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GE2008 - Shahrizat was wronged!

I refer to the Malaysiakini report Shahrizat made special adviser with minister status .

Thank god! Almost everyone I know is happy with the election results, and so am I. I am so proud to be Malaysian, I burst at the seams. I was, however, devastated by Shahrizat’s loss.

Over and over again, I heard that, Shahrizat did not deserve and should not have lost her seat’ and ‘Isn’t it too bad she was up against Anwar’s daughter? The rakyat did not vote against her personally but against the establishment- she was just collateral damage’.

Huh? No insult to Anwar’s daughter, because I don’t know her and have no idea what she’s capable of achieving, but honestly, did the rakyat vote for the best candidate in Lembah Pantai to serve the people? My opinion? No! Emphatically!

The wave of sentiment against BN is understandable and I am so proud of Malaysians that they stood up against injustice and change. But, in doing so, in punishing and making examples of BN candidates, they also voted out a very effective, compassionate and intelligent leader who was making great positive changes and aiding those who had fallen through the cracks through ignorance, incompetent systems, procedures and arrogance. I am talking about the children many may not know about - the children that Shahrizat fought for, that many of you do not know of.

I speak from experience, having worked with her on different projects for children- stateless children, the urban poor, the street children- marginalised children.

Before anyone jumps down my throat, let me tell you that I do not work for government - I work for an NGO and have been for the last 22 years of my life. I have many complaints against the Welfare Department and the system and how we treat our children, but I must stand up and defend, as I do many times, those who have been wronged. Shahrizat was wronged!

In the years that I have worked with her, the ministry, under her care, was the only ministry I know, who had an ‘open door’ policy, where you could literally walk in through her doors any time of the day and speak to someone who would make sure what you had to say would get back to her. Sure, it would take a while, but it would get to her and she would act. Do you have any idea how many walked through her door daily? Name another ministry where you could do this?

She fought for the rights of all children, under CRC, to be respected and honoured. I sat in on one of those meetings where she argued with a representative from the Immigration Department, for an hour and a half, reasoning with him that it was our duty to protect all children, not just Malaysian children in this country.

I walked in with documented cases of children, hurt, violated, abused. Why? Because they were almost all stateless children and had no rights under the current system. Within a week, of me filing a complaint and submitting my documents, there was a programme with JKM and JPN officers coming to register the children I had.

Shahrizat did it. Nobody else cared enough. She fought for the Anti- Trafficking Bill of 2007, that was comprehensive and protected all children, regardless whether they were refugees or stateless. How it is to be implemented is not up to her - it is under the Ministry of Home Affairs, I believe and a council- elect. But she was one of the driving forces to push it through.

The Child Protection Policy that has been tabled to Parliament? It was her initiative. People are so quick to blame her for all that goes wrong with children (I cannot speak about any other group because I haven’t had dealings with her in these other areas) but you know what? She can only help children within the guidelines and rules that are in place, as horrible as they are and she would be the first to acknowledge and apologise for this - and actually do something about it!

No, she cannot prosecute a case of abuse or murder of a child - that’s up to the police and prosecutors. No, she cannot decide where a child goes during a custody battle- that’s up to the courts. No, she cannot find your missing child once they are missing. Her hands are tied by current laws and her officers have to enforce them the way they see and interpret them (that’s for another time - which I do have huge problems with, but my point is, it’s not the minister’s fault - she really tries but it’s the system that has failed).

But what she does know and tries to do, is to identify the loopholes, fill in the gaps and make amendments to the law. That was what she did, that was what she was trying to do and more that needs to be done.

She had three important areas under her- women’s issues, family development and welfare- which includes, children, the old, the sick, the mentally challenged, the physically challenged, the poor, the rich, the abused, the violated - through floods, fire, rain or shine. It is a formidable task to juggle all these departments and meet the needs of all and still be gracious and compassionate and effective.

No, she is not cold and uncaring like her posters suggest and no, she is not into glamour and rich people only. She can speak and move within all circles easily. Have you all spoken to her and sat down with her? All of you who voted against her?

She involved more NGO’s and people on the ground and actually listened to what everyone had to say while setting up projects and programmes for the children. She had youth participation and children delegates in her Counsel of Children’s Welfare and Protection

She was implementing more ‘grassroots-up’, not, top-down policies and implementation systems. Now if more BN politicians had done that and been less arrogant, things might have been better. How many other ministries did that? She really listened and she took action and implemented as quickly as she could.

Of course, mistakes were made and of course, there were failures. She’s not perfect and she is a politician, at the end of the day. But, my question is this - did the best candidate win at Pantai Dalam? No! But thank goodness she is back!

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