London in the swim, what a shame!

FRANCIS PAUL SIAH

COMMENT | It was supposed to be hosted by Malaysia and originally scheduled to be held in Kuching, but now London gets the host job. Kuching’s loss is London’s gain. What a shame!

On Monday, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) awarded London the right to host the re-arranged 2019 world para swimming championships in September.

The move follows IPC’s decision to strip Malaysia’s hosting rights after the country failed to provide the necessary guarantees that Israeli athletes could participate safely and free from discrimination in the championships.

“We are delighted to announce London as the host city of the World Para Swimming Championships,” IPC president Andrew Parsons said in a statement.

The championships, originally scheduled in Kuching from July 29 to August 4, is also a key qualifier for the Tokyo Paralympic Games in 2020.

With this cancellation, Malaysia’s own para swimmers have been denied the chance to qualify for the Tokyo Games by competing in their own backyard. They have missed a golden opportunity at home and this is something which should not have happened.

I have spoken on this issue in the past. As with all who did not agree with Putrajaya’s stand to disallow Israeli athletes to enter the country and participate in the swimming championships, my message was this.

“This is an international sports event and swimmers from around the world who qualified should not be barred. All should be allowed to enter Sarawak and represent their respective nations accordingly.

“This is clearly a sports event and it should be seen and considered as that – purely a sports event and nothing else! We should not bring in race, religion and politics into sports.”

Despite the waves of protest both at home and abroad, Putrajaya did not relent and Malaysia was stripped off its rights to host the games.

Why? Because our prime minister, Dr Mahathir Mohamad (above) says so. And everyone has to follow, just because one powerful Malaysian leader is dead-set against Israel. Other cabinet ministers, even if they did not agree with Mahathir, kept a deafening silence.

At times, I wonder what Malaysia’s diplomatic stand against Israel really is. This swimming event was arranged when Najib Abdul Razak was prime minister. Surely, Najib would have known Israeli athletes would be taking part and he must have been prepared to allow them to do so when Malaysia bid to host the championships.

Would I be correct to conclude therefore, that our ties with Israel depend on who is the prime minister? It does not mean Najib cares less for the Palestinians, but that he is not anti-Semitic.

In January, I had suggested that the Sarawak government submit a compensation claim to Putrajaya after elaborate preparatory work for the championships had been done.

According to Sarawak Sports Minister Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah (above), many meetings were held in Kuching and overseas, and he even went to Mexico, the previous host, to learn from them.

IPC officials and the foreign media had also visited Kuching for a first-hand look at the venue, as well as to observe preparations, he said.

Flights and accommodation had been arranged for 1,678 athletes, coaches and officials from 64 nations who had confirmed their participation, Karim added.

Kuching hoteliers had stated that RM5 million went down the drain as a result of the cancellation.

The minister and the Sarawak government could have spent several millions for the elaborate preparations. May we, Sarawakians, know the exact figure wasted as a result of this U-turn by Putrajaya? The amount wasted should be made public. Accountability, Karim, accountability!

It is only fair that Putrajaya compensate Sarawak for the millions wasted for nothing.

The ‘equal partners’ status has been raging in recent days. Take this cancellation of the event as an example. What sort of equal partnership is this? Malaya says “No” and Sarawak couldn’t do anything. It is clear Malaya has more say and could never treat Sarawak or Sabah as equal partners.

Malaysia should stop bidding for any international sporting events from now on. Principally because we have leaders who are fickle-minded and who get their priorities all mixed up.

I dread to think of what would happen if Israel emerges as a powerhouse in badminton or squash one fine day. Ban their athletes from the Thomas Cup or World Squash Championship too. Forbid future Lee Chong Weis and Nichol Davids from taking part in events in other countries if Israeli athletes are taking part.

A peep into the looking glass tells me that our neighbours, Singapore, Thailand and even Vietnam could well be on their way to hosting the Olympics or World Cup much earlier than Malaysia.

Malaysia will best be known as a “jaguh kampung” if we still have anti-Semitic leaders in the decades down the road.

  • Malaysiakini

FRANCIS PAUL SIAH heads the Movement for Change, Sarawak (MoCS) and can be reached at sirsiah@gmail.comThe views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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