Concerned Malaysians, particularly women’s groups, feminists and rights activists, must have heaved a sigh of relief after learning that Arau MP Shahidan Kassim was eventually replaced as a member of the parliamentary special select committee on women, children and social development.
Parit MP Mohd Nizar Zakaria reportedly took over Shahidan’s position as a government member on the special select committee concerned in the wake of a huge protest from a broad range of civil society organisations against the appointment of the politician who was previously charged with molesting a 15-year-old girl in his car in October 2018.
Shahidan denied the charge and was given a discharge not amounting to an acquittal in 2019 after the girl withdrew the police report against him.
Although we were later told that Shahidan was initially appointed to the committee temporarily while waiting for his replacement, it suggests the insensitivity of the party that appointed him in the first place, given his record and inclination. Apart from the molest case, critics said Shahidan had opposed several times the proposal to set up such a committee, which is obviously crucial to affected women and children.
It is vital that committee members are made up of those who have the relevant expertise and commitment to deal with the matters at hand because its integrity should not be compromised. Nor should public trust in it be undermined.
Appointing a person with dubious or controversial background would only raise unnecessary doubts and a red flag about the committee concerned, especially when it is assigned to deal with such critical matters as the welfare of women and children that requires proper care and concern for its members.
The select committee concerned is tasked with holding the government accountable on a wide range of laws, including on sexual harassment. – The Malaysian Insight