The inclusion of Arau MP Datuk Shahidan Kassim, who was once charged for molesting a 15-year-old girl, in the Parliamentary Special Select Committee (SSC) for women and children’s affairs has been criticised today.
The Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) condemned the appointment in the strongest terms.
Its executive director Sumitra Visvanathan said a government that is serious about protecting children would not appoint an accused predator of children to a committee to protect child rights.
“It must be remedied by the government immediately.
“Until this is done, the committee can never have the credibility to make the reforms we need to better protect children.
“Please make protecting children our top priority,” she said.
Earlier today, Dewan Rakyat deputy speaker Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said shared on her Twitter that SSC had an online meeting yesterday, and the committee members had selected her as the chairman.
Apart from Shahidan, also in the committee are Kota Samarahan MP Rubiah Wang (GPS-PBB), Che Alias Hamid (Pas-Kemaman), Dr Nik Muhammad Zawawi Salleh (Pas-Pasir Puteh), Fuziah Salleh (PKR-Kuantan), and Alice Lau Kiong Yieng (DAP-Lanang).
Lau today said that Shahidan had once even opposed the formation of the committee.
“I fought very hard for the formation of this SSC. Arau and Bintulu were the two out of seven house committee members who rejected it! He rejected the SSC and now he’s in SSC!
“Welcome Arau to SSC for Women & Children Affairs & Social Development,” she posted, with an angry emoji.
“I am actually shocked and disgusted…Don’t forget he was the one…he and Bintulu were the ones who vehemently objected to the formation of this committee,” said DAP’s Batu Kawan MP Kasthuriraani Patto.
Kasthuriraani and Lau were among those who had pushed for the formation of said committee.
“Don’t forget that he also has this molest case. While he was discharged, he was not acquitted, and it was with a child! I mean, how regressive has our Parliament become, that we have to include specimens like Shahidan in this committee?” she asked.
Former deputy women’s minister Hannah Yeoh congratulated Azalina’s appointment via Twitter, but sarcastically pointed out that the inclusion of other Barisan Nasional (BN) and Perikatan Nasional (PN) MPs in it were due to the decision of the PN backbenchers’ chief.
“In Parliament, I have also raised the issue of unequal representation in Select Committees,” Yeoh said in a separate tweet.
“It should reflect the actual composition of Opposition, i.e. if we have close to 50 percent MPs, we should have at least three to four Opposition MPs in these Committees and not just two!”
The appointment has also been opposed by many social media users due to Shahidan’s previous history of alleged sexual predatory behaviour.
Among others, child rights activist Syed Azmi Alhabshi said that a woman should have taken the Arau MP’s place instead.
“How can someone once accused of molesting a child be included in this list?” he asked on his Facebook profile.
On Nov 12, 2018, Shahidan was charged at the Kangar Sessions Court with molesting a 15-year-old girl by holding her hand and caressing her shoulder inside a Toyota Harrier at the open space of the Tuanku Syed Putra Stadium here at 11.30pm on Oct 20.
He was charged under Section 14(a) of the Sexual Offences Against Children Act 2017 for physical sexual assault on a child by touching any part of the child’s body.
Shahidan, who is Arau MP, however, pleaded not guilty to the charge.
On Apr 24, 2019, the Sessions Court granted him a discharge not amounting to an acquittal, over the charge.
Defence counsel Zamri Ibrahim said the discharge follows the victim’s decision to retract her report.
Meanwhile, Shahidan said that he was listed as a member of the committee without his confirmation.
He added that it was only temporary and that Parit MP, Datuk Seri Noraini Ahmad, who is also the higher education minister, will be taking over.
He said he entered the committee temporarily, pending a candidate selection by his party.
“I entered when there were no PN representatives as yet. I am the PNBBC chief,” he said, referring to his role in the Perikatan Nasional (PN) Backbenchers’ Club.
He said that male MPs were also selected to be on the committee, as there were not enough female MPs to fill the seats.