Sarawak govt gets another call to let Israeli swimmers in

Francis Siah - file pic

KUCHING, Jan 25: The Movement for Change Sarawak (MoCS) today appealed to Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg to exercise the state’s immigration autonomy by allowing Israeli swimmers to participate in the upcoming World Para Swimming Championships 2019 here.

This is the second such call in as many days. On Wednesday, Sarawak United Peoples’ Party (SUPP) Women chief Kho Teck Wan cautioned that by not permitting Israeli swimmers to participate in the championship here from July 29 to Aug 4, the state might lose its host position.

In urging the state government to look beyond politics and religion and to let the true spirit of sports to prevail, Kho pointed out that the International Paralympic Committee was disappointed with the federal government’s decision to ban Israeli athletes from entering the country.

“The UK Labour Party’s leaders, at their House of Common, had called the British government to oppose Malaysia’s decision and suggested that the championship venue be relocated,” said Kho, citing an AFP report.

Meanwhile, MoCS leader Francis Paul Sian argued that the championship was 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,” he exclaimed in a statement.

Siah said if Putrajaya continued to insist that Israeli athletes be barred despite the waves of protests both at home and abroad, then Sarawak could exercise its immigration autonomy and allow the Israelis in.

He said it had already been suggested that the athletes from Israel could enter Sarawak from other points of entry other than Kuala Lumpur.

“But MoCS hopes that we do not have to go down that road. If Putrajaya wants Sarawak to host the event, then let us decide what to do and make our own decisions, including those on diplomatic relations with other nations.

“Lest we forget, Sarawak is a separate entity and not merely one of the 13 states. And remember too, Sarawak has autonomy over immigration,” said Siah.

He said Sarawakians had nothing against the Jews or Palestinians, and Sarawakians had no wish to involve the Middle-East conflict in this sporting event.

Siah explained that because Malaysia had been on the side of Palestine and had no diplomatic ties with Israel, Israeli swimmers were not allowed to participate in the championships in Sarawak.

“What do the Palestinians and their struggle have anything to do with a swimming event, or with Sarawak for that matter?” he asked.

Siah said the people of Sarawak and its leaders had proclaimed to the world that race and religion had never been an issue in our Land of the Hornbills.

“Now is the time for our chief minister and all Sarawakians to put that proud declaration to the test. We welcome the Israeli swimmers to our homeland. Putrajaya has no moral right to decide that for Sarawak,” he asserted. — DayakDaily