Political instability caused disruption to Malaysia’s athletes, says Malaysian Sports Minister Hannah Yeoh

Political instability caused disruption to Malaysia’s athletes, says Malaysian Sports Minister Hannah Yeoh

MALAYSIA— Hannah Yeoh, the Malaysian Youth and Sports Minister in Anwar’s Cabinet, has highlighted the adverse effects of political instability on Malaysia’s athletes and their performance, including in the recently concluded SEA Games.

“In the last four years, we changed three prime ministers and three youth and sports ministers.”
“Since May 2013, the minister then Khairy Jamaluddin had 61 months to prepare for sporting events.”
“In July 2018, Syed Saddiq (under the Pakatan Harapan government), had only 20 months of preparation time, before Sheraton Move happened and later Reezal Merican (under 8th PM Muhyiddin Yassin’s administration) had only 18 months, and Faizal Azumu (under 9th PM Ismail Sabri’s administration) had only 16 months.”
“In the four years, three ministers changed and each time we change, there will be changes of board members, budget, and focus,” Yeoh told the Parliament during Minister’s Question Time on Thursday (25 May).
Ahmad Fadhil Shaari, a Member of Parliament from the Malaysian Islamic Party, sought clarification from the sports minister on the impact of political instability mentioned.
He cited examples of countries like Kenya, Cuba, and Serbia, which faced political turmoil but still managed to perform well in sports, questioning the relationship between political stability and sporting success.

“Not to mention Palestine, a country at war, but their football team has a higher ranking than Malaysia,” Ahmad Fadhil said.

Financial implications and training challenges

In her response, Mrs Yeoh brought attention to the absence of a specified allocation for the podium program in 2022.

Consequently, the National Sports Council (NSC) had to reorganize athlete preparation programs for major sporting events taking place this year, such as the Vietnam SEA Games, Commonwealth Games, Birmingham Games, and Asian Games in China.

“As a result, 220 athletes were unable to continue their training, as there was no specific allocation provided for the implementation of senior training programs under the podium program.”

Hannah Yeoh explained that to address this situation, the NSC had to utilize internal funds to ensure uninterrupted athlete training allowances and coach salaries.

This situation persisted for two months, from January to February 2022. Eventually, the ministry sought additional funds from the cabinet, resulting in an approved allocation of RM 240 million (approximately 52 million USD) as part of Malaysia’s Plan 12, spanning from 2022 to 2025 — RM60 million for each year.

Speaking in the Malaysian Parliament, Hannah Yeoh highlighted that the delays in allowances and coach salaries, coupled with the lack of allocated funds, directly impacted the athletes’ training routines, especially those requiring international travel for competitions and specialized coaching.

“I have discussed this with athletes and associations, and they confirm that in these four years, while we were busy with politics, our neighboring countries have advanced.”

“It would be easy for me to shift all the burden of answering and providing reasons to the national sports associations. But I believe that would be an irresponsible action, ” she added.

While emphasizing that she does not attribute all factors solely to political instability, she hopes that Members of Parliament recognize that in the past four years, following the Sheraton Move, political instability disrupted numerous government efforts aimed at supporting the economy and education.

Malaysian media described the outcome of SEA Games 2023 as a “heartbreaking game” for Malaysia

Despite fielding the fifth largest contingent of 677 athletes and setting a target of winning 40 gold medals at the 32nd Southeast Asian Games, Malaysians were left disheartened as the country recorded its worst-ever performance in the SEA Games, raising concerns about the future of Malaysian sports.

The New Straits Times, a Malaysian media outlet, in an article described the outcome as a “heartbreaking game” for Malaysia, raising questions about the state of Malaysian sports and the reasons behind the significant decline in performance.

The Malaysian contingent secured the seventh position in the overall rankings, earning a total of 175 medals, including 34 gold, 45 silver, and 96 bronze.


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