ONE of the most intriguing questions thrown up by the launch of Friends of Pakatan Rakyat (FoPR) was whether Malaysian women in politics could be taken seriously. Will they be able to survive the rigours of political life?
More specifically, Nurul Izzah Anwar, the Pakatan MP for Lembah Pantai, who addressed the 230 strong FoPR crowd in London, needs to convince us of her commitment.
So far, we have been disappointed by several women politicians who only pay lip service to womens’ issues and who have left most of the women’s struggles such as sexual harassment, domestic violence and labour exploitation, to the NGOs.
Is Nurul able to take women’s concerns seriously and advance the position of women in Malaysia? She is a ‘daddy’s girl’ who cut her political baby teeth when she was propelled into the limelight, campaigning for her father’s (Anwar Ibrahim) release during his sodomy and graft trial in 1998. Was she parachuted into Lembah Pantai in 2008 to claim the seat for him? And has she inherited his eloquence and engaging manner?
In her first speech, to a London crowd, 97% of which were Malaysians, Nurul did enough to show that she had the same eloquence as her father and despite the jet-lag and being the last speaker, she managed to engage with the crowd.
The launch of the London chapter of FoPR is not just another pie-in-the-sky event. It is a historic event for many Malaysians who have searched their souls for an alternative Malaysian government and found it in PKR.
The event on Sunday July 4 kicked off with talks by civil society activists prior to the main speakers: Brain Morais (FoPR chairman), Raja Petra Kamarudin, Dr Tan Seng Giaw (DAP), Dr. Hatta Ramli (PAS), Zaid Ibrahim (PKR) and Nurul Izzah Anwar (PKR).
The crowd would have made any political leader or lecturer proud.
How many politicians could entice the public to sacrifice their Sunday to listen to speeches? Admittedly the superb lunch provided by the delightful Eddie Lim and his efficient team from the ‘Mango Tree’ was a definite draw. Malaysians came from as far away as Aberdeen, Northern Ireland and Plymouth.
Disappointingly, a lack of time meant that not everyone had the opportunity to grill the PKR representatives on the ‘better future’ that was promised under their rule.
The highlights were briefly:-
Dr Tan explained the need for a new vision and focus, to satisfy the rising expectations of Malaysians.
Zaid suggested that our Election Commission restore our constitutional right to vote from overseas. He warned about the rise of fascism in Malaysia and rubbished Umno’s half-hearted attempts to reform.
Dr Hatta spoke of his gratitude to DAP for sacrificing ‘more than PAS’ for the common goal. He touched on a possible Dubai chapter of FoPR and expressed a wish for overseas Malaysians to return home to vote at an election. He surprised everyone with the welcome news that PAS had allocated 50% of seats to women.
Finally, Nurul Izzah Anwar illustrated the need for a 2-party system in Malaysia and the importance of dialogue and an exchange of ideas. She said, “Everyone has a choice to do something to improve the future.”
Nurul also recognized that in Malaysian politics, women were unfairly represented and fewer still held decision-making posts. She urged us to keep faith and work for a better future for our children and not to be disillusioned. “Change,” she said, “was inevitable”.
Ideal youth candidate
The sentiments are sound, but can she deliver? Women already take a secondary role in politics. The behaviour of certain men in politics deters many women from taking a more active role. Moreover, without local council elections, there is little opportunity for engaging in local decision making.
Nurul was recently asked by Dr Jeffrey Kitingan to woo voters in Sabah. This is a judicious move as she represents the new mindset which emphasizes values; she epitomises independence, courage and corruption-free politics.
She has managed to successfully juggle a busy work-schedule with bringing up a young family. She practices a form of politics that is not based on favours, unlike Khairy Jamaluddin who is of similar age, or the ageing Shahrizat who carries much political baggage.
Both the DPM Muhiyiddin and Umno Lembah Pantai chief, Raja Nong Chik want to ‘wrest power’ away from Nurul and replace it with Umno rule. They overlook her superior brains, beauty, boldness and integrity.
Nurul is the ideal candidate to represent Malaysian youth and to the world, hers is the face of the modern Malaysian woman. No one should underestimate her credentials, honed while campaigning for her father’s release.
The launch of FoPK on the July 4 coincided with the American day of Independence.
It was also a day when Malaysians felt liberated from ‘race politics’ by placing its trust in PKR. It was also when we were freed from the usual images of submissive, timid Malaysian women.
What we witnessed yesterday was the makings of a future leader. Who says there is no gambling in Malaysia? The odds are good that once Nurul Izzah Anwar sharpens her political teeth, she could be a future Prime Minister of Malaysia.