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Thursday, February 3, 2011

Rosmah Mansur: First Lady of Malaysia?

'Don't cry for me, oh Malaysia'

Hazlan Zakaria
Feb 3, 11

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COMMENT Did Rosmah Mansor, wife to our Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak sing "Don't Cry For Me, Malaysia!' when, overnight, the special department said to have been set up to serve herdisappeared from the online listings of the Prime Minister's Office.
NONEIn the US government there is a position in the White House called First Lady of The United States - or Flotus for short - that serves as the better half of POTUS - the President of The United States.
While there is such an office dedicated to the woman behind the most powerful man in America, it is merely an adjunct to the office of president and is without any real standing in the government.
The Flotus doesn't execute policies nor dictate diplomatic direction. Unless you discount Jackie O Kennedy and her insistence on deciding on the wardrobe for dignitaries on the day of her husband JF Kennedy's, funeral.
Protocol officers dread the installation of a female US president. The term Fgotus or First Gentleman of The United States and Fhotus or First Husband of The United States have been floated as replacement. But let's leave that to the protocol experts to figure out.
The honour is reserved for the wife of the head of state, in our case it is the Permaisuri Agung, not for the wife of a chief executive of the government, as the term has been abused as improper and in terms of practice.
NONEConsidering the US-based firm assisting Najib with 'strategic communications', recent revelations of a FLOM division smacks of a Flotus-style addendum to the Prime Minister's Office.
In truth, even true First Ladies don't have direct access to power, as they are unelected adjuncts to a democratically elected post.
Regardless of personal capabilities or lack there of, Rosmah is not empowered to act in ministerial capacity nor to dictate public policies, government programs or diplomatic direction.
Regulations allow her to represent her spouse only in ceremonial functions.
But Rosmah seems to be flouting all of the above, while public funds continue to pay for her trips abroad, her personal 'Permata' programmes, and her gallivanting 'diplomatic' dos.
Public relations stunt?
This is not the first time the 'first lady' was involved in what smacks of a 'public relations stunt' as one of the 'strategic communications services' being afforded to Najib and Rosmah by a 'certain' consultancy firm famous for serving dictators.
NONEThere was that moment when Rosmah (right, with Martha Stewart) found and returned a 'valuable' box to a Saudi prince that she had found on a yacht rented for holiday. We hope neither the yacht nor the public relations stunt was paid for by the rakyat's taxes.
Then there was the sudden 'visit' by Rober de Niro.
NONEThat, in turn, followed an award for 'international peace and harmony' by an obscure non-governmental organisation and a 'state visit' arranged for her to the United States.
Nor can we discount the off-colour 'Saya mahu main' joke made at the expense of national badminton shuttler Lee Chong Wei, tastelessly planted by Najib and ministers in his cabinet during an event in Parliament House, no less.
A scripted 'joke' scripted by political consultants to endear a certain personality to the public, perhaps?
NONEOne wonders how many tasteless jokes and Cheshire cats can make an aloof leader and his spouse 'closer' to the public.
Such 'personal' services paid for by public funds, however, is just downright improper.
Of course, unless one wanted to be dragged before Parliament's rights and privileges committee and suspended like Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, one must not dispute that any of this, like 1Malaysia, is but the brain child of the PM himself.
Despite Najib's protestation and assertions of the non-existence of dedicated staff and funding for Rosmah in his parliamentary reply to Bukit Bendera MP Liew Chin Tong, the FLOM revelations raise more questions.
NONEIs there another YB who should follow Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim into suspension for "misleading the House"?
After all, in the much vaunted traditions of Westminster Parliament, one as wise as the wise and honourable Speaker would know that Standing Order 36(12) was instituted to protect Parliament and the country from ministers who mislead.
If the Parliament and the Speaker were truly independent and the rights and privileges committee was truly concerned about 'who is misleading the House', perhaps it is the leader of the ruling coalition who should be censured.
Backdoor to power
But this is the coalition that deals with the inconvenience of having its ministers democratically elected by anointing them senators, thereby using the back door to allow a politician favoured by Najib who lost the people's mandate to serve the people - or even their masters who elevated them.
This is a clear violation of the requirements for senatorship, positions reserved for those with expertise and wisdom and those with years of service in the country under their belt, not asrewards for political turncoats or 'lifeline' for rejected politicians.
NONEI wonder how many years of actual service to the country a particular former PKR Youth leader amassed to be considered one who has 'served' the nation? Unless one was a sleeper agent for the powers that be all along, 'serving' them all this while?
What if the person picked to represent 'service' to women in Malaysia were a former minister who had been shown the exit by voters in her own constituency? Or are they suggesting that there is a dearth of true women activists in our country?
How can one forget the well-dressed Oxford-educated young man who, like Arnold Schwarzenegger, also married into what was once the Kennedys of Malaysia? Or should I say the family of Pak Lah.
He too 'married' his way into power, though like the 'Terminator' star himself, he is now out of favour with scant hope of us hearing him say "I'll be back".
rosmah mansorConsidering all the above, maybe one really can come into power - not only vis-a-vis back door senatorships - but via front pew marriages to ministers or, perhaps, the prime minister, instead? Dare I say it... Malaysia Boleh!
Evita, Imelda or Leila?
But back door or not, there are precedents of genuine first ladies who gained political weight and power via marriage. The more benign of such was the one and only Eva Peron, more well known in Argentina as Evita.
Second wife to Argentine President Juan Peron, she was not only the first lady, but rose to be the de-facto head of a government ministry and led foundations that worked to uplift the people.
While claims of abuses abounds, she is still revered as a true heroine of the Argentine people today, which should speak for something. None will argue that Evita was indeed close to the people.
And she used the power she wrested to work for and with them.
NONEDespite her flamboyant fashion taste and expensive 'rainbow tours', she did hold a torch to the people's rights and aspirations.
But when it comes to Rosmah, one has to ask: is she an Evita?
Or does she more closely resemble a certain Imelda Marcos.
Or to use a more recent example, Leila Ben Ali, the spouse of Tunisia's former 'president-for-life'?
Both gained 'power' via marriage much like Evita. but neither were as popular nor people-friendly with their bounty.
Should we cry, 'Oh, Malaysia?

Article courtesy of Malaysiakini: Don’t Cry for me Malaysia

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