Don’t disguise “women empowerment” to grow political power

I believe not many knew about Sabah’s political system of allowing appointment of members of the State Assembly (ADUN), until the recent Sabah political fiasco. Terengganu and Pahang has then subsequently followed suit to appoint members into the State Assembly. 

Penang has also recently proposed to appoint representatives into the State Assembly but only limited to women as to increase the participation of women in politics and governance. 

For whatever reason the Government or those who proposed to implement such a system, I think it is not the right move and it is against the principles of democracy. The whole idea of democracy and election is for the people to elect and bring the candidates that they trust in to represent them in the State Assembly. And not some people that they may not have heard of.

It is also not fair for those who have worked hard to campaign, to meet people, to present their ideas on developing the constituency, to serve the people in order to get elected. Now they will have colleagues who can just wait to be appointed?

No matter how different the appointment system may be in different states, it is just merely to further increase the power of those who are in power. I don’t think that those who are in power will allow their opponents to decide on the appointed representatives.

By having additional ADUNs meaning that the government has to bear additional cost of allowances and allocations. The salary of one representative in Penang is about RM135,000 annually. I believe with this amount we can do even more for Penang instead of giving it out as salaries.

With such appointments, does that mean that in the next round of general elections, there are certain people that do not have to go through the hassle of contesting. They just have to make sure that they please the person who has the power to nominate and appoint them into the state assembly. There will be even more political bargaining and lobbying no matter how one tries to prevent it. The only way to prevent it is to not allow such appointments.

If the DAP is so sincere in advocating for the rights of the women and 30% representatives of women, they should have done so way earlier. In the last general elections, they have only fielded 21% female as candidates.

Chow Kon Yeow has also said that the state has approved a 30% requirement for posts for city councillors and state GLCs. But the MBPP and MBSP has 5 women councillors out of 24 which is only 21%. Somebody must have miscalculated. 

How can you guarantee that the appointment of representatives is truly for women empowerment when you cannot even do it at the simplest way in the beginning? The appointment of councillors is in a way solely in the hands of those in power, and you cannot do that. And you try to fix women empowerment in the membership of the State Assembly which can only be decided by the people. Or are you trying to even control the membership of the State Assembly as well? 

Tsai Ing-wen is not up on the Taiwan Presidential chair because there is a women quota for that position. Countries like Australia, Germany, New Zealand, Sweden did not set any women quota for their Parliamentarians, but more than 30% of those elected are women.

In the end, women empowerment is not about quota, but in our own community whether we believe in and truly advocate for gender equality. When we begin to acknowledge the capability of women as similar to the men, there is no need for any quota in any organization. The true empowerment comes from within our attitude towards gender and not through a set quota.

Well, some claim that the appointed ADUN move is not politically motivated, and these ADUN appointments are to enable them to serve the people. If it is not politically motivated, I wonder why those appointments have to come from a political party. Well, Tan Sri Noor Hisham Abdullah doesn’t have to be appointed as ADUN or MP to serve the people, and so are the millions of frontliners in our nation battling the pandemic.

This article is published in Kwong Wah Yit Poh in Chinese dated 2 February 2021.