DATUK Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail is used to juggling roles. Wife, mother, parliamentarian, doctor, party president – she’s been there, done that.
But this past month has seen her chart new territory as Malaysia’s first woman Deputy Prime Minister and Women and Family Development Minister.
“It’s been a little bit tough,” she tells us.
“It’s a new routine. I have to wake up quite early to get ready and come to work because it’s quite a distance coming from my house (in Damansara Heights) to Putrajaya.”
Her day begins with briefings and consultations.
“I come here and I have briefings over the day’s events. If I need to see the PM, I see him and then I will then get some feedback.”
Compartmentalisation also helps separate the roles, she says.
“I have certain days to focus on the women’s ministry, and I go in to that ministry. With the women’s ministry, its more like getting to know (the issues and key areas) and getting work done. I feel closer in that sense. It’s a smaller ministry. Well actually, it’s quite a big ministry but the DPM’s office is sprawling and big, and you can get lost.”
On a personal level, how does she feel having her family whole again, now that her husband Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim is back at home?
“It’s noisy now. In a good way!” she quips.
“Last time, when Anwar was in jail and we had to go to the hospital sometimes to meet him, some of the family will come at a time. “But now all of us can congregate – the cousins and the grandkids and all that. It’s a little messy, but it’s a nice feeling. The togetherness and family. It’s important because the kids must know that they have a grandfather. Anwar is very good with kids. He will run around and play with them. It’s a nice atmosphere, especially for buka puasa.”
Was this the one of the happiest Hari Rayas she could recall?
“It’s also so busy. Because Raya first day we had an open house in the PM’s house. It was a terrible time trying to get through, there was a lot of pushing and jostling. Anwar has a problem with his shoulders. He has a problem lifting up his right arm, so when people salam, I said please wear your brace, so people won’t pull him, because they get excited to see him.”
Our DPM tries to maintain a healthy lifestyle and admits to a fondness for coffee on the go.
“I like my coffee with plenty of milk. I used to take condensed milk but I was told that it’s not healthy, so I have coffee with a bit of goat’s milk and honey.”
After all, just like another doctor, she needs to be in good shape to juggle the various roles she plays.
“You have to take care of your health right? The Prime Minister is 93 and I have to be healthier than him ... because I’m a bit younger,” she jokes.