The lyrics to Beyoncé's Run the World (Girls) sure doesn't ring true in Malaysia. Statistics show women still lag far behind men here, especially as far as wages, economic opportunities and politics are concerned.

In other news, what's Parliament without the rumpus?; the opposition loses more attempts to oppose the budget, putting more pressure on a certain forever-PM-wannabe; and, our Covid-19 numbers go up and up, thanks to a cluster involving a particular glove maker.

Far from equal

One step forward, two steps back

Every year, we’re promised more rights for women. Every year, it seems, we’re left disappointed. 

We say “more rights” instead of “equal rights” because as the recent Department of Statistics Malaysia (DOSM) findings tell us, Malaysia has looooong (with five-Os) way to go to ensure equal rights for women.

In 2019 data from DOSM released yesterday, for example, things are certainly not equal between men and women in the workplace. 

On average, a woman makes 94 sen for every ringgit a man makes, a whole 7 sen increase (sarcasm mode: ON) from 2018. To be more exact, for every RM100 a man makes, a woman makes RM94.07.

Meanwhile, only 55.6% of women are in the labour force, compared to 80.9% of men, putting us way behind other developed countries such as Singapore and Australia. In fact, for developed countries, the labour force participation rate should exceed 60%.

In this March study, the top three barriers identified globally that’s stopping women from achieving equality in the workplace are employers – not doing enough to close gender pay gap; not doing enough to help women combine work and caring responsibilities; and not promoting enough women to senior positions.

According to the men and (we hope) women at DOSM, the Malaysia Gender Gap Index (MGGI, not MaGGI!) is at 0.709. A score of 1 indicates equality had been achieved. That’s a drop from 0.711 in 2018. As such, our rankings have also dropped from 63 to 73 in the world. Bollocks!

Inequality isn’t just seen in the labour front too. Malaysian women are lagging behind in certain key areas while surpassing men in others. Now, remember, an MGGI score of 1 is considered equality. So, the following scores will tell you just where women stand:

  • In Education, women received a score of 1.053 (so women are ahead).

    Women outperform men in tertiary education enrollment at 50.2% compared to 36.3% for men;
     
  • Health and Survival – 0.958 (not equal but getting warmer); 
     
  • Economic Participation and Opportunity – 0.717. We gotta say, that’s a pretty low score in a pretty important sector, but it gets worse;
     
  • Political Empowerment was a real shitty – 0.108! 

Zero-point-one-oh-eight. That’s a measly 10.8 percent. According to our chief statistician Mohd Uzir Mahidin, that’s a mere 0.2 percent increase from 2018. In other words, “women are still lagging behind men in ministerial positions and in parliamentary and state elected representatives.” No shit Sherlock!

But what do you expect when the gomen, no matter who’s in charge, can’t even seem to stick to their promises to increase gender representation within the upper echelons of government. We’re looking at all of you Barisan Nasional, Pakatan Harapan and Perikatan Nasional!

In the run-up to the GE14, Pakatan promised 30% representation in the Cabinet line-up, but failed to deliver on this (they ended up with just 18%), even if they did have the highest percentage of women ministers. Remember, former PKR head honcho Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail helmed both the deputy prime minister and women’s minister posts.

Incidentally, 2019 saw 14.9% women MPs being elected, an increase from 10.8% following GE13 in 2013. Last year also saw the appointment of Malaysia’s first female chief justice when it elevated Federal Court judge Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat. 

Things became worse when Perikatan Nasional took over earlier this year. PM Muhyiddin Yassin was part of the Pakatan administration, so even though Perikatan never promised anything, you’d think it would still be incumbent of him to stick to those promises. You would, of course, be wrong.

Representation of women in the Cabinet dropped to 13% in the Perikatan line-up. And worse still, many women heads of government-linked companies, installed under Pakatan, were unceremoniously given the ol’ heave-ho, to be replaced by politicians who were, well, male. 

Now, remember, the statistics provided by DOSM is for 2019. That our overall score and world ranking dropped despite a slight improvement in certain areas tells us a lot. But we shudder to think what our 2020 score is gonna be like, going by Perikatan’s track record so far.

We can do better. We must do better, Malaysia.

Parliament, oh Parliament

Malaysia does not just lag behind when it comes to women’s participation. Our treatment of womenfolk could also do with a scrubbing. 

One such “shining” example is Parliament – the very place where our leaders are supposed to lead by example (keyword, supposed).

We’ve all heard about Umno man Bung Moktar Radin and his Top 10 “Bung-les”, including a sexist remark about women’s menstrual cycles and the leaky Parliament roof. That, of course, wasn’t the first or the last time sexist comments were heard in the esteemed august House. 

Speaking of Parliament, yesterday’s proceedings saw Segambut MP Hannah Yeoh being shouted down and unceremoniously dismissed as she attempted to raise a standing order to the Speaker. Although, in all fairness, this was most probably more due to her being an opposition MP than a woman (we can only hope).

Yeoh had been attempting to defend the honour of Muar MP Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman after the young lawmaker was called a “budak” by Tajuddin Abdul Rahman (Pasir Salak).

According to Yeoh, such labelling was tantamount to bullying! Of a legitimately elected lawmaker no less. Instead, she was shouted down rudely by Tajuddin and other Perikatan MPs, as can be seen in this clip. Speaker Azhar “Art” Harun also didn’t make things any better, by talking over Yeoh despite her pleas for him to listen. 

Artie also ruled that Tajuddin’s remark was just a joke, which in itself is a damned joke to us. Something being a joke doesn’t make it automatically OK. Age jokes, sex jokes, sexist jokes, gay jokes, mental health jokes are not OK. 

There were other uproars in the Dewan Rakyat yesterday, the first being over supposed phantom votes. Padang Rengas MP Nazri Aziz had been recorded as voting in favour of the Finance Ministry’s budget the previous day, despite not even being present. 

It didn’t make a difference to the final results, but it did point out the weaknesses in the system being used in the Dewan Rakyat and the possibility for abuse. 

The second uproar occurred during Deputy Plantations and Commodities Minister Willie Mongin’s speech. Mongin was alleged to have flipped the bird twice! For the record, video footage did show him making some sort of hand gesture, but it wasn’t clear exactly what that was. 

Mongin denied this, of course, but was “ready to apologise” if it did happen. What the hell was that? If it happened? Don’t you know?

Another example of the nonsense that goes on in Parliament has to be opposition MP Hanipa Maidin’s criticism of the gomen’s new slogan for its palm oil promotion campaign. He has said “Palm oil is God’s gift” is dangerous because Western countries would equate it with shariah compliance. 

We guess Hanipa was intimating that because Western nations are supposedly Islamophobic, this would be a problem. Now, we think the slogan’s crap, but aren’t there more important things to discuss, like the budget, right now?

Meanwhile, the opposition lost its third bloc vote yesterday, with Mongin’s ministry’s budget passed with a count of 108 “ayes” to 95 “nays”. Earlier, the budgets for the National Unity and Foreign Affairs ministries were passed with voice votes. 

So, that’s a score of 5-0 to Perikatan over Pakatan. Remember how opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim who, upon being criticised for not supporting a request for a bloc vote for Budget 2021 at the policy stage, had promised his oppo mates would be fighting it out in the committee stage? The fight’s not going so well for him, putting more pressure on the current PKR head honcho to prove he has parliamentary support.

In other parliamentary news, the Malaysian Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) annual report this year would not be up for debate in the Dewan Rakyat as there isn’t enough time. De facto Law Minister Takiyuddin Hassan has said while the report must be tabled, there isn’t any provision that states it must be debated, though he concedes any MP can quote the report at any appropriate time during any debate. 

That news wasn’t well-received by Suhakam, which has said debating the report was crucial as it highlights numerous pressing issues that need urgent action by the gomen. These include recommendations regarding the rights of vulnerable communities, including indigenous peoples; women and children; victims of human trafficking, refugees and asylum seekers; and, workers. 

Damn you, Top Glove

It was yet another good news-bad news kinda day as our Covid-19 numbers continued with daily four-figure increases with nominally higher recoveries yesterday.

 

We saw an increase of 1,472 new cases, and 1,552 recoveries, meaning our active cases has now dipped to 10,495 (Huzza!). There were also new deaths, bringing the death toll to 363) and two new clusters, both in Kota Kinabalu. 

 

Here’s the thing. More than half of yesterday’s new cases (778, to be exact) came from that oh-so-notorious Teratai cluster – the one involving mostly foreign employees of the world’s largest rubber glove maker.

 

Ironic that if not for the company that’s supposed to be helping people around the world stay safe from Covid-19 infections, we’d have way smaller numbers than we do now. It’s gotten so bad, though, the Selangor gomen is offering free Covid-19 tests for those living near Top Glove’s Meru plants in Klang. 

 

The Labour Department has opened 19 investigation papers against the company, just for failure to comply with the Workers’ Minimum Standard of Housing and Amenities Act alone! The company’s shares continued to slip as news of this broke yesterday. 

 

But while the company has promised it’s working to remedy the situation by continuing to source for more accommodation for its large workforce, it still had the gall to criticise the gomen’s actions. In a statement released yesterday, Top Glove said the Human Resources Ministry had previously said it would use an educational approach before enforcing new housing standards for workers next year. 

 

To be fair, Human Resources Minister M. Saravanan had said this. The thing is this, as the new housing standards were enacted in September last year, Top Glove had more than a year to ensure that their workers’ quarters were up to scratch. 

 

It was a bad move for Sara to say what he said, but it’s even worse for companies who’ve had so much time to change not to have done so already. Come on, people. Stop crapping on your foreign workers and then blaming the gomen for your lack of compliance and even bigger lack of scruples. 

 

FYI, Top Glove was compounded by the Health Ministry just last July over the crowded conditions of its workers quarters. So obviously, lesson not learnt.

 

One other big issue that came out of Covid-19 reports yesterday was one that revolved around those proverbial birds we know as the helang and the pipit.

 

Senior Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob, the very man who’s been updating us daily on how many people have been arrested for not following Covid SOPs, has been whacked left, right and centre on social media for attending a makan do in Melaka that had a distinct lack of physical distancing.

 

Well, Izzy has denied that there were any breaches of SOP during the gathering which also included the Melaka chief minister and state speaker. According to him, the picture was taken from the side, the angle making it look like there was no 1m distance between people. That’s some creative thinking right there.

 

But our former colourful baju minister kinda scored an own goal when he posted another picture. The angle this time was from the front, and we don’t know if Izzy knows what a metre really looks like, cos to us, that was most definitely not a metre.

 

Anyhoo, here are some other Covid-related news that came out yesterday:

  • Despite the MySejahtera app, the spike in Covid-19 cases has been so drastic during this third wave that health inspectors conducting contact tracing have been struggling to keep up
     
  • The government’s Covid9 one-off payment for frontliners, including the recently-added payment for enforcement officers, will sadly not include hospital cleaners. We don’t understand why not, considering these people are just as important and equally at risk. 
     
  • A Selangor assemblyman has questioned Socso’s funding for mass screening of migrant workers, saying that the RM60 subsidy of each test, which does not include clinical fees, seems off. Rajiv Rishyakaran had recently provided free tests to Selangor residents and said he only had to pay RM70 for each person, including fees for the clinical services.
     
  • The National Disaster Management Agency (Nadma) is prepared to reactivate the Low-Risk Covid-19 Quarantine and Treatment Centre at the Malaysia Agro Exposition Park Serdang (MAEPS) if the number of beds in existing health facilities is insufficient. 

This and that

As usual, several other reports came out yesterday, so we’ve compiled them here for you:

  • A study has found that low-income households continue to face health issues, including mental health problems, and a shorter life expectancy. 
     
  • Much has been said about the lack of internet reach in Malaysia. Communications and Multimedia Minister Saifuddin Abdullah has said much is being done to change this, with the MCMC having built 61 telco towers in Orang Asli settlements. 
     
  • The Perikatan Supreme Council met on Monday night to discuss, among others, preparations for GE15. Guess PM Moo will be keeping to his idea of having elections as soon as the pandemic is under control. BT-Dubs, did you notice no one is wearing a face mask in that pic? 
     
  • Some Gombak voters are suing their MP Azmin Ali for deceiving them and for breach of fiduciary duties by leaving PKR and Pakatan to join Bersatu and Perikatan. They say that’s cos he had campaigned under the Pakatan ticket. This is gonna be interesting.
     
  • Despite the federal gomen withdrawing its guarantee for an RM2 billion loan application for Penang to partially finance its RM9.5 billion LRT project, CM Chow Kon Yeow has said the project will go on, with other financing options. 
     
  • On World AIDS Day, Malaysia has signed an agreement to gain cheaper access to HIV drug DTG with UK-based HIV drug maker ViiV Healthcare and UN-backed public health organisation Medicines Patent Pool (MPP). 
     
  • General Operations Force member Sergeant Norihan Tari, who was wounded in a border shootout with smugglers that saw his colleague Sergeant Baharuddin Ramli killed, is recovering well at Penang Hospital following surgery to remove two of three bullets lodged in his body.

“Sex, yes; sexism, no.”

- Ira Levin, The Stepford Wives -

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • In a massive blow to outgoing US President Donald Trump, Attorney-General William Barr has said there’s no evidence of widespread voter fraud that could’ve changed the outcome of last month’s presidential election. 

    Meanwhile, President-elect Joe Biden will be pushing for an ambitious new stimulus bill to counter the effects of the Covid pandemic, besides preparing for a slew of executive actions to undo “damaging” Trump actions
     
  • Four people, including a baby, were killed and at least 15 others injured when a man who had “drunk a significant amount of alcohol” allegedly deliberately ploughed his vehicle through a pedestrian area in the western German city of Trier. However, authorities do not believe that the incident was linked to terrorism. 
     
  • In what’s being described as a huge loss, the world-famous giant radio telescope at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico that played a key role in astrological discoveries for more than half a century has collapsed
     
  • Prosecutors investigating the death of former footballer Diego Maradona may be looking at proffering manslaughter charges, saying the lack of adequate medical supervision provided following surgery for a subdural hematoma was “absolutely negligent”. 

    Also on celebrity news, seven-time Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton will miss the Sakhir Grand Prix in Bahrain after testing positive for Covid.

ABOUT THIS NEWSLETTER

This weekday newsletter is brought to you by Trident Media, a group of Malaysian journalists with 60 years of combined media experience in four countries across TV, print and digital media.

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Trident Media · Seksyen 35 · Shah Alam, Selangor 40470 · Malaysia

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