Promoting Rosmah

(The Nut Graph) 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?

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