KUALA LUMPUR - The presidential bid by former Speaker Halimah Yacob has attracted attention from both sides of the political spectrum in Malaysia, who have commended her credentials as a capable leader.
Last Saturday, Malaysia's Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid called on the women's wing of Umno to pray that she wins.
And, on Saturday (Aug 19), the number two leader of opposition Parti Amanah Negara, Salahuddin Ayub, said the Malays in Singapore have risen through their own effort and praised Madam Halimah as one of them, as someone who is "truly qualified and is capable".
Datuk Seri Zahid, speaking at the opening of the annual meeting of Johor Umno's Parit Sulong division on Aug 12, said the party is committed to fielding more women candidates at the next general election.
He said many countries have had women playing leading roles and Malaysia aims to do the same, Bernama news agency reported him as saying.
"In Bangladesh, they had as prime minister Khaleda Zia, president of Indonesia Megawati Sukarnoputri. God willing, Speaker of Singapore parliament Halimah Yacob will become president of Singapore, we pray together for this," he said.
Umno-owned Utusan Malaysia newspaper last week had an article titled "Berubahkah nasib kaum Melayu di Singapura? Presiden sekadar simbolik" (Will the fortunes of Malays change in Singapore? President is only symbolic). Singapore's High Commissioner to Malaysia Mr Vanu Gopala Menon issued a rebuttal to the paper over the false allegations on Singapore's upcoming presidential election which is reserved for Malay candidates, and on its Malay community.
"Contrary to the false assertions in the commentary, the Singapore President, who is elected with a popular mandate, plays key roles in nation-building and in ensuring good governance," he wrote.
Amanah's deputy president Mr Salahuddin, speaking at the party's women's meeting yesterday, praised both Singapore's Malay community and Madam Halimah.
"The racial rhetorics played up in our country, particularly through government propaganda, they say 'what will happen tomorrow if the government were to change? Malays here will end up like Malays in Singapore.'
"Hello! Wake up. This is no longer the time. The Malays in Singapore today have enough money (on their own)," he said, as quoted by Malaysiakini news site. Mr Salahuddin cited funds collected through Mendaki for the education of Singaporean Malays.
He said that rather than providing students with government scholarships like in Malaysia, Singapore's founding father the late Lee Kuan Yew facilitated a system for Malay workers to contribute a part of their salaries to Mendaki for their children's future.
Mr Salahuddin, who was formerly a vice-president in Parti Islam SeMalaysia, said Singaporean Malays have also risen through the ranks across various critical sectors and public administration.
"They struggled to gain merit and not become a race that thrives on sympathy or a 'subsidy race' which is the practice here," he said.
He also praised Madam Halimah for rising to become the Speaker on her own merit and not based on her gender.
"Singapore appreciates and uplifts the women of Singapore. Firstly, she (Halimah) is truly qualified and is capable.
"A woman who has undergone the processes in the political world. A woman who is great and is able to prove her worth anywhere she is," he said, as quoted by Malaysiakini.