Sarawak govt not topping up athletes’ allowances yet for fear of being taken advantage of by Federal govt

A screengrab of Abdul Karim delivering his winding-up speech during the DUN sitting today (May 25, 2022) taken from a Sarawak Public Communications Unit (Ukas) livestream on Facebook.

By Lian Cheng

KUCHING, May 25: The Sarawak government will not “top up” the allowance cut suffered by Sarawak athletes straight away out of fear that the Federal government will take advantage and start to apply the same tactic in other areas, resulting in the Sarawak government having to settle more similar issues.  

Youth, Sport and Entrepreneur Development Minister Dato Sri Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah says that at the moment, the Sarawak Sports Corporation is looking into the issue.

“We have not straight away topped up what has been left out. I think it is only fair for us to do that or else the Federal government will start cutting here and there, and expect Sarawak to assist. 

“But that is one of the areas (topping up the allowance cut suffered by Sarawakian athletes) that have been considered. We have had our discussions. 

“When I met the athletes, they did not really ask for a full reimbursement of what had been deducted. But if we can, we will come forth to assist, to alleviate that little cut because as what I have mentioned, some of them are given a big cut, some of them are given smaller cut,” said Abdul Karim when delivering his winding-up speech at the Sarawak Legislative Assembly today.  

He was responding to Padungan assembly Chong Chieng Jen (PH-DAP) who raised the question if the Sarawak government will be topping up the allowance of Sarawak athletes to its original amount following the Federal government’s decision to reduce it nationwide.

Due to economic slowdown caused by the pandemic, the Federal government in general reduced sports allocations by 70 per cent, which directly impacted athletes’ allowances.

As far as Abdul Karim knew, Malaysian athletes suffered various degree of allowance cut, from 20 per cent to 70 per cent.  As such, the Sarawak government is looking into the matter on case-by-case basis.

In the case of Sarawak diving queen Datuk Pandelela Rinong, he said Pandelela whose initial allowance was RM7,000 to 8,000, has been receiving RM4,000 to RM5,000 after a 50 per cent allowance cut.

Following the public uproar and criticism over the issue, the Federal government reinstated the athletes’ allowance but not to its full amount.  As of of the percentage, Abdul Karim said he did not have the exact figures yet..

“These are young athletes, when you cut their allowances, they were quite devastated. I could feel it when they came down my office to express their disappointment. They were a bit disappointed, and probably, that affected their performance in future events.”

According to Abdul Karim who is also Asajaya assemblymen (GPS-PBB), two Sarawakian athletes even left the training centre in Kuala Lumpur and returned to Sarawak for good following the two-year lockdown.

He stressed that the Sarawak government has been very supportive of its athletes and one of the ways to do so is by giving them incentives wherever they travelled to other countries to represent Malaysia.

“When they were there, we banked in into their own personal accounts. At least they can do some shopping for essentials. And we have got a specific (formula of giving) incentives. If they win, when they have a podium finish, we will be giving them half of what the Federal government is giving,” he said.

For Sarawak, he said even during the pandemic, there was no budget cut for sports as the Sarawak government did not look at sports development the same way as the Federal government. — DayakDaily