KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 20 — PAS has never banned its female members from contesting in elections, said party vice-president Datuk Mahfuz Omar today.
Mahfuz was responding to former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad who accused the Islamist party yesterday of manipulating Islam for reversing its alleged stand against fielding women candidates.
“Khadijah Sidek was our first female candidate, whom we fielded in the fifties,” Mahfuz (picture) told reporters today.
Khadijah became the first female PAS MP after winning the Dungun parliamentary seat in 1959.
Prior to that, the vocal politician was elected as Umno’s Kaum Ibu chief in 1954, before she was expelled from Umno two years later.
PAS has fielded Labis PAS Wanita chief Normala Sudirman to challenge Barisan Nasional (BN)’s Mohd Azahar Ibrahim in the upcoming Tenang by-election.
Today, Mahfuz expressed confidence that the 38-year-old former teacher would attract the female vote.
Women reportedly make up 53 per cent of the 14,753 voters in the Tenang state constituency.
“She is an educated young woman who is brave enough to quit the civil service to fight for the people,” said Mahfuz.
He also pointed out that PAS’s policies were women-friendly.
“PAS led the maternity-leave issue in Kelantan, after which the federal government followed suit,” said Mahfuz.
Kelantan was the first state to introduce a 60-day maternity leave for civil servants after PAS took control in 1990.
Last May, Kelantan Women, Family and Health Committee chairman Wan Ubaidah Wan Omar said maternity leave for the state’s civil servants would be extended to 90 days starting this year.
Women, Family and Community Development Minister Senator Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil also said last month that the public sector would enjoy a 90-day maternity leave policy effective this year.
Today, Mahfuz said PAS had introduced a five-day work week in Kelantan to enable women to spend more time with their family.
“We have also proven that PAS acknowledges the role of women in politics,” said Mahfuz.
He listed several PAS women leaders, such as Titiwangsa MP Dr Lo’ Lo’ Ghazali, Kota Raja MP Dr Siti Mariah Mahmud, Selangor executive councillor Dr Halimah Ali, Kelantan executive councillor Wan Ubaidah and Kedah executive councillor Aishah Ghazali.
Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin told the BN machinery yesterday to help recapture a majority of more than 5,000, which was previously achieved by the BN in the 2004 general election.
He said the Tenang by-election represented a test for the Johor BN and only by winning the seat with the large majority could it prove that Johor remained a bastion for the ruling coalition.
The Tenang state constituency, located in the parliamentary constituency of Labis, has 14,753 voters, including 7,014 Malays (47.54 per cent), 5,766 Chinese (39.08 per cent) and 1,780 Indians (12.07 per cent).
It was called following the death of incumbent Datuk Sulaiman Taha from Umno on December 17 and is the 14th by-election since Election 2008.
It is also the first by-election in Johor since the March 2008 general election.
Nomination has been set for January 22, while voting is on January 30.
Tenang is one of two state seats in the Labis parliamentary constituency held by MCA’s Chua Tee Yong.
Sulaiman, 59, won the seat against PAS’s Mohd Saim Siran with a majority of 2,492 votes in election 2008.