Wives directive upsets women

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 03 August, 1995, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 03 August, 1995, 12:00am

A PROPOSAL that Muslim men in the Malaysian state of Sabah who are planning to take extra wives should pick them from peninsular Malaysia to 'promote national integration' has been denounced by women opposed to the Islamic practice of polygamy.

A directive from the office of Ahmad Kambar, director of Sabah's National Unity Department, said Sabahan men who married West Malaysian women would be presented with a certificate and gift vouchers for kitchen utensils.

The scheme appears to be part of a continuing effort by the National Front coalition, which holds power at the federal level and regained control of Sabah last year after a period in opposition, to overcome the aloofness of many people in the Borneo state towards West Malaysians.

But the proposal has infuriated women both within and outside the National Front.

In a letter to The New Straits Times, a reader said Mr Kambar had done a great injustice not only to the women of Sabah but to the women of Malaysia in general and should be censured.

She said it was ironic that while the country and its leaders were promoting social values a director of national unity was 'promoting and encouraging polygamy'.

'Undoubtedly Islam permits four wives but I do not believe it is right to abuse this privilege,' she said.

She said Mr Kambar was making a mockery of social values, family unity and the sanctity of marriage.

A recent article on polygamy in The New Straits Times said it was a 'thriving institution' in Malaysia and gaining in popularity.

Writing in the newspaper, Mahani Idris Daim, wife of Daim Zainuddin, the economic adviser to the Government and former finance minister, described polygamy as 'nothing short of betrayal'.