Thursday, December 8, 2011

The power of a First Lady - Asia Part II

Jian Qing - China former First Lady
In Asia where women are constrained by their culture and traditions to be subservient to men, First Ladies have been known to change the fate of their nations and affect millions of lives. Given the right conditions these women have expanded their power and influence in their respective countries.  The most infamous of the many past and present First Wives are from China, according to The Asia Mag, an online magazine. Jiang Qing assisted Mao Zedong in launching the Cultural Revolution and Soon Mei Ling helped her husband, Chiang Kai-shek extend ineffectual rule and delayed China's resistance to the Japanese invasion. Both women were responsible for the blood bath of millions in China.

Imelda Marco - Philippines former First Lady
Imelda Marcos of the Philippines is still known as the world's most famous shoe collector. She supported her dictator husband Ferdinand Marcos whose 20 year reign was marred by massive corruption, nepotism, political repression and human rights violations. When they were sent fleeing to Hawaii in 1986, they are said to have carried so much gold that their plane had to make many refueling stops.

Ibu Tien was less known to the rest of the world, than her husband General Suharto. Suharto was the second president of Indonesia who ruled with an iron fist from 1960s to 1990s. Ibu's official name was Raden Ayu Siti Hartinah, but was known by the Indonesians as Ibu Tien.  Madam Suharto was also known as "Madam 10 per cent" because of the commission she exacted. Her insatiable greed for money influenced her husband to grab money shamelessly. This greed was inherited by her six children who went all out to take money and peddle influence. She was widely acknowledge to be a close confidant and political advisor to her husband, President Suharto. Ong Hok Ham, a prominent Indonesian social historian, said in an interview "When Suharto rose to power, people believed the wife had the 'wahyu' (the flaming womb) and whoever united with her would get the 'wahyu'. After her death, people began to sense the 'wahyu' was gone." Ibu Tien died of a heart attack in 1996.

In countries such as Taiwan, Thailand and even Cambodia, that are considered democracies with regular elections by the West, have unelected First Ladies wielding uncurbed power. In Thailand, Potjaman Shinawatra chooses cabinet ministers for her husband, President Thaksin. The First Lady of Cambodia, Bun Rany Hun Sen runs among other entities the Red Cross. Madam Hun Sen is so powerful, it is said that she can get way with anything even perhaps murder. She was accused by a French magazine of arranging the murder of her husband's actress mistress. Madam Hun Sen did not respond or take action against the accusation.

Wu Shu-jen
The former Taiwan president, Chen Shui-bian was put in power by his wheelchair-bound wife, Wu Shu-jen. His popularity and high approval ratings lasted a few weeks before if fell sharply due to alleged corruption. It was his wife's addiction to money that turned his six year administration into corrupted machinery. They are both currently serving a 19 year jail term that was reduced from a life sentence.

In two of Asia's former British Colonies, Hong Kong and Singapore, the legal system does not allow First Wives to get involved in politics. However, this has not stopped  Selina Tsang nor Ho Ching from participating and exerting influence using alternative avenues. Selina is chief lobbyist of Hong Kong Chief Executive Donald Tsang (her husband) in Beijing. Ho runs the huge investment firm Temasek Holdings that is owned by the government of Singapore, of which her husband Lee Hsien Loon is the Prime Minister.

These are all powerful women in their own right and even though many seem to have cost their husbands their presidency or run down their countries, they are powerful individuals to reckon with. However, many times they are overlooked when issues are being discussed because they seem like silent, subservient wives. If you want to know the views or position on an issue of the First Lady in any country, listen when the President speaks.

Sonia Gandhi - India
First Ladies are role models for the women in their countries, whether they are good or evil. By virtue of being the most visible females in society they inspire other women who see their lives as more than just staying home and making babies. 

Possibly the most inspiring of all is Sonia Gandhi, the Italian-born widow of the late Rajiv Gandhi. She was the exemplary First Lady when her husband was prime minister of India. Her career blossomed after his death and today she runs the ruling Congress Party and through Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, decides on the fate of 1 billion people. This is a powerful woman. A First Lady who is now the First Person of India.

Source: The Asia Mag

No comments:

Post a Comment