Singapore—At a forum in honour of International Women’s Day on Monday (Mar 8), Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam refuted the idea that gender is an issue when it comes to qualifying for political leadership.
On the contrary, Mr Shanmugam told the participants at the National University of Singapore forum, more women are welcome in Parliament.
The minister had been a panellist at the forum, which tackled issues of justice, equality, and respect for women in Singapore.
TODAY quotes him as saying, “We want more women MPs (Members of Parliament). We look actively and scour talents to see as many of them as ministers as possible.”
In response to this, newspaperwoman turned journalism professor Bertha Henson wrote in a Facebook post that the question is not whether or not Singapore is ready for a particular kind of leader.
This is a reference, perhaps, to the oft-recurring and contentious issue of whether or not the country is ready for a non-Chinese Prime Minister.
The issue, for Prof Henson, is whether the ruling People’s Action Party is ready.
Therefore, the premise of whether or not the public has a choice as to readiness for any leader, she wrote, is a misleading one.
Prof Henson shared a link from TODAY about Mr Shanmugam’s remarks, and wrote, “Interesting but I wish the media doesn’t carry on this fiction about Singapore being ready for a whatever PM. The question is whether the PAP is ready. In fact, it should be whether the PAP is ready for a whatever PARTY LEADER because you can’t assume it would be in power all the time. We really shouldn’t be misleading the public into thinking they have a real choice. POFMA-able.”
TODAY reported that at the forum, a political science student had asked if the country is ready for a woman Prime Minister, and had pointed out that among the 19-member central executive committee of the PAP, only three are women.
Mr Shanmugam answered that there are fewer women in politics because it of the toll it exacts on a woman when it comes to balancing her family’s needs and her work responsibilities.
He said, “It is an impossible task to balance your professional life with your political life because your weekends are pretty much completely taken up. If you have an active professional life, you are also spending your weekends preparing for them.
“And then at night, three times a week, you are in your constituency. Weekends, you are in your constituency, parliamentary sessions you are juggling… it takes a toll on you, on your family life, on your work.
“Not many men are prepared to make that sacrifice. For women, there is often the added question of the family as well.”
He also pointed out that in the PAP’s 4G, or fourth generation of leaders, are Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment, Manpower Minister Josephine Teo and Ms Indranee Rajah, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office.
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