Sunday, February 27, 2011

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Lady first, people last
Jeswan Kaur | February 25, 2011



Rosmah has very clearly got her priorities all mixed up as the wife of the most powerful man in the country.

Bangang! Pelan2 tak boleh ke???
While Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s wife Rosmah Mansor regaled her foreign “first ladies” at a lavish “First Ladies Summit” in October last year, the Penan Support Group (PSG), a coalition of 36 NGOs in Malaysia, put up a page on Facebook under the name “Penan Support Group Education”, calling for funds to set up pre-schools in the interior of Sarawak for the underprivileged Penan children.


Ironically, Rosmah’s First Ladies Summit was themed “A Child Today A Leader Tomorrow”, which, however, made no contribution to the much needy rural children back home. Only Rosmah’s pet project Permata, an outfit to groom gifted children, was deemed needy of funds, hence the RM100 million allocation under the 2010 Budget, which she claimed was “a recognition of the importance of early childcare and education in Malaysia”.
While Rosmah went all out to promote her “First Ladies Summit”, the Penan women kept their fingers crossed hoping that Rosmah, being a woman, would understand their pain of being sexually abused by the timber loggers. She never did.
After the “powers that be” refused to help the Penan women fight for justice, three Sarawakian women activists decided to turn to Rosmah for help. They handed her a petition seeking support in ensuring the Penan girls and women receive justice. Until today, this so-called “first lady” has not shown any interest or commitment in lending a helping hand to the girls and women of Penan.
Rosmah has put it on record that under the plan to empower the Permata programme nationwide this year, national childcare centres will be set up in three parliamentary constituencies in all states except Terengganu and Sarawak.
Despite Rosmah’s glaring indifference to the plight of the children, girls and women of Sarawak, the state found her worthy of the “Datuk Amar Bintang Kenyalang” award, conferred by Sarawak governor, Abang Muhammad Salahuddin Abang Barieng, in conjunction with his 89th birthday. She was the sole recipient of this award which carries the title “Datuk Amar”.
Just how did the governor decide Rosmah was the most deserving recipient? Was it politically motivated, as the people think it is?
And now, it is the mayor of Ankara who, impressed with her social work, decided to award Rosmah Turkey’s prestigious “Award of Social Responsibility”.
Ankara’s mayor Melih Gokcheh justified Rosmah as the deserving recipient saying her “continuous and active participation in social activities was admired by the Greater Ankara Municipality”.
“Her presence in extending a helping hand, as well as trying to put a smile on those encountering social, economic, environmental and health problems, was not only playing a great importance in establishing social balance but also producing social benefits,” Gokcheh had said.
The people of Malaysia, however, beg to differ. Where was Rosmah when the Penan women and girls in Sarawak, deprived of justice, turned to her for help? These women and girls have for years been sexually violated by timber loggers who encroached into lands which shelter the Penan tribal community.
No authority, be it the police, the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry or Malaysia’s human rights body Suhakam came to the aid of the Penan women and girls. This despite the rape allegations being proven true by the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry’s Taskforce Report, set up by the ministry and headed by Shahrizat Abdul Jalil.
To add insult to their troubles, it was claimed that the Penan women are good at making up stories of having being raped by the loggers. And Rosmah was and is still quiet, while these women continue to cry for justice.
That being the case, is the award from Turkey which was conferred on Rosmah in conjunction with its International Women’s Day celebration next month a truly deserving one?
Awards are meaningless
In April 2010, the Business Council for International Understanding conferred on Rosmah the International Peace and Harmony Award in New York. But the affair raked up controversy when Rosmah appeared in a two-full page advertisement in the New York Times, costing thousands of US dollars.
The newspaper had said that the advertisement was placed by an advertisement agency on behalf of the Malaysian government. The NYT never disclosed the cost of the advertisement but, according to some calculations, full-page ads placed in the newspaper are priced between US$180,000 and US$230,000. That would amount to between RM580,000 and RM740,000 for a one-page ad.
In Rosmah’s case, the April 16, 2010 congratulatory ad was a two-page colour spread that would have cost a fortune.
Perhaps in future more such awards will come her way. What, however, remains a mystery is on what basis are those awards given out to Rosmah? Is is by virtue of her being the premier’s wife?
The mayor of Ankara has such good words to say about Rosmah’s contribution in helping those in need. It is hoped she lives up to those words.
For now, the 59-year-old Rosmah’s commitment is to continue emptying the nation’s coffers in organising the biennial First Ladies Summit, to be held next year in Kuala Lumpur. Her debut summit last year emptied RM24 million from the nation’s purse and the people are left wondering how much more deeper will she dig into the taxpayers’ pockets to fund the second summit.
Awards should reflect dedication
Awards are given out to recognise a recipient’s dedication to a cause. In Rosmah’s case, that has yet to happen.
She has never been transparent on how the RM100 million budgeted to Permata is put to use. Rosmah, during the 2010 summit, said the future of a child is “shaped” but then what has she done to help shape the future of the rural children of Sarawak?
She is well aware of the need for pre-schools in the interiors of Sarawak yet Rosmah has declined to help the rural children there. Nor does she find it worth her while setting up Permata centres in Sarawak. And yet mayor Gokcheh finds her work inpressive and inspiring.
Why the discrimination, Rosmah? Is she not familiar with the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which says no one child must be left out at the expense of another?
Calling the shots
Rosmah, who is also the patron of Malaysian AIDS Council, was once compared with former United States president Bill Clinton’s wife Hillary Clinton, who was said to be the one wearing the pants. Rosmah had then replied, “No, I am not going to be a Hillary Clinton. As the first lady, I can comment on other things but I do not want to get involved in politics and governing the country.” That was on July 8, 2009.
Barely four years after husband Najib took over as prime minister, Rosmah’s pet project Permata was given a budget of RM150 million, with Rosmah declaring 300 centres coming up nationwide.
It was also Rosmah who promised to build a Permata centre for the people of Hulu Selangor should Barisan Nasional win the parliamentary seat in the by-election held in April last year. BN did win and until today there is no sight of any such centre as promised. Rosmah’s excuse for the no-show is that a suitable piece of land has yet to be found.
How did Rosmah acquire the gumption to make such promises to the people of Hulu Selangor? Is she not meddling in the country’s administrative affairs?
Rosmah has very clearly got her priorities all mixed up. Her only focus is on Permata and the First Ladies Summit. So much so that she thought it was such a big deal to personally hand over the declaration to United Nations secretary-general Ban Kim- moon. Rosmah conveniently ignored the plights of the Penan girls and women and the rural children who have no pre-schools at their disposal.

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