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Saturday May 19, 2007

MPs say sorry 

KUALA LUMPUR: Nine days after they made their “bocor (leak)” remarks that led to an uproar among women’s groups, the two Members of Parliament finally made a formal apology to all Malaysian women. 

Kinabatangan MP Datuk Bung Mokhtar Radin, who made the remarks in Parliament on May 9, and Jasin MP Datuk Mohd Said Yusof who supported him, issued a public apology yesterday to women “who might have been offended” by their words. 

Bung Mokhtar and Mohd Said however maintained that they were merely carrying out their duty as Barisan MPs in defending the Government against “the Opposition’s unfounded claims”. 

In doing so, some of the Barisan MPs might have gone overboard but there was no intention to insult women, said Mohd Said. 

On May 9, during a heated exchange in the Dewan Rakyat with Opposition MPs over the roof leak at Parliament House, Bung Mokhtar had said: “Mana ada bocor? Batu Gajah pun bocor tiap-tiap bulan juga. (Where is the leak? The Batu Gajah MP also leaks every month.)” 

A stern lecture: Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil looking serious with Mohd Said Yusof (left) and Bung Mokhtar at her ministry on Friday. She has told them not to trifle with gender issues and that sexism would not be accepted anywhere.
Batu Gajah MP Fong Po Kuan demanded an apology from the MPs the next day. 

Yesterday, Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil, who held a 40-minute meeting with the two MPs at her office, told reporters that the two men were remorseful and the ministry had accepted their apologies. 

“When I met them, before I could say anything, they raised their hands as if in surrender and said sorry to all women if they had offended them.  

“Because of that, I accepted their apology on the ministry’s behalf with grace. That is the Malaysian way but in no way are we condoning the act,” she said. 

Shahrizat said she conveyed to them her ministry’s stand on such matters. 

“I would like to categorically state that sexism in any form, by words or action, by men or women, whether in Parliament made by elected representatives of both Government and Opposition or indeed anywhere else in this country, is not acceptable. 

“I have in no uncertain terms communicated to the two MPs from Kinabatangan and Jasin the ministry’s unflinching stand on this matter – do not trifle with gender issues.” 

Asked if the two MPs were required to personally apologise to Fong, she said it was up to them. 

“I asked for an open apology and that would include Fong. I am looking at the bigger picture because a lot of women were offended by the remarks,” she said. 

On whether they would be reprimanded, Shahrizat said the two men have already been punished “as the media had gone to town (with the issue)”. 

At a DAP press conference in Petaling Jaya, Fong described the apology as “too little, too late”, LOONG MENG YEE reports. 

Fong said she found the apology meaningless because “it did not come from the heart”. 

“They apologised on Wednesday, but later retracted it. Now, they say sorry to all the women but didn’t specifically mention that they were sorry to have directed the remarks at me. 

“Also, there is no sincerity on their part because they only apologised after being pressured,” she said. 

Related Stories:
Statements by the two MPs

Earlier reports:
MP says sorry to women, then retracts his apology
Shahrizat to meet with MPs
MPs apologise for sexist remarks
Jasin MP denies making ‘bocor’ comment
Group hands over memo to minister, demands apology