the General Election, Malaysia now has a new PH led-government instead of UMNO-led government. Sarawak’s State BN government is now an opposition government.

In Sarawak, PH won 10 parliamentary seats, namely, Mas Gading, Bandar Kuching, Stampin, Puncak Borneo, Saratok, Sarikei, Lanang, Sibu, Selangau and Miri while Independent candidates won two, namely, Lubok Antu and Julau. PH Chairman, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad made history when he was sworn in as the seventh Prime Minister for the second time and at the age of 92. So far, he was appointed three senior Cabinet Ministers.

Democratic Action Party (DAP) Secretary-General, Lim Guan Eng is Finance Minister, Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM) President, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin is Home Minister while Parti Amanah Negara (Amanah) President, Mohamad Sabu is Defence Minister. Mahathir has also formed the Council of Elders to advise the government on the country’s economic and financial state during the transition period.

The council consists of former Finance Minister, Tun Daim Zainuddin, former Bank Negara Governor, Tan Sri Zeti Akhtar Aziz, former Petronas President and CEO, Tan Sri Hassan Marican, business tycoon, Robert Kuok and economist, Professor Dr K.S.Jomo. Mahathir said that the new cabinet would be set up soon. It would be a small cabinet with 10 people.

Since three senior Ministers had been appointed, seven more would be needed “quickly”, with each party nominating the candidate name and ministry of choice. Meanwhile, the appointment of Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail as the first Deputy Prime Minister is a giant step for women in Malaysia and an inspiration to them. A mother, a grandmother and the wife of PH de factor leader, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, she is a strong advocate of women empowerment.

Born on December 3, 1952, in Singapore but brought up in Kedah, Azizah had her tertiary education at Tunku Kurshiah College in Seremban before continuing her studies in medicine at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, There, she received a gold medal in obstetrics and gynaecology before graduating as a qualified ophthalmologist.

Azizah worked for 14 years in a government hospital until her husband became the Deputy Prime Minister in 1993, After that, she shifted to voluntary work.She joined politics after her husband was arrested and sentenced to jail in 1999. And the rest is history. It is hoped that apart from Azizah, more women will make it to the new Malaysian cabinet.

Among those who have congratulated Azizah is Wanita UMNO chief, Tan Sri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil. Shahrizat said she was very proud of Azizah’s histor ical achievement and confident she would perform well and reunite all Malaysians. Like Shahrizat, all women in Malaysia including yours truly are very proud of Azizah, too. We are looking forward to more great achievements from the amazing lady.

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