Category Archives: general

Malaysia: Women vital source of resources – Yong

Deputy Works Minister Datuk Yong Khoon Seng has termed women as Malaysia’s vital source of human resources to spur its development.

He thus called on more women to assume leading roles to help the country achieve further breakthroughs.

“Women of today are no longer confined to the roles of wife and mother. Many of them have excelled in many areas such as politics, finance, industries and education,” he told a dinner marking the Kuching and Samarahan Divisions Chinese Women Association’s 63rd anniversary last Saturday.

Yong, who is Stampin member of parliament, said it was quite obsolete to insist that only a certain gender should serve in selected industries, particularly in this modern era.

He stressed that for as long as a person had the capability, the issue of gender should not get in the way.

“If the person has great knowledge in a certain field and is capable of discharging the duty, we shall by all means support the person to lead,” he said.

He noted that the women association was one of the earliest community-based organisations (CBOs) in the city.

Given its history, the association had played its part to elevate the social status of women besides enlightening them on their rights, he said.

He hoped that it would persevere in its undertakings so as to be able to organise more healthy programmes for members and the communities.

During the dinner, the association through Yong also handed out ‘angpow’ and goodies to eligible elderly members.

Women Win Seats in Kuwait Parliament

kuwaiti women

(The women elected to the 50-member national assembly in Kuwait are, from left, Aseel al-Awadi, Rola Dashti, Salwa al-Jassar and Massouma al-Mubarak)

Women won four seats in the Kuwaiti parliamentary elections over the weekend, a historic first and one of several electoral surprises that appeared to reflect a deep popular frustration with the political deadlock in the oil-rich gulf state of Kuwait.

Liberal Kuwaitis celebrated the landmark with fireworks and parties after the elections on Saturday. Women gained the right to vote and run for office in 2005, but none had been elected until now. Many conservatives resisted the idea, and in recent weeks Islamists urged voters not to elect women to the 50-seat assembly.

The elections came two months after Kuwait’s ruler, Sheik Sabah al-Ahmed al-Sabah, dissolved Parliament to end its latest standoff with the cabinet. It was the third time in three years that there had been such a standoff. Each time, lawmakers accused cabinet members of misconduct or corruption, creating a noisy spectacle and cabinet resignations. Sheik Sabah has consistently reappointed as prime minister his nephew, Sheik Nasser al-Muhammad al-Sabah.

The tensions have slowed economic reforms in Kuwait that many analysts view as essential.

Such tensions seem likely to continue, despite some noteworthy electoral shifts, political analysts said. Sunni Islamist candidates, who gained ground last year in the most recent election, lost some seats on Saturday, results showed. Liberals and independent candidates slightly increased their representation.

But many incumbents retained seats, including some who are widely considered to be responsible for the confrontations with the executive branch.

Voter turnout was down, and some popular incumbents won by narrow margins, in an apparent sign of discontent with many members of Parliament over the political turmoil.

“The main theme of this election was frustration,” said Ghanim al-Najjar, a newspaper columnist who is a professor of political science at Kuwait University. “People have a negative attitude toward the M.P.’s.”

Kuwaitis are proud of their relatively democratic political traditions, an exception in a region dominated by autocracies. Parliament sets the emir’s salary and is the nation’s sole source of legislation.

But many believe that their country, one of the world’s leading oil exporters, has fallen behind its autocratic gulf neighbors Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. Some Kuwaitis are eager for public investment and economic reforms, and say the constant parliamentary battles are to blame.

The election of women to the assembly is a separate matter and a source of intense pride for many Kuwaitis.

The winners were Rola Dashti, an American-educated economist; Salwa al-Jassar and Aseel al-Awadi, who are both professors; and Massouma al-Mubarak, who in 2005 became the country’s first female cabinet minister.

Some Kuwaitis said the election results might be less important than the announcement of the new cabinet in the coming weeks.

“If it’s the same cabinet and the same prime minister, we will get the same result again,” said Nasser al-Sane, an Islamist and former Parliament member.

video source: AlJazeera English

In Kuwait, Women Hope for Win at Polls


As Kuwaitis prepared to go to the polls Saturday to elect a new parliament, the third in three years, Aseel al Awadhi geared up for a round of last-minute campaigning.

Ms. Al Awadhi has become a political celebrity in Kuwait, with polls showing she has a good chance of becoming the first female to be elected to Kuwait’s 50-seat parliament.

Women were given the right to vote and run for office in 2005. So far, they haven’t been able to win a seat in this conservative Muslim society.

But this year, 19 women are running, out of 280 candidates, for Kuwait’s 50 seats.

The elections come amid political and economic paralysis in the tiny emirate, a staunch U.S. military ally and one of the world’s biggest oil exporters.

In March, Kuwait’s ruler, Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah, dissolved parliament for the second time in a year, blaming parliamentarians for hindering the nation’s economic progress. Lawmakers had pushed to question the prime minister, a royal family member. The ruling family considers the procedure degrading, and the government has in the past dissolved itself to avoid such a humiliation.

The political gridlock has coincided with an economic wallop to the sheikhdom. While Kuwait is rich in oil, its stock market has tanked amid the global economic crisis. And the economic crisis has fed the political deadlock. Some parliamentarians have pushed big rescue measures, such as a proposal to erase all consumer debt.

The government has resisted, instead pushing its own, limited bailout for financial institutions. That has fed criticism of the royal family, which — despite allowing elections and parliament — retains much of the trappings of an absolute hereditary monarchy, including the exclusive right to name the government.

Speculation has swirled that if the deadlock between lawmakers and the ruling-family-backed cabinet continues in the new parliament, the emir could suspending parliament altogether to push through needed reform.

Especially critical of the government recently has been an Islamic bloc of parliamentarians, who have managed to boost their seats in recent elections. They have increasingly challenged the ruling Sabah family, at times alleging corruption and a lack of transparency. The royal family has brushed off the criticism.

In this sea of political gridlock, Ms. Al Awadhi is seen by supporters as a calming force, willing to work with the ruling family, but also to pursue ways to revitalize Kuwait’s economy and education system. Two local, independent polls show Ms. Al Awadhi leading in her district, ahead of her conservative rivals.

At a recent campaign rally, fully veiled women sat alongside others unveiled in colorful dresses. Male supporters lounged outside, drinking Arabic coffee. Stylish, the 38-year-old Ms. Al Awadhi doesn’t wear a headscarf. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Texas, Austin and is a popular professor at Kuwait University, where she teaches philosophy and critical thinking.

“She’s the ‘in’ thing in Kuwait,” says Fatema Masoud, a 28-year-old volunteer for Ms. Al Awadhi’s campaign. “We need a good education and jobs, and we need someone to help us.”


Myanmar opposition leader to go on trial again


Myanmar’s Nobel Prize-winning pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi faced new charges Thursday less than two weeks before her house arrest was due to end after an American man swam across a lake to enter her home, her lawyer said.

Supporters accused the military government of using the incident to keep her in detention ahead of general elections scheduled for next year.

Suu Kyi, whose detention was set to end May 27, could face a prison term of up to five years if convicted, said lawyer Hla Myo Myint. The trial is scheduled to start Monday at a special court at Yangon’s notorious Insein Prison, where she was arraigned Thursday.

She is accused of breaking the terms of her detention by harboring the visitor for two days, even though another of Suu Kyi’s lawyers said she told the man to leave her home.

“Everyone is very angry with this wretched American. He is the cause of all these problems,” lawyer Kyi Win told reporters. “He’s a fool.”

The junta appears eager to ensure that general elections scheduled for next year are carried out without any significant opposition from pro-democracy groups that say the balloting will merely perpetuate military rule under a democratic guise.

Human rights groups said they feared the trial would be used to justify another extension of Suu Kyi’s yearslong detention despite international demands for her release. The 63-year-old Nobel Peace Prize laureate has already spent more than 13 of the last 19 years — including the past six — in detention without trial for her nonviolent promotion of democracy in Myanmar, also called Burma.

The motives of the American, John William Yettaw, 53, remained unclear. State television on Thursday said he had served two years in the military and listed his occupation as “student, clinical psychology, Forest Institution.”

“I know that John is harmless and not politically motivated in any way,” his stepson, Paul Nedrow, wrote in an e-mail to The Associated Press. “He did not want to cause Suu Kyi any trouble.”

Nedrow said he was concerned over his stepfather’s health because he was a diabetic and the ailment “could cause him to become disoriented and confused and be unable to make wise choices for himself.”

A pro-government Myanmar Web site earlier said that after arriving at Suu Kyi’s house, Yettaw told her two female assistants — a mother and daughter who are her sole allowed companions — that he was tired and hungry after the swim and has diabetes.

It said the two women, supporters of Suu Kyi’s party, gave him food.

In the past Myanmar’s junta — which regards Suu Kyi as the biggest threat to its rule — has found reasons to extend her periods of house arrest, bending the letter of the law.

“The Burmese regime is clearly intent on finding any pretext, no matter how tenuous, to extend her unlawful detention. The real injustice, the real illegality, is that she is still detained in the first place,” said British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who wrote a chapter about her in his book “Courage.”

Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith described Suu Kyi’s arrest as “gravely concerning” and urged her immediate release.

Yettaw, who was arrested last week, was charged at Thursday’s hearing with illegally entering a restricted zone, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison, and breaking immigration laws, which is punishable by up to one year in jail, said Hla Myo Myint.

U.S. Embassy spokesman Richard Mei said Yettaw had no legal representation at his arraignment but that the embassy was trying to find him an English-speaking lawyer.

The National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma, which describes itself as the country’s government-in-exile, said the junta was using the incident to extend Suu Kyi’s detention.

“It is nothing more than a political ploy to hoodwink the international community so that it can keep (Suu Kyi) under lock and key while the military maneuvers its way to election victory on 2010,” the group’s prime minister, Sein Win, said in a statement.

Suu Kyi has recently been ill, suffering from dehydration and low blood pressure. Her condition improved this week after a visit by a doctor who administered an intravenous drip, said Nyan Win, the spokesman for her National League for Democracy party, who is also part of a team of three lawyers hoping to represent her.

“Please tell them (reporters) I am well,” Kyi Win quoted Suu Kyi as saying. But he added: “I am very concerned about Suu Kyi’s health, even though she said she is well.”


UPDATE: (May 18, 2009)

Aung San Suu Kyi Jailed, to be charged:

video source: france24english

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