PM Najib Razak wants top levels in M’sia to have at least 30% women
Who run the world?
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak wants to promote the advancement of women at the top levels of government and industry.
He has set a target of 30 percent female representation in the Dewan Negara (the Senate or Upper House), and he wants a stronger mandate to enact this pledge.
“If we get the necessary majority in this coming election we can impose a quota for the Upper House that they must comprise of no less than 30 percent of women senators, to begin with.
I would like to see this proposal go through, that is why I hope we get a strong mandate in this election. We can start with women appointed as senators and can ensure leadership skills in the Upper House.”
Najib was speaking at the Women in Politics Kuala Lumpur 2017 conference on Dec. 4, just ahead of the UMNO general assembly which will last from Dec. 5 to 9.
The assembly is regarded as the last opportunity for the party to meet en masse ahead of the upcoming general election, which must be held by August 2018.
Unlike Singapore, Malaysia has a bicameral legislature.
In addition to the Dewan Rakyat (the equivalent of our Parliament), Malaysia also has an Upper House of Parliament, known as the Dewan Negara or the Senate.
The Dewan Negara consists of 70 senators.
At least 26 are directly elected by the voters, while the remaining 44 are appointed by the Head of State — on advice from the PM.
When Malaysia was founded, its Constitution specified that the Head of State could only appoint 16 Senators, with the majority being directly elected.
Senators work to scrutinise bills that are passed by the Lower House, and make further recommendations if needed.
This was to allow Malaysia’s individual states to have a greater influence over federal or national policy, much like how the US Senate is supposed to work.
However over time, amendments to the Constitution has made it so that the majority of the Upper House is appointed by the monarch on advice of the PM, much like the U.K.’s House of Lords.
Not just in politics
But having 30 percent of the Dewan Negara’s seats occupied by women is only the start for Najib.
He also stated that he would like to see more women on the boards of public-listed companies.
“On this, we are currently behind the target. So I have warned that from next year, the government will name and shame public-listed companies which do not have women as board members.”
Najib even warned such companies that they may not be granted government contracts if they don’t have enough women in leadership positions.
However, there are currently three women ministers in Najib’s Cabinet, out of a total of 35.
This means that less than 10 percent of his Cabinet are women.
If Najib does win a strong mandate in the upcoming general election, perhaps he could lead by example and ensure that his Cabinet fulfills his 30 percent women representation target.
Top image by Mikhail Svetlov/ Getty Images