Call to Sabah nominated Assembly members to resign to give way to women deserves serious consideration
The call by the Sabah Women’s Action Resource Group (SAWO) to Sabah nominated Assembly members to resign to give way to women deserves serious consideration.
SAWO has put up an invincible case for its call, lamenting that “Today marks a dark day for women in Sabah as their status and position in the state has reached rock bottom”, expressing anger and disappointment that there are no women ministers in the new Sabah cabinet.
As the Sawo statement said:
“Women’s representation in the state assembly has been decreasing over the years and is now less than 10 percent. Sawo, together with other groups, urge the government to improve this pathetic and unjust situation by appointing women into the six nominated Legislative Assembly seats…
“The message of this GRS-led government to Sabahan women is very loud and clear. They think that Sabahan women are not good enough, nor capable enough, to deserve a seat at the table together with male leaders to govern the state.”
It is indeed a shame and a regressive step that while in other countries, women are taking their rightful place and playing an increasing prominent role in public affairs, like New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Denmark Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, Iceland Premier Katrin Jakodsdottir, Finland Premier Sanna Marin and Taiwan President Tsai Ing-Wen, women cannot become a Minister in Sabah.
But this is not the only flaw of the new Sabah Cabinet.
Just as the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) must be observed if we are to win the war in the Covid 19 pandemic, there is a SOP for building a successful Sabah - unity and inclusivity, and not the poisonous and negative politics of race and religion engendering fake news and lies to create hate and fear in our society.
In the Sabah general election, the Warisan Plus had a manifesto which provided a SOP for a New Sabah where Sabah:
- abandons the reputation as the poorest state in the country 57 years after the founding of Malaysia – worse than Kelantan, the poorest state in Peninsular Malaysia;
- where the state’s rich natural resources will be used to improve the infrastructure facilities of Sabah and abolish the backwardness of the most remote areas – no need for the Veveonah Mosibins of Sabah to spend 24 hours on a treetop to gain better Internet connectivity to sit for an online exam – instead of enriching the coffers of the corrupt and the powerful;
- where there is unity and harmony among the various ethnic groups, languages, religions and cultures in the country; and
- where there is no discrimination whether of gender or age.
The Sabah state Cabinet is proof that it is a major setback for Sabah and Malaysia that the campaign of Warisan Plus leader Shafie Apdal, who used slogans of unity and inclusivity like: “In God Trust, Unite We Must” and “We are here to build a nation not a particular race or religion” failed to win the election.
As a result, as rightly pointed out by the Sabah DAPSY chief and Sabah Assemblymen for Luyang, Ginger Phoong, there is gross lack of diversity in the new Sabah Cabinet as it has no representative of the state’s youth, women and Chinese community.
It is sad that the average age of the new Sabah cabinet is over 60 – a regression from Shafie Apdal’s Cabinet and the global trend of increasing youth and women participation in leadership positions. Ginger Phoong was appointed Minister for Youth and Sports in the Shafie Apdal Cabient when he was 29 years old.
What stands out as a sore thumb is the absence of a Heath Minister especially at a time when Sabah is the premier hotpot state in the third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, with Sabah registering more than half of the active Covid-19 cases, i.e. 1,944 out of 3,703 active cases in Malaysia.
Nobody would agree if it is said that the new Sabah Cabinet is the worst in the history of Sabah.