KUALA LUMPUR, July 14 ― A bipartisan group of female lawmakers expressed hope today that no parliamentarian will make sexist remarks in the Dewan Rakyat at least for the remainder of the current term.
Led by Housing and Local Government Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin, the 12 MPs added that Pengerang MP Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said’s appointment as the Deputy Speaker was also a watershed moment.
“As a female Deputy Speaker, I am sure she will be more sensitive on women’s issues and will bridle any MPs who try to make any sexist remarks. We hope that there will be no more sexist remarks in this term and that Azalina will take stern action against this.
“We should try to achieve zero sexist remarks for the remainder of the term. I believe Speaker Datuk Azhar Azizan Harun and Deputy Speaker Datuk Rashid Hasnon are also the same; they are gender sensitive,” said Zuraida.
Yesterday, Baling MP Datuk Seri Abdul Azeez Abdul Rahim made remarks seen as sexist and racist at Batu Kawan MP Kasthuriraani Patto, using the words “gelap (dark)” and “pakai bedak (use facial powder)”.
At the start of today’s meeting, Azhar instructed Abdul Azeez to apologise and retract the remarks, which he did after claiming he was commenting on the dimness of the Dewan Rakyat and not the rival MP when he said “gelap”.
At a separate press conference, Kasthuriraani who was accompanied by a few other opposition lawmakers also hoped that with Azalina’s appointment, she will take a stronger stance against sexist remarks.
Akin to Zuraida and her group, Kasthuriraani was hoping for zero sexist remarks in Parliament.
However, she said they are still considering a bid to refer Abdul Azeez to the Rights and Privileges Committee
“We are considering our next step but many MPs proposed to refer him to the Rights and Privileges Committee. We are looking at gathering evidence and then to refer him to the committee. This will create a precedent.
“Even though an MP is granted immunity in the Dewan Rakyat, we cannot take it for granted or abuse the immunity. Does it mean that any MP can make derogatory remarks only to apologise and retract it later?” asked Kasthuriraani.
Furthermore, she made accusations that this was not the first time Abdul Azeez had uttered such derogatory remarks.
The DAP lawmaker claimed that the government backbencher had called her a pondan in 2015. He had used the same word against Damansara MP Tony Pua.