All-party Parliamentary caucus on Putrajaya NAM Declaration on Women Development should be formed next month – with first objective, to end all gender discriminatory practices in MAS including waiver of RM100,000 legal costs against former MAS stewardess Beatrice Fernandez
Media Conference Statement
by Lim Kit Siang
(Ipoh, Monday): An all-party Parliamentary caucus on Putrajaya NAM Declaration on Women Development should be formed when Parliament meets next month – with its first objective, to end all gender discriminatory practices in MAS including waiver of RM100,000 legal costs against former MAS stewardess Beatrice Fernandez.
It is a crying shame and a great mockery that Malaysia could host the first-ever Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Ministerial Meeting on the Advancement of Women in Putrajaya early this month, ending with the stirring Putrajaya Declaration as a blueprint for the empowerment of women to complement the Beijing Declaration adopted in 1995, and yet to allow highly gender discriminatory practices to continue in the national carrier, MAS.
The four-day NAM Ministerial Meeting on the Advancement of Women and the Putrajaya Declaration would have been more meaningful if the Minister for Women, Family and Community Development, Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil had been able to ensure that justice is done to Beatrice Fernandez as one of the pioneers for gender equality in the country with her courageous and public-spirited legal challenge against the gender discriminatory practices by MAS.
Fernandez lost her 14-year legal battle when her case was dismissed by the Federal Court on March 11, 2005. She had worked for MAS for 11 years when she was dismissed in 1991 when she refused to resign upon becoming pregnant.
The Federal Court held that Article 8(2) of the Constitution, which prohibits discrimination based on gender since it was amended in 2001, had not been amended at the time of Fernandez’s termination and cannot be applied retrospectively.
This is another case where the law has not served justice, like the recent nation-wide outrage over the RM600 fine in default 14-day jail sentence initially meted out to Ahmad Harizal Fauzi, 18, for being too poor to report for national service as well as to pay the fine.
It is not enough for Shahrizat merely to come out with a statement after the Federal Court decision calling on MAS to be more gender sensitive and stop discriminating against its female employees, as she should have ensured that Beatrice is not further victimized in having to bear MAS’ legal costs amounting to RM100,000.
MAS is not a private company but a GLC (government-linked companies) which should be setting the example of corporate social responsibility (CSR) and good corporate governance – including gender equality and fairness policies and practices.
The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, announced when opening the NAM Ministerial Conference on Women that he had directed all ministries to identify and amend laws and practices that discriminate against women to end gender discrimination and inequality.
Shahrizat should start with the gender discriminatory practices in MAS, like the different retirement ages for female and male flight attendants and three-child limit for female aircrew.
She should raise these issues in Cabinet, including demonstrating appreciation for Beatrice’s courageous stand against gender discrimination and inequality by getting Cabinet support for MAS to waive the RM100,000 legal costs against Beatrice.
Ideally, a Parliamentary Select Committee on Putrajaya NAM Declaration on Women Development should be formed by Parliament when it meets on June 20 after a full debate on the Putrajaya Declaration, but Shahrizat would have to get the Cabinet’s approval for such a parliamentary debate and Parliamentary Select Committee.
Alternatively, MPs both male and female who are concerned about women empowerment should form a parliamentary caucus on the Putrajaya NAM Declaration to monitor the identification and termination of discriminatory gender laws, policies and practices in the country. DAP MPs will take the initiative to approach MPs from the Barisan Nasional and Barisan Alterantive to form such a Parliamentary Caucus on Women Advancement next month.
* Lim Kit Siang,
Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP
Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission
Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman