“Former Nominated Member of Parliament Braema Mathi yesterday expressed her disappointment that no full woman minister was appointed to replace Mrs. Lim Hwee Hua in the new Singapore Cabinet” (Ex-NMP’s Grouse: No New Full Woman Minister, Miss Lei Jiahui).
The concern raised by honorary director of the Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE) Miss Braema Mathi – in the news report “Ex-NMP’s Grouse: No New Full Woman Minister” (May 20, 2011) by Miss Lei Jiahui – is a valid one. With the significant changes made to the Cabinet line-up, as well as the election of a number of female politicians to Parliament, the absence of a full woman minister in Cabinet is considerably lamentable. The assertion put forth by many observers is a straightforward one: if political newcomers – with their relative inexperience and lack of on-the-ground engagement – can be entrusted with ministerial positions; female parliamentarians – who have established themselves over the years – should be given the same opportunities.
Mrs. Lim Hwee Hua had set a respectable precedent as a Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office; her unassuming demeanour and constructive approaches won over critics who contended that she would struggle with her portfolio. Over the years, within the government, female Member of Parliaments (MP) have stood their ground and brought across their constituents’ feedback eloquently: Dr. Lily Neo has been passionate in speaking up for low-income families, Miss Sylvia Lim relentlessly questioning high ministerial salaries et cetera. More importantly, a plethora of female politicians have been responsible for a variety of appointments and departments, such as but not limited to: Ministers of State, mayors, coordinators of statutory boards and agencies.
Not forgetting the fact that, in terms of mandate from the recently-concluded General Elections, Dr. Amy Khor of the People’s Action Party (PAP) scored the biggest victory for her party when she emerged victorious in the Hong Kah North constituency.
A recent online commentary published by Newsweek magazine argued that in the United States, female politicians were considered to be generally more effective lawmakers. Within Congress, female politicians sponsored and co-sponsored more bills than their male counterparts; at the same time, they have been able to secure bigger budgets for an assortment of developmental projects in their home districts. While some might dispute the feasibility or hasty generalisations of these comparisons, the bottom-line is this: female politicians are as competent – if not more – than male politicians. Back in Singapore, our female parliamentarians have indeed proven that they can walk the talk.
It is true that we should not have women in the Cabinet for the sake of having women; however, it is hard to convince Singaporeans otherwise when the track record and abilities of our female politicians have been nothing short of outstanding.