What men can learn from women

Chief Justice Tun Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat

THE former prime minister of Malaysia being sent to prison is big news. But the bigger one is the decision made by three women justices, together with two men, at the Federal Court. They reaffirmed Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s conviction and sentence by the High Court and the Court of Appeal.

Chief Justice Tun Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat is a steely, uncompromising, no-nonsense lady. She is certainly someone you don’t want to mess with. She steered the proceedings like the true professional that she is. She and fellow lady Justices Nallini Pathmanathan and Mary Lim Thiam Suan have shown the world that the Malaysian justice system is very much alive and kicking and respected for its independence and integrity.

All nine Justices, beginning with Datuk Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali at the High Court, have spoken in the same voice that Najib is guilty on all counts.

There have been twists and turns and lots of drama at all stages of the proceedings. The people were sceptical that the apex court could come out with a final judgment that was not in favour of one of the most powerful men in Malaysian politics. Many believed that there would be “last-minute interference”, to at least delay the case.

True to his word, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob did not interfere, nor had his predecessor Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.

It happened during an Umno-led government and the convicted individual was its former president. It is a plus point for Ismail Sabri and his government, though it might not sit well with some segments of the party.

Some hailed Aug 23 as a day of jubilation for the people. Others looked at it as a day of infamy. But the fact remains, it was a day of reckoning for a nation reeling from the biggest financial scandal the world has ever known.

Tengku Maimun, the second local law graduate appointed to the post, is the face of a new judiciary. She has given new hope to the country.

The judiciary is a critical instrument in a democracy. It was once eyed with suspicion and people are largely sceptical about its independence. Malaysians are relieved that cases involving corruption and misuse of power will be dealt with, in accordance with the rule of law and guided by the Constitution.

We need “Women’s Power” in trying times like these. We need more Tengku Maimuns in strategic places, especially in positions that warrant the highest level of integrity. I am in favour of women leading the judiciary, the police, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission and Bank Negara Malaysia.

We also need more women in the Dewan Rakyat, not just the mere 11% as it stands now. We need to achieve the 30% target for women in the board of public-listed companies. And we need more companies to be led by women. Even in the United States, hardly 15% of the CEOs of Fortune 500 companies are women.

It was almost unthinkable when Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) appointed Sirima Ratwatte Dias Bandaranaike as its prime minister in 1960. She made history as the first female to lead a nation.

Indira Gandhi of India, Golda Meir of Israel and Margaret Thatcher of Britain proved their worth as leaders. They were not perfect, but they certainly made their mark in their respective countries.

Britain will probably get its third woman prime minister soon if Liz Truss is elected. The United States could have had its first woman president had Hillary Clinton not lost to Donald Trump in 2016.

There are currently 30 women who are president or prime minister, out of 222 nations in the world.

Some, like Jacinda Ardern, are in a class of their own.

For the record, 193 nations have never once elected a woman to lead, including Malaysia.

Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail could have been our first woman prime minister after Pakatan Harapan’s general election win in 2018, since her party had the biggest number of representatives in the Dewan Rakyat.

In terms of gender equality and women’s empowerment targets, the trend globally is troubling.

There have been few gains in the total number of elected women in decision-making entities or as the head of a nation. Gender parity is, in fact, going south. Politics apparently is the last bastion of the male species. Misogyny rules when society is not pushing enough women to represent them. You cannot move far when the majority of people in the room is still men.

I sincerely believe that what happened at the Federal Court recently will help change perspectives about the capabilities of women at the highest level. We should have more women at the top.

Tengku Maimun has demonstrated that superior leadership values matter at the highest level.

Wanita Boleh!

Johan Jaaffar was a journalist, editor and for some years chairman of a media company, and is passionate about all things literature and the arts. And a diehard rugby fan.

The views expressed here are entirely his own.

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Johan Jaaffar , The Bowerbird writes ,


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