Para Swimming Championships – Sarawak succumbing to national policy and international pressure

KUCHING, Jan 27:  Sarawak has no choice but abide by Malaysian foreign policy and faces great losses incurred after being stripped from hosting 2019 World Para Swimming Championships.

Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah said he, the state government and all those involved were sad and disappointed with this development as they have been preparing since last year.

“We are sad that IPC (International Paralympic Committee)  to come to this decision.  The State of Sarawak and Kuching city as host city respect this decision which was made in pursuant to Malaysia barring the entry and participation of Israel athletes into Malaysia.”

“This (banning of Israelite athletes) is a national policy of Malaysia which Sarawak as a State within Malaysia has to respect.”

He said Sarawak will suffer great financial losses following the decision.

“There are going to be losses because we have made preparations since last year. We also had a lot of meetings here and overseas for preparations. I even went to Mexico, the previous host for meetings. We even showed participating nations how to get here.

“Some of them (participating nations) even came here a few times to get to know the place. Foreign media also went to the venues to see preparations,” he told reporters after an informal meet-the-people session at Satok here last night.

Also present were Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg, who told reporters that Sarawak had to abide by the decision by IPC and the federal government.

Karim (left) speaking to reporters as minister assisting him in charge of the World Para Swimming Championship 2019 Dato Sri Fatimah Abdullah (right) looks on.

“We are just a venue. We have to abide by the federal government’s foreign policy to ban Israeli swimmers, and abide by the decision of the international body (IPC),” he said before asking Karim to comment further.

Meanwhile Karim said Kuching has been fully prepared to host the event though it is still a few months away.

“In fact as of yesterday 64 nations with 1,678 athletes, coaches and officers have confirmed to participate in this event, flights and accommodations have been arranged,” he said.

“But the pride of the nation have to be considered also. If the country has made that policy, the State must adhere to it. We cannot be seen to override the national policy, otherwise other nations will laugh at us.

“To me if we are seen to politicise this, they also seem to be politicising this because (they) made decision just because of one nation (Israel). To me that is also politicising. They did not consider other 64 countries that have committed to participate,” he said.

Citing Moscow Olympics 1980 incident where the United States and over 60 of its allies boycotted the sporting event just because Russia decided to attack Afghanistan at the time, Abdul Karim said US got away with it but Malaysia, being small, has to succumb to international pressure.

“So 66 nations boycotted the Moscow Olympics 1980. Because Malaysia is a small country we are being treated this way.  But when America decided things based on politics like that and boycotted the sporting event, they could,” he said.

IPC on Sunday (Jan 27, 2019) stripped Malaysia of the right to host the 2019 World Para Swimming Championships, which were to be held in Kuching, Sarawak between July 29 to Aug 4.

IPC media statement says the decision was made after Malaysian Home Ministry “failed to provide the necessary guarantees that Israeli Para swimmers could participate, free from discrimination, and safely in the Championships”.