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Promoting Rosmah

Rosmah Mansor (Source:
MANY Malaysian political blogs have already started to sneer at Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor‘s official website. This is, perhaps, not surprising. After all, her husband, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, had to deal with highly acidic public opinion even before he assumed office in April 2009.

There are valid questions about possible abuses of power and corruption on the part of the incumbent premier and his wife. But a quick Google search through the various political blogs will also turn up criticisms against Najib and Rosmah that are personal in nature.

Rosmah, especially, is ridiculed for various aspects of her physical appearance. Even in blogger and journalist Niki Cheong‘s cool-headed critique of Rosmah’s website, commenters could not resist conflating their criticisms with personal — though relatively harmless — attacks on how she looks.

Underlying these criticisms of Rosmah’s bearing is discomfort and a legitimate query: why does the spouse of Malaysia’s prime minister have a microsite on the prime minister’s official website?

Other spouses

Cheong pointed out that the spouses of the US president and Australian prime minister only have brief write-ups about who they are on a page of the official government websites. Carla Bruni, wife of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, has her own personal website; probably because she already was a public figure before she became France’s first lady. Jordan’s Queen Rania also has her own personal website.

Carla Bruni (Pic by Remi Jouan /
Wiki commons)
But apart from not piggy-backing on publicly funded government websites, Bruni and Queen Rania are technically spouses of heads of state, not government. In countries that have separate heads of state and government, the head of state usually embodies the spirit of the country. The head of government, well, governs, and ideally without the influence or interference, real or assumed, of a spouse.

There are several layers to the issue, then. How and why do these first spouses have their own websites, official or personal? Just because everyone else is doing it, does it mean we should, too? More importantly, what does Rosmah’s official site say about the nature of government in Malaysia?

What’s the function?

Here is what the official website of the Prime Minister’s Office says about its function: “To secure an efficient environment for the prime minister to perform his [or her] duties and responsibilities effectively.” And its objective: “To provide, organise and deliver speedy services in performing the tasks and responsibilities of the prime minister.”

In that case, is Rosmah’s microsite meant to “secure an efficient environment” for the PM “to perform his duties and responsibilities effectively”? Is Rosmah providing, organising and delivering “speedy services in performing the tasks and responsibilities of the prime minister” via her site?

The answers might be deceptively obvious to some Malaysians. But in a recent interview with The Nut Graph, even former Dewan Negara President Tan Sri Dr Abdul Hamid Pawanteh opined that Malaysians have difficulty distinguishing between party and government. In his words: “Malaysia is Barisan Nasional, Barisan Nasional is Malaysia.” In Rosmah’s case, this confusion is being muddied even further — the lines are not merely being blurred regarding party and government, but also regarding leaders and their spouses.

Hillary Clinton (Public domain)
That Rosmah’s official site, which aims to illuminate her “role” as the prime minister’s wife, is part of the website of the Prime Minister’s Office could mean that Rosmah is part of government. Sure, this could be the butt of many a political joke. Back when Bill Clinton was US president, citizens joked about his wife Hillary really being the one in charge of the country. Similarly, the fact that Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail is president of Parti Keadilan Rakyat has not stopped many Malaysians from regarding Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim as the party’s real leader. The Wan Azizah-Anwar example, however, is less problematic at the moment since the party is not in federal government.

And speaking of the Clintons, this is what Rosmah had to say on 8 July 2009: “No, I am not going to be a Hillary Clinton. As the First Lady, I can comment on other things, but I do not want to get involved in policies and governing the country.” Does her site send a conflicting message to what she is publicly saying?

Parliamentary democracy

In a parliamentary democracy such as Malaysia, the prime minister is the head of the government who answers to Parliament. In other words, a parliamentary prime minister has a “day-to-day” role of defending and explaining his or her government in Parliament to other elected representatives of the people. And Najib’s official website is but another platform for him to defend and explain his administration’s performance.

Michelle Obama (Public domain)
By allowing Rosmah to have her microsite on the prime minister’s official website, does this portend that she, too, has an official government role to play?

The simple answer is that neither Michelle Obama nor Thérèse Rein, wife of Australian PM Kevin Rudd, has to appear in the US Congress or Australian Parliament. And maybe that’s why their pages on their governments’ official websites offer but brief profiles. Perhaps the Australian and US electorate want to know a little bit about these first spouses — were they ever war criminals; do they perform public services on their own merit; what do they look like? — that sort of thing.

Thérèse Rein (Public domain)
Rosmah’s microsite, on the other hand, does not just provide a brief bio or profile. It constantly updates her speeches, her news appearances, and her daily activities. Rosmah has, of course, every right to engage with citizens in this way, but to do so on an official government website would lead some to ask if she is not in fact trying to play some government role.

Additionally, there is the point of whether taxpayers’ money should be used to promote the profile of the prime minister’s spouse, when she is neither an elected representative nor a public servant accountable to the public.

It does not help, then, when some of Rosmah’s supporters and detractors either defend or attack her from a purely personal perspective. Even if Rosmah were the most beloved, popular Malaysian prime minister’s spouse in living history, the question remains: does the prime minister’s spouse deserve a microsite on the official website of the Prime Minister’s Office?

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18 Responses to “Promoting Rosmah”

  1. siew eng says:

    There was also that inexplicable meeting [with] Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew [who] wanted [to meet] with her. The Straits Times reported him as saying it was because she and the PM were a team! Lee even talked about bilateral cooperation!

  2. Sam says:

    In Malaysia, Umno owns the country and it can do whatever it likes — take over a state government, throw out a Speaker and rob the country.

  3. raguel says:

    What is Rosmah’s qualification? Where did she graduate [from]? What contribution [has] she made as a spouse of [the PM]? What are her achievements so far???

  4. My2cen says:

    Blatant abuse of government funds and rights. We don’t have a First Lady, she should stop her self-promotion, it has hit an all-time low!

    It’s like direct marketing now… Maybe she used to sell tupperwares, or maybe her advisers used to do that and are all members of Amway. But it ain’t the way to do things with the government. She’s not a paid government official, just someone’s wife. Someone please pinch her and take down the […] site!

    She should just […] follow Siti Hasmah’s example. Whatever we thought of [Dr Mahathir], we still looked up to Siti Hasmah as the ideal wife and the mother of all Malaysians. She went about her activities diligently and supported her husband in the background, never taking the thunder from him.

  5. Half Truth says:

    What is more important here is, when we judge a person, it should not be on the book cover itself. We should judge a person based on three main critical areas where wholesome and unwholesome deeds are created i.e. through speech, action and mind (thinking).

    The sum of these three [areas of] activities is where the true quality of person is shown or duly reflected. This is where one’s daily activities are executed, [and the] persons surrounding them would be positively or negatively affacted.

    […] doing wholesome actions to humanity is the starting point for people to gain respect, and avoid doing evil as it destroys completely one’s human value.

  6. Sharon Nelson says:

    Hi Shanon,

    Just to add a bit: If I’m not mistaken, in the US system, the First Lady is officially entitled to have a staff of her own to manage her image, activities etc. I guess the microsite is a logical extension of that. Spouses of our PMs get a security detail and same-class travel, but I’m not sure what else our system makes provisions for. Does anyone know?

  7. banana says:

    If My2cen is correct, and it is a “Blatant abuse of government funds”, then perhaps this is a case for our MACC?

  8. TPHC? says:

    TPHC? provides quantitative analyses of our first lady so the public should get to know and emulate her better.

    We have parameterised hair : face ratio, or %hair : %face so admirers will know what they need to shoot for when they hit the perm parlours.

    The methodology used is a simple integration procedure. A grid is overlaid on the subject’s photo. In this example your, photo was used.

    Hair = 10 squares
    Face = 4 squares

    Total = 14 squares

    Percentage Hair = 71%

    Percentage Face = 29%

    Hair to face ratio =

    10:4 = 5:2

    We’ve been getting 60% to 70% hair for most of the recent photographs.

  9. chinhuatw says:

    The “First Lady” worship does not begin with Rosmah. It began with Dr Siti Hasmah. With due respect to her social activism and support for sports, was she qualified for a Tun-ship?

    Because this has not been questioned, so the late Endon was made the next Tun by virtue of her marriage to a prime minister. Can you blame Rosmah for wanting greater say in running the country?

    Of course, she is far less likable compared to Siti Hasmah and Endon. Fortunately for us, it wakes us up to reflect on this now.

  10. Ida Bakar says:

    Isn’t our First Lady supposed to the the Raja Permaisuri Agong? (Or I’ve been away too long?)

  11. Hoyohoyo says:

    In country like the US, there’s an office for the First Lady with its “official role” spelt out […]. Interestingly enough, the First Lady is actually referred to the “hostess” of the White House, who is commonly the spouse of the president. Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama, they are the spouse of the head of state and are thus rightly called “First Lady”.

    Our country rightly spelt out the position, significance and role of the “First Lady”, too! Except this position is assumed by the spouse of our head of state, i.e. our Permaisuri. She is officially paid to assume the role, and as such, I believe she is part of the government, as a spouse to the Yang DiPertuan Agong.

    As a result, it is not right to call the prime minister’s spouse the “First Lady” [or “First Husband”] in the very first place. Secondly, neither the constitution nor our 52 years of governance convention, nor most other commonwealth countries’ constitution officially recognises the role of the prime minister’s spouse.

    I myself believe that unless Parliament enacts a law to recognise the office of the PM’s spouse, Rosmah Mansor does not deserve a “corner” on the PMO website, except her biography.

  12. eagle says:

    I thought she is the Second Lady. The First Lady was out.

  13. gen says:

    I don’t think our beloved Permaisuri has a personal website..though I would love to know, if she does.

  14. Azmi says:

    I would say yes, Rosmah does not only deserve the microsite but truth be told is Malaysia’s actual prime minister……

  15. dreameridiot says:

    [Has] anyone noticed how Rosmah gets print space in the media, not to mention, certain congratulatory print ads includes both PM and her together, and not PM alone which should usually be the case.

    And the plan to have her website in French, Russian and some other European languages, which I doubt will be carried out, is a sign of arrogance and self-importance.


    Btw, Lee Kuan Yew is no fool when he decided to meet Rosmah. The people he met were all the political power players in the country, including Nik Aziz. It was no trip down memory lane for him, he was checking how the Malaysian political situation would affect Singapore.

  16. D.Iaspora says:

    The more she appears on the internet and the more she comments on the net – she is only going to attract FLAK. She is already personified as Lady Macbeth of Shakespearian fame. Would it not be wise for her to keep to the sidelines […]?

  17. sumat says:

    A new Imelda Marcos is in the making.

  18. H. Y. Ong says:

    Very unbecoming for the wife of a head of government to behave as […] the wife of a head of state. Two different positions. It is wrong of the Umno-controlled government to permit her antics. I won’t comment on her physical appearance. No, she does not deserve a microsite on the PM’s official website.

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