What is the Halimah advantage?

I overheard this today: “Shouldn’t more be celebrating that a woman, a minority, a totally capable and qualified person now sits as the Head of State? Criticise the system/process, not the person.”

Whether she was selected, elected, directed or resurrected… she is now at the seat and you will agree with me that she has what it takes, whether or not you chose her.

Now that the event is over, the hypocrites start turning up. Chief of all is the Worker’s Party. From day one, they have wanted the office of President to be nominated. Now that something close to that has happened, they have now swung around and said that Halimah should have been elected.

In fact, all of the opposition NCMPs would be hypocritical in asking for an election – they would not have sat in Parliament if not for the NCMP program: a system that allows defeated opposition politicians to be given a seat.

It isn’t Halimah’s fault that she didn’t get many competitors – it is just that few have stepped up. Don’t underestimate the Malay ground either, go and flip business magazines. There are hundreds of qualified Malay business and community leaders that qualify, but few want to. Hardly surprising because the office of President is a tremendous role and requires sacrifice – the demands of which shouldn’t be taken lightly. How many are willing to giveup their personal and family lives for this?

Now that she’s here, there is much she can do. Her unique position as a Malay woman gives her an advantage that another candidate may not. Women give a soft touch and approach problems very different from men. This is a position that is all about symbolism, unification, representation and all those feel good values that this nation so desperately needs.

Women in leadership is, even in the 21st century, not a common occurrence. Even if she was selected, so what? At least the system, (which Singaporeans put in place by the way), sees it fit for her to take on the highest office in the land.

Some say that she “cheated” and didn’t “earn it through an election”. This is incorrect. If anything, she would have to work doubly and triply hard to earn the respect. Look at Tin Pei Ling or the Tanjong Pagar team after the 2011 elections. One was accused of riding on a minister to win a seat, another was accused of having an unfair walkover.

Look at how Tin Pei Ling and Tanjong Pagar turned themselves around and shut up their critiques.

It may be a blessing in disguise that Halimah did not enter an election, because she now has to work extra time in order to convince the skeptical Singaporeans and that would have had a more powerful effect than an election would have.

And she would have no problem doing so. The internet may have made jokes about her being a nasi padang seller, but don’t let juvenile internet memes fool you. She has had strong record in organising charitable programs, donations and getting help for people in need both in and out of her constituency. Her trade union work gets her involved in helping workers whom need protection.

All that is the Halimah advantage and it is only her and her alone can pull of the work in that special and unique way that a Malay woman can.

 

 

About the author

Tay Leong Tan

Tay Leong Tan is a collective of 3 writers. Tay, Leong and Tan. (Who were you expecting?!) We are enthusiastic about labour issues, economics and current affairs in particular.

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