"Like This, Anyone Can Be Minister" – Women's Ministry Under Fire For Evading Questions

Segambut MP Hannah Yeoh made a sharp retort after Deputy Minister Datuk Siti Zailah Mohd Yusoff failed to answer questions brought up in the Dewan Rakyat.

Cover image via Muhammad Sulaiman/New Straits Times & Bernama/Malay Mail

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The Ministry of Women, Family, and Community Development (KPWKM) came under fire in Parliament on Wednesday, 6 October, after not providing details and progress updates on key policies

Its Deputy Minister, Siti Zailah Mohd Yusoff, was accused of "reading from her script" and providing generalised answers when other members of Parliament (MPs) questioned her on new laws and amendments involving women and social welfare – particularly the Sexual Harassment Bill.

"I've heard these answers before. I want to know the steps you have taken," Batu Kawan member of Parliament (MP) Kasthuri Patto asked for clarification.

Kasthuri pointed out that the acts were ready to be presented in Parliament since the change in governments and the Sexual Harassment Bill was already supposed to be debated in Parliament last year.

"You have been in a government with the biggest Cabinet for more than 24 months. You cannot still say 'berusaha' (trying). I want to know what your initiatives are to help working mothers return to work? What are your childcare policies? So far, you are speaking in generalities only."

Earlier, during Siti Zailah's 12th Malaysia Plan speech, Segambut MP Hannah Yeoh had also asked for the ministry's timeline to enact the new laws and amendments

"You said the ministry has finished its studies concerning the welfare needs of senior citizens and would prepare a draft to enact laws," Yeoh asked.

"Timeline-wise, the ministry has to table new laws for senior citizens, gender equality, social workers, sexual harassment, and amendments for the disabled."

"Which is going to go first, will we see any of them tabled this year?"

However, both times, Siti Zailah said she had a lot of matters to go through and asked the MPs to allow her to finish her speech.

In the end, the KPWKM Deputy Minister's time ran out and the Dewan Rakyat's Deputy Speaker, Datuk Mohd Rashid Hasnon, said the minister or ministry will send them her answers in written form.

At this point, Yeoh stood up to argue that debating in Parliament had no meaning but Rashid temporarily cut her microphone off

As Rashid continued to call on Deputy Communications Minister Datuk Zahidi Zainul Abidin to deliver his speech, Yeoh interjected and said that they were making a mockery of Parliament if MPs are not allowed to ask questions.

"Speaker, look at the situation in Parliament now. There seems to be no meaning in debates," Yeoh said.

"This makes a mockery of Parliament. We can't ask questions and there's no point in getting written answers. If reading from scripts is the way to go, then anyone can be a minister."

She added that questions should not be perceived as personal attacks.

Watch the commotion beginning at 40:25 below:

The government has long been called to speed up drafting and passing the Sexual Harassment Bill:

In recent times, Malaysia has seen a wave of sexual harassment allegations against perpetrators from various industries:

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