Friday, May 18, 2012

Deputy minister urges action

Deputy Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Heng Sai Kee wants authorities to address the "butt exercise" routine conducted by Malaysian Arm Forces Veteran Association members outside Datuk S. Ambiga's home in Bukit Damansara on Wednesday.

She said that although she too did not support the Bersih 3.0 rally, headed by Ambiga, she felt the action of the army veterans was inappropriate.

"I do not see the 'butt exercise' as sexual harassment. It was more of a nuisance. Nonetheless, the matter should be addressed by the Defence Ministry's Department of Veterans Affairs.

"We are not sure if the routine is part of the army's exercise regime," she said.

However, Heng said that if Ambiga felt the ritual has affected her life or privacy, she could always filed a complaint.

She hoped the matter between Ambiga and those affected by the April 28 rally would be solved professionally.

Women NGOs, however, felt differently about the 'butt exercise' issue, describing it as sexual harassment and an invasion of privacy.

All Women’s Action Society (AWAM) programmes manager Betty Yeoh said the army veterans action were disrespectful.

"The term sexual harassment means unwanted conduct of sexual nature causing harassment.

"In this case, Ambiga found the 'butt exercise' to contain sexual elements but the grilling of burgers outside her home a form of harassment.

"Both acts had also intruded into the lives of those staying on the same street," she said.

Sisters in Islam acting executive director Ratna Osman said the association always cherished the democratic right to protest and air dissenting views without fear or retribution.

"However, what transpired at Ambiga’s private residence is a clear infringement of her privacy. After all, the recent rally took place in public areas and not at the residences of the Prime Minister or the Inspector-General of Police."

Ratna said there were elements of harassment in both protests outside Ambiga's home.

"We have to see past the business and look at the intent. In this case, the intent of setting up the burger stalls was clearly to intimidate Ambiga through a physical presence in front of her private residence," she said.

"Her Gandhian approach must be applauded," she said.

Women's Aid Organization executive director Ivy Josiah deemed the actions by the men outside Ambiga's home as crude and sexist.

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