The Galen Centre for Health & Social Policy views with serious concern the appointment of Member of Parliament for Parit, Mohd Nizar Zakaria as the 11th chairperson of the National Population and Family Development Board (LPPKN).
The position of LPPKN chairperson has become increasingly crucial. Since 1966, the National Population and Family Development Board has played a critical role in the development of Malaysian society and ensuring that issues such as family planning and reproductive health are mainstreamed into the country’s development policies.
Today, the challenges faced by LPPKN are not only daunting and wide-ranging, there is both the potential to do great good but also inflict long-lasting harm.
We face issues such as teenage pregnancies, child abuse, incest, sexually transmitted diseases, unsafe abortions, child marriages, female genital cutting, and broken families.
Issues which are often entrusted to LPPKN to work with affected communities to help provide remedies and build solutions. These need to be evidence-driven and grounded on everyday realities.
The new chairperson must also address the realities of rising religious conservatism which is affecting girls and women’s right to sexual and reproductive health, especially for young and unmarried people.
Mohd Nizar has a serious job and big shoes to fill. Dr Narimah is a highly qualified health professional who not only has all the relevant credentials for the position, she is also well-respected for her work and views on maternal and sexual reproductive health.
She was a former regional advisor for the World Health Organization in the Southeast Asia region, and a former director of the Family Health Development Division of the Ministry of Health (MOH). Her public service in MOH stretches almost three decades.
Dr Narimah was also a serious candidate for the Regional Director of WHO’s Western Pacific office, who was nominated and supported by the Government of Malaysia. She was only just appointed LPPKN chair last March 2019.
Obviously, it is the prerogative of the Government to decide who holds such positions. However, those given such roles should be suitably qualified, experienced and with the relevant background for the job. This appointment should not be treated lightly.
Azrul Mohd Khalib is the chief executive of the Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy.
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