Wan Azizah has no need to prove herself a leader because she is already one, moulded and trained through trial and tribulation, writes Angeline Loh.
Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail is a quiet-spoken woman. She is not only a wife and mother but has been a beacon among Pakatan Rakyat leaders.
This unassuming woman has faced the challenges of a political wife and leader with quiet steadfastness to her personal principles, loyalty, and faithfulness to her politically besieged husband, Anwar Ibrahim, and her party, Parti Keadilan Rakyat. She has been a pillar of strength in times of tribulation to her husband, children, comrades and compatriots.
Wan Azizah has taken a lot. When her husband was imprisoned on corruption and sodomy charges, it was Wan Azizah who continued to carry the torch of hope for ‘Reformasi’ and a better Malaysia – for him and the Rakyat.
It was she, in consultation with him, her political comrades, and the support of her daughters, who kept the PKR political train chugging.
It was she, as head of PKR, in collaboration with the other partners of Pakatan Rakyat, the DAP and Pas, who made the opposition takeover of five northern states possible at GE12 on 8 March 2008.
As a leader, she is a rock, who seemed to deal with each crisis with the wisdom and intuition of a woman and mother.
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Wan Azizah is an internationally highly respected professional among her peers and has shown herself a gracious and sporting candidate in each election contest she has faced. She has never been heard to utter a rude remark against any of her opponents, but has remained firm in her objectives, giving expression to them in her customary soft-spoken and motherly way.
Observing Wan Azizah from a distance, one gets the impression that her first role is that of a devout Muslim and devoted wife and mother. She would treat the nation as her family, where everyone matters equally. Her style and character seem not in sync with the usual politician; it is more that of a mother wanting to do what is best for her family, to nurture and protect them.
The sexist allegations from various quarters – that Wan Azizah is not a fit leader because she is a woman – are completely unfounded.
Her stand has always been clear, and she seems to have kept her quiet dignity, in the face of such fallacious and irrational attacks by those who attempt to smear her. There have been no dramatic exhibitions of emotion, despite her weeping at the unjust verdict of the Federal Court that again imprisoned her husband on 10 February 2015.
Still, Wan Azizah and her family persisted in hope by applying for a pardon from the Yang DiPertuan Agung for justice to be done. When that also failed, she continued to apply for a judicial review of the judgment.
No doubt, her persistence in wanting to see justice done for Anwar, is not only for herself and their family, but for the nation which is currently in a fast decaying state, with rising costs of living, and tangible authoritarian rule.
Despite apparently playing down her role in the survival of PKR and Pakatan Rakyat, Wan Azizah is a fitting model of a leader, one in whose footsteps, Nurul Izzah, her daughter closely follows to share the legacy of Anwar Ibrahim, who is prevented from serving the Rakyat as a democratically elected Member of Parliament.
Wan Azizah Wan Ismail has no need to prove herself a leader because she is already one, moulded and trained through trial and tribulation. She is as “gold through fire”, as veteran opposition leader Lim Kit Siang of the DAP describes the struggle of steadfast opposition politicians who have never given in to the lures of the ruling party.
She is Malaysia’s Lady, as Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is Burma’s Lady.