By Karen Bong
KUCHING, Jan 25: The state will respect the federal government’s decision to ban Israeli swimmers from entering the country to participate in the upcoming World Para Swimming Championship 2019 here.
Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah said this matter has been brought up in the state Cabinet meeting yesterday.
Sarawak government’s stand on the matter is not a question of the state testing its immigration autonomy as it was a national policy, he pointed out.
“Sarawak was given the approval by the federal government to host this championship. So we must respect the Malaysian government’s decision,” he told a press conference after officiating the soft launching of the Asean International Film Festival and Awards (AIFFA) 2019 at a hotel here today.
He added: “Sarawak is still within Malaysia and we must be seen as united. We don’t want to be a laughing stock to the world if the state approves but the country opposes”.
As a nation, he reminded that Malaysia is still seen as the main host but Sarawak is the venue of the championship.
Abdul Karim updated the media on the state government’s view on Malaysia’s decision to impose blanket ban on all Israeli athletes from participating in the championship to be held from July 29 to Aug 4 in Kuching.
He reiterated that the state government has gotten the approval from Putrajaya to host the championship after Sarawak won the bidding.
“The championship was last hosted in Mexico. I went there personally and received a lecture on the organisation,” he said.
Abdul Karim explained he did not respond immediately on the matter as the ministry was still waiting for the “black and white” (official letter) from Putrajaya.
“I have sent the letter (to Putrajaya) three months ago to seek blessing but until today, I have yet to receive the black and white reply but somehow it was replied (announced) in the media,” he concluded.
Assistant Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture Datuk Lee Kim Shin, Assistant Minister of Youth and Sports Datuk Snowdan Lawan, Batang Sadong MP Dato Sri Nancy Shukri and AIFFA 2019 president jury U-Wei Hj Saari were present at the soft launching of AIFFA 2019.
The decision to ban Israeli atheletes to enter the country for the championship has been criticised by various quarters including the International Paralympic Committee, which expressed disappointment with the decision of the Malaysian government.
The UK’s Labour Party leaders, at their House of Commons, had called on the British government to oppose Malaysia’s decision and suggested that the championship venue be relocated.
Three days ago, Sarawak United Peoples’ Party (SUPP) Women chief Kho Teck Wan suggested the state government exercise its autonomy rights and permit the Israeli athletes to participate in the championship.
She cautioned that not doing so might result in the state losing its host position.
Earlier today, the Movement of Change Sarawak (MoCS) also made an appeal to Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg to exercise the state’s immigration autonomy and allow the Israeli athletes into Sarawak for the championship.
He urged the government to look beyond politics and religion and let the true spirit of sports to prevail. — DayakDaily