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Rebel child in Mahathir's Malaysia
By Bhavana Vij

20/5/2001 10:29 pm Sun

[Sejak Marina Mahathir menceburi Yayasan AIDS pada 1993, semakin banyak pula kes yang melibatkan penyakit ini dilapurkan. Pada tahun 1993 ia cuma 6,000 kes sahaja tetapi pada tahun 2000 ia sudah naik berganda-ganda mencecah angka 38,000. Sepatutnya dia sudah lama bersara menerajui yayasan ini kerana semakin berleluasa penyakit yang amat merbahaya ini alang-alang promosi kaedah selamat hubungan seks yang dipeloporinya itu. Tentu kita masih ingat strategi memberi k*nd*m percuma yang langsung menggalakkan hubungan seks tanpa mengenal sopan budaya berleluasa.
- Editor

Rebel child in Mahathir's Malaysia

Bhavana Vij

Kuala Lumpur: Nobody would ever guess that she is the Prime Minister's daughter. There are no security personnel hovering around. She drives her own car and talks about sex and condoms.

The petite and attractive Marina Mahathir has no airs about her. She works with the Malaysian Aids Council - an umbrella organisation for 33 NGOs working in spreading AIDS awareness in the country. The 44-year-old daughter of prime minister Mahathir bin Mohammad is almost considered a rebel in the largely conservative society.

She writes an outspoken weekly column in a daily newspaper and takes up contentious issues like religion and talks about tolerance. She also manages a Public Relations and publishing house, and produces a TV programme for young women.

Dressed in a chic short skirt, Marina Mahathir says it is not easy being the PM's daughter. ''Since I am in the public eye - giving lectures on safe sex, condoms and needles - it is easier to target me. At times, I am also used as a surrogate target by people who actually want to target my father for political reasons,'' she says.

It has apparently not been easy for her. People don't take too kindly to a woman talking about ''taboo'' topics in public. And being the PM's daughter makes it worse.

But then there's always the flip side. Being her father's daughter also has a few benefits. ''It helps in opening doors, specially where fund raising for the Malaysian Aids Council is concerned. But then that is only the first step. Once through the door, it is upto me to convince people enough to shell out the money,'' she says. The council does not get any foreign funding, unlike in India where funds pour in from various international agencies for Aids awareness.

''We organise events and sell merchandise to raise the money. Sometimes, others organise functions and give the proceeds to the Malaysian Aids Council. We also get some funds from the government,'' Mahathir explains. She has surely succeeded in giving Aids awareness a high profile. She says that the scourge of Aids has really spread in the country '' In 1993, when I started working on Aids, there were 6,000 reported cases in Malaysia. According to the figures of the year 2000, they have increased manifold to 38,000. It is alarming. Sometimes I think what we are doing is not enough. The message is spreading to smaller towns outside Kuala Lumpur. We have to spread out more,'' says an impassioned Mahathir.

Married to an Indonesian, she has three children and tries her best to manage her time properly. ''I do stretch their patience. I am lucky that they still remember me,'' she says with a smile. Having studied International Relations from University of Sussex in Brighton, Mahathir feels that women in Malaysia have a long way to go. ''But unfortunately, the society is becoming more and more conservative,'' she adds. In the TV programme she produces, Mahathir teaches women about options in life. And once again one cannot help but compare Marina Mahathir with the kin of Indian politicians.