GEORGE TOWN: The email came in at 5.03am, and then the mayor of Penang Island City Council (MBPP) could not go back to sleep.
Datuk Maimunah Mohd Sharif then called Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng and state Local Government Committee chairman Chow Kon Yeow and broke the news yesterday.
She is going to the African continent to serve as the executive director of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat).
“I was still sleeping when she called. I congratulated her. It has been memorable, working with her,” said Chow.
Maimunah will be the first Asian to be appointed to the post and manage UN-Habitat, headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya.
This is one of the most active agencies of the UN, which strives to make sure all humans will have adequate roofs over their heads, especially those in Third World countries.
She does not need to resign from the Malaysian civil service. Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng supports her joining the UN on an international secondment basis.
“We are proud to have Maimunah, a state civil servant, recognised and appointed to such an esteemed position.
“She has not only made the state proud but also the whole country.
“We feel sad to let her go but at the same time, happy and proud of her success. We support her to go on international secondment and I am confident that the Federal Government will too,” Lim said in a press conference yesterday.
Maimunah was all smiles and showed no sign of lacking sleep from her pre-dawn excitement.
“I have bittersweet feeling because I have been the mayor for only six months and made so many plans for MBPP next year.
“But it is a positive thing and an opportunity for me to work under the UN flag and deal with global issues.
“I did not apply for the post and was headhunted.”
Her post will be a four-year tenure starting next month.
The UN General Assembly in New York unanimously appointed her at 4am Malaysian time yesterday.
Maimunah said she would remain mayor until she leaves for Nairobi.
The 56-year-old said her husband Adli Lai Abdullah, 60, would move to Nairobi with her while her two daughters, 19 and 25, would remain in Malaysia,
Maimunah said she was approached for the post on Dec 13 and had a video conference interview on Dec 14.