DAP Women calls on the Penang Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon to replace the State Women Affair Committee Chairperson Datuk Kee Phaik Cheen

Media Statement
by Chong Eng

(Penang, Friday): DAP Women calls on the Penang Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon to replace the State Women Affair Committee Chairperson Datuk Kee Phaik Cheen with someone who has better knowledge and understanding of women’s aspiration and needs. 

Kee has done nothing meaningful for women in last 12 years as the chairperson of the State Women Affair Committee. The state organized Women’s Day celebration from 13-16 last December was the latest event organized by her committee that again exposed her ignorant of what Women’s Day is all about. Instead of to commemorate the struggle of women for equality and empowering them, she has turned the Women’s Day celebration into a product promotion fair encouraging women to spent money on beauty products.


Her reply to my above comment on the Women’s Day celebration has further exposed that she is also ignorant of  the objective of her portfolio which is to promote gender equality and enhance women’s status in the society. She defended herself saying that the objective of the My Life Style Expo held in conjunction with the Women’s Day celebration was to promote the beauty of the women and to show that women can enter the kitchen, also can enter the main hall.


Women can enter the kitchen, also can enter the main hall was a old and feudalistic value of a good or dream woman a man would like to have as a wife. It means a woman should be a good cook and at the same time gracious enough to entertain the guests in the hall as a way to please her husband.


We are not against cooking or women making themselves beautiful or to have the graceful quality. But we are against re-enforcing the stereotyped gender relationship where women are subordinate to men. We are of opinion that it is the responsibility of both husband and wife in maintaining an equal relationship with mutual respect and pleasing rather than one-sidedly depends on whether the wife was able to please the husband as implied by Datuk Kee Phaik Cheen, probably unconsciously. But it was enough to show that Kee did not have the suitable mind set for the job. Sub-consciously She still embraces the feudalistic value of women that demand women to be subordinate to men and subscribed to the outdated value that women must make themselves beautiful, gracious and a good cook regardless whether she is a full time house maker or a working mother, in order to please the men. I believe the Penang state government did not set up the Women Affair Committee with propagating this feudalistic value as the objective.


Barisan Federal government first in co-operated a chapter on women development in the Sixth Malaysia Plan in 1990. The main objective of the National Action Plan for Women is to promote gender equality, change the stereotyped thinking of seeing women as property of men. It further planned to empower women by setting up more childcare facilities to enable more women to participate in labor market and nation building.


Kee Phaik Cheen was appointed Penang State Women Affair Committee chairperson in 1990. She attended the 4th World Women’s Convention in China in 1995. However her words and actions did not portray that she has learned anything from the convention. She did not promote affirmative action for women and denied that there are sexual harassment cases in Penang.


The Women Affair Committee in the last 12 years, as a whole did not have any impact on the state government’s policy on housing for poor women and single mothers. The state has not provided childcare facilities for the needy working mothers and failed to persuade private companies to provide in-house childcare centers for their employees.


Johore state government set up the women affair portfolio in 1995, five years latter than Penang but the state has managed to set up several shelters for women compare to none in Penang. In fact in 1995 when I raised the issue of rape and violent against women in the State Assembly and urged Kee to spent more time on and pay more attention to Women Affair portfolio, her reply was that the issue was not under her portfolio but belongs to that of Health committee.


Women all over the world for the last century have struggled hard to achieve gender equality. As the Penang State Women Affair Committee Chairperson, Kee not only did not promote this objective but also promoted the opposite, reinforcing the old, feudalistic value of gender subordination. DAP Women therefore is of the opinion that she is not fit to lead the committee any longer. Twelve years is enough.


We are of the opinion that the Women Centre For Change, formally known as Women crisis center, since formed in 1985, has done much more for women in terms of providing services and advocating for gender equality. We therefore would like to propose the state entrust the Women Affair committee under its leadership.


As the Penang Chief Minister, it is Dr Koh Tsu Koon’s power to appoint Kee Phaik Cheen as chairperson for the State Women Affair Committee. It is now his responsibility and duty to remove her as she has proven herself unfit for the job.



* Chong Eng, DAP Wanita Chairperson and Member of Parliament for Bukit Mertajam