02 July 2013

Datuk Seri Azalina Othman yesterday gave the prime minister a hint of what to expect during this Parliament meeting – a rougher ride from the Barisan Nasional backbench.

The former minister and Puteri Umno leader told Datuk Seri Najib Razak that he was not doing enough to promote the women’s agenda in Malaysia. "Often, women had to beg for what they rightfully deserved," said the Pengerang MP.

“Why be beggars to get what women rightfully deserve? This is not right at all. Najib needs to be more sincere with regards to this agenda," she told The Malaysian Insider after a fiery speech in the House in which she lamented the number of women in leadership positions, adding that it did not reflect the PM’s call for more women to be recognised in the public sector.

“The Small and Medium Corporation head is a woman and the Bank Negara governor is a woman, but we do not know how long they are going to be there," said Azalina, who was a Tourism minister in the Tun Abdullah Badawi administration and a high-flying Umno politician before her political career came up against a cul-de-sac, after allegations of impropriety in a subsidiary of the tourism ministry.

She also called Najib and the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry to come up with effective measures to stay true to the women’s agenda in the country. For a start, it was important to put in place a legal definition to ensure deserving women are given an equal platform to compete with men.

Azalina defended her seat in Johor but was among a group of senior and recognised Umno leaders overlooked by Najib when he chose his ministers and deputy ministers. Political commentators and pundits predicted that the PM may face some of the sharpest barbs in Parliament from his own party’s elected representatives.

The reasons: unhappiness over Najib's failure to deliver a two-thirds majority for the coalition and inability to reward many of the Umno warlords who won their parliamentary seats in GE13.

Azalina has already indicated that she is prepared to contest for the top position in Wanita Umno in the party elections in October, and her willingness to go on the offensive against Najib, the party president, would have warmed the hearts of many in the women’s wing who felt slighted that they were not allocated many seats in the general elections.

If she does get the nominations to contest the top position in Wanita Umno, her opponent is likely to be Datuk Seri Shahrizat Jalil, the former minister in charge of women’s affairs and current special advisor to the PM on Women, Family and Community Development. - July 2, 2013.


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