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What award does Rosmah Mansor deserve from Sarawakians?

By Rosita Maja
Prime Minister Najib Razak’s wife Rosmah Mansor spearheaded a ‘First Ladies Summit’ in Malaysia on the theme “A Child Today, a Leader Tomorrow”. Rosmah’s soiree for the ladies cost RM24 million.
The ‘summit’ lasted for three days. It drew a poor attendance: a total of only fifteen ‘first ladies’, mostly from African nations, attended the inaugural ‘First Ladies Summit’.
The issue of this ‘summit’ has been brought up by Zuraida Kamaruddin, Member of Parliament for Ampang, for debate in Parliament, highlighting the extravagant sum of RM24 million spent on the confab and its surrounding publicity.

        What was the ‘summit’ for, and how much did it benefit the people on the ground?
Hajah Zuraida Kamaruddin: Dalam bajet tambahan ini, Yang Berhormat Titiwangsa, sebanyak RM24 juta. Jadi saya tidak tahulah apa program ini. Whether it is a ball night or what, I do not know. What is a program all about, dengan izin.
(Hornbill Unleashed translation: “In this supplementary budget, the Honourable Member for Titiwangsa, the sum of RM24 million (was spent). I have no idea what this programme is. Whether it is a ball night or what, I do not know. What is the programme about?”

Parliamentary debate on the First Lady
Tuan Chua: Yang Berhormat Menteri, Tuan Pengerusi saya hanya ingin tahu yang first lady di Malaysia ini Permaisuri Agong atau isteri kepada Yang Amat Berhormat Perdana Menteri? [Dewan riuh] Mungkin juga kita dapat praktis daripada negara lain, yang beraja sama ada seperti Jordan, First Lady nya yang datang adalah isteri kepada Raja Jordan atau isteri kepada Perdana Menteri Jordan.
(Hornbill Unleashed translation: “Honourable Minister, Chair, I just want to know whether the ‘First Lady’ in Malaysia is the Queen, or the wife of the Right Honourable Prime Minister? [Noise in the House] Perhaps we can also get practical guidance from other nations, monarchies like Jordan. Jordan’s First Lady, who attended, is she the wife of the King, or the Prime Minister of Jordan?)
Dato’ Sri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil: Yang Berhormat Tuan Pengerusi, di Malaysia wanita pertama adalah isteri kepada Yang Amat Berhormat Perdana Menteri Malaysia. [Dewan riuh] Tuan Pengerusi saya mengucapkan terima kasih sekali lagi kepada semua yang ada.
(Hornbill Unleashed translation: “Honourable Chairman, in Malaysia the First Lady is the wife to the Right Honourable Prime Minister of Malaysia [The House is noisy]. Mr Chairman, I would like to thank again all those attending.)
(From the Parliamentary Hansard, May 8, 2010)

Ironic and embarrassing
It is ironic, and embarrassing, in the eyes of the world, that at the same time as this ‘summit’ fluff, 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’, in an effort to call for funds to set up pre-schools in the interior of Sarawak for dispossessed Penan children.
Can the so-called First Lady do something about the education of our own children in Sarawak before presuming to speak for other nations? The sum of RM24 million wasted on the glittering ‘summit’ could have built 50 pre-schools, and kept them running for 20 years for the rural children of Sarawak!
And to add to this irony, Puan Rosmah has been conferred the state award  “Datuk Amar Bintang Kenyalang”, in conjunction with the 89th birthday of the Yang Dipertua Negeri, Tun Abang Muhammad Salahuddin Abang Barieng, the TYT. This award carries the title ‘Datuk Amar’, as if her ridiculous claim to be ‘First Lady’ were not enough.

Early this year, three Sarawakian women activists handed a petition to Puan Rosmah in an attempt to engage her support in bringing justice to the Penan girls and women who have reported being raped by loggers. The allegations of rape have been proven true by the federal women’s ministry Taskforce Report, set up by the ministry helmed by Shahrizat.
But did Rosmah respond to that petition? The answer is a resounding ‘no’. We think it would be far more appropriate if Puan Rosmah could do something for Sarawak first, before we Sarawakians acknowledge that she is deserving of any award.
We also call for the proper, transparent use of the RM111 million funds allocated to Permata, Rosmah’s child education agency. We urge that some of these funds be channeled to the Penan Support Group to provide for the pre-school education of needy rural children.

Puan Rosmah said at the summit, that the future of a child is ‘shaped’. If only we could see Rosmah walk the talk, and shape a fairer future for Sarawakian children.

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