Reports by MAZWIN NIK ANIS, SHARON LING, ANDY CHUA, JOSEPH KAOS Jr and TARRENCE TAN

SIBU: Vivacious lawyer Michelle Ling wants to break the glass ceiling in the male-dominated Malaysian political scene.

The 25-year-old who is standing under the Parti Bumi Kenyalang ticket in Bawang Assan said there is a strong need to increase women participation in politics.

“Our political scene is dominated by males. They don’t really know women and the many roles that she has to play as well as the hats she has to put on in life,” she said.

Ling is one of a handful of female candidates who will be contesting in this state election.

Of the 349 hopefuls, only 45 of them are women.

Her party PBK has fielded the most female candidates at 13. Parti Sarawak Bersatu has 10 candidates, Parti Aspirasi Rakyat Sarawak (six), PKR (five), Gabungan Parti Sarawak and DAP has four candidates each while Amanah fielded one woman candidate.

Two women are contesting as Independent candidates.

Political observers noted the small number of female representation – less than 20% – in this election, saying that parties could have done better.

While they may be small in number, women candidates believe they can make an impact and provide equally good service as their male compatriots if elected.

Ling, who is up against four other aspirants including political bigwig and incumbent Datuk Seri Wong Soon Koh of Parti Sarawak Bersatu does not feel intimidated by this.

“Just because he (Wong) is contesting there does not mean I shouldn’t,” she said.

In her first election outing, Gabungan Parti Sarawak candidate Dayang Noorazah Awang Sohor said despite being a newbie the party’s election machinery has gone all out to help her.

“I am grateful for all the help and guidance from my party elders including the men,” said the 32-year-old, who is the sole female candidate in a six-cornered fight.

Should she be chosen, Dayang Noorazah who is contesting in Lingga said her focus would be to help youth remain in school and assist women who, due to the current situation, are also required to work.

Siki Balarik, an Independent contesting in Belaga said women’s representation in politics should not just be encouraged but pushed.

“I am hoping that if elected, I can be their eyes and ears, to be the person who voices out their views, disappointments and demands,” said the businesswoman who is in a four-cornered fight for the seat.

Siki said parties such as GPS could have done better in promoting female representation, adding that fielding only four women candidates is disappointing for a coalition this big.

PSB candidate for Lambir Lila Mohammad said her strategy was to champion the welfare of the voters as it is a subject close to the heart of the people in the constituency.“I want to ensure that welfare assistance reaches every deserving constituent,” she said.

Aside from welfare issues, the 68-year-old would also highlight the need to update basic infrastructure such as electricity, water supply, roads, telecommunications and Internet service for the constituency.

Lila and two other women candidates from PKR and Parti Bumi Kenyalang are attempting to wrest the seat from its incumbent Dr Ripin Lamat of GPS.



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