Editor’s note: This open letter to PKR calling for women representation in governance was signed by 263 Petaling Jaya residents, volunteers @P105, activists and civil societies, including online petitions consisting of 142 signatures.
WE applauded the announcement by Opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim that PKR will field 30% women candidates in the 15th General Election (GE15). However as representatives of the various Civil Society Movements mentioned below, we would like to express our deep concern for the recent news report titled ‘Wanita PKR fuming over possible cuts to women candidates in GE15: sources’ published on 20 October 2022 by The Vibes, that has quoted anonymous sources from within PKR saying that the party is cutting down its women candidates, despite its pledge.
The article mentions that incumbents like Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, Maria Chin Abdullah, Datin Tan Yee Kew and June Leow Hsiad Hui are among the names rumoured to have a high possibility of being replaced by male candidates.
Kak Wan (Wan Azizah) is a leading figure in Malaysian politics, carrying PKR, the opposition coalition and the reform movement through some of its toughest moments. She is also the first woman deputy prime minister of Malaysia and the former minister for women, family and community development.
Her experience and insight is invaluable and should not be discarded at a crucial time in Malaysian politics. This is not the right time for her to leave the political scene as her role in Malaysian politics is unmatched.
Kak Wan remains a strong candidate, a symbol of hope and immovable dedication. She continues to have the support of many Malaysians and will be a crucial voice as we face the ‘mother of all elections’. Another name mentioned is Maria Chin Abdullah, a former Bersih chair and a prominent name among gender and human rights activists in Malaysia.
As Member of Parliament (MP) for Petaling Jaya, she has a proven track record and has continued to champion and voice out issues like law and institutional reform, human rights, poverty, gender discrimination and women’s issues; As MP, she has often organised and rallied support from among CSOs for such causes and has provided us with a bridge between MPs and activist during the 14th Parliament. The Civil Society Movement still requires more activists like Maria at the Dewan Rakyat.
The change that we have brought thus far, while important, is pale in comparison to the enormous task at hand. The Vibes’ article mentioned also states that new women candidates are being considered for parliamentary seats, but they will be given difficult seats.
There have only ever been 84 women who have made it to the Dewan Rakyat since its establishment in 1959. The last Parliament saw only 14.86% women representation. Women remain underrepresented in politics despite half the Malaysian population being female.
Although the odd exception exists, for many Malaysian women, the system is not built for them, regardless of how hard they work and no matter how much they sacrifice. We do not want their voices to be lost and their determination to be part of the solution, extinguished and forgotten.
There is no doubt of the importance of increasing the number of women representation in Parliament. It is a well recorded fact with many examples from across the globe. However, while the articles’ contents can be brushed aside as being merely rumours, it is very unsettling and has somewhat dampened our spirit and belief that PKR and Pakatan Harapan (PH) will be leading the charge for greater women representation during this coming election.
Such a notion is unacceptable to many of us as gender equality is crucial to the reform agenda. We would therefore like PKR to consider our appeal to allow incumbent women MPs to continue their work in politics and to pave the way for more women representation in politics. – Oct 25, 2022
Main photo credit: Utusan Malaysia