Right man for the job?

Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman

Questions have been raised over Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman’s appointment as Youth and Sports Minister.

Critics argue the 25-year-old lacks experience not only in running a ministry but on matters pertaining to youth and sports. Leading a ministry is different from organising a political campaign.

He should have been allowed to learn the ropes of becoming a Member of Parliament by serving his constituents in Muar before being made a minister.

The Youth and Sports Ministry has been overly athlete-centric. There have been youth-related programmes but they have been bad investments by the previous Barisan Nasional government, who despite spending billions, failed to win the hearts of young voters.

Former minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek introduced the Sports Industry but there was no continuity when he left office.

His successor Khairy Jamaluddin initiated ‘Hari Sukan Negara’ and ‘Fit Malaysia’ – although some argue Fit Malaysia was just a repacking of the Malaysia Cergas programme from the late 1980s.

Coming back to Syed Saddiq, the Bersatu youth leader should have been made a deputy. The likes of avid runner Ong Kian Ming or basketball fan Saifuddin Abdullah would have been a better choice as they understand the system and can initiate the required changes.

Syed Saddiq would then be groomed to ensure he was well aware of what needed to be done when he became the minister.

Only a handful of Pakatan Harapan’s elected representatives who were sworn in as ministers this morning have the experience of handling ministries.

Professionalism means athletes and national sports associations should no longer rely on government assistance.

The same money can be spent on promoting a sporting culture. This can be further enhanced by working closely with the relevant ministries – education and health – to inculcate healthy daily habits.

Twentytwo13 spoke to several interested parties about Syed Saddiq’s appointment.

Noraseela Khalid, former hurdler and Olympian
“I don’t know his background and don’t like to compare. When Khairy Jamaluddin was appointed Youth and Sports Minister, I only knew him as an Oxford graduate.

“As Syed Saddiq and his deputy (Steven Sim Chee Keong) don’t have any background in sports, they should get the right people to work with them.

“It’s a huge portfolio. It’s not just about high-performance athletes as they are only small percentage. We need to look at sports for all.

“Look at Iceland, a nation with a small population (about 1 per cent of malaysia) but they made it to the Fifa World Cup.”

“They have the right sporting attitude and culture. If more people take up sports, then we can unearth more talent.”

Rizal Hashim, sports journalist and Astro Arena personality
“Ideally, Saifuddin Abdullah would have been a good choice but he was being prepared for the Foreign Ministry. My other choice was Nik Nadzmi Nik Ahmad because he is more mature and has a 10-year track record. We have to accept Syed Saddiq’s appointment and all the best to him.

“I hope to see the ministry emphasising on youth-related programmes.

“Let the other stakeholders like the National Sports Council, National Sports Institute and Olympic Council of Malaysia look into sports, including elite sports.

“These agencies can look at the day to day operations while the ministry focuses on policy matters.

“The ministry has bigger issues to deal with like creating new jobs, injecting technical and vocational education (TVET) and working closely with other ministries to help the younger generation. We must remember the youths today are the leaders of tomorrow.

“I hope the new minister will be sincere and transparent when drafting and initiating policies.”

Datuk Sieh Kok Chi, former OCM secretary general
“I’ve served 15 ministers, since Tan Sri Hamzah Abu Samah’s tenure as Youth and Sports Minister (1969-1973). The new minister needs to look at everything in detail and execute massive revamps.

“Sports is part of society but the mindset over the decades has always been the same – spend more, more and more.

“Everything is about money, personal glory and adding personnel. Despite millions spent doing so, our sports is still in the doldrums. I’m sick of it.

“Syed Saddiq needs to listen. He then needs to evaluate and see if those providing views have got vested interests. Take heed of how Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad does it … he listens and evaluates before making changes.

“Bring sports back to basics. Sports is for the people. Forget about organising events in five-star hotels when it can be done in a stadium or on fields.

“Him being given the ministerial position could turn out to be a good thing as he is a blank canvas and it’s easier to initiate reforms.”

Graig Nunis, executive editor Twentytwo13
“There were a lot of rumours he would be getting the post and the feedback was mixed, as can be expected of one so young.

“He may just turn out to be an excellent Youth and Sports Minister but his inexperience could work against him as there are many sharks in the ministry. Will he survive the politicking of these warlords?

“Perhaps it would have been better for him to prove himself as an MP in Muar before being handed the reins on what many consider to be a junior position but which in reality is a high profile one.

“Besides the prime minister, the youth and sports minister’s face is more likely to be splashed all over the media.

“As we have seen from the previous regimes, this ministry can help one build a strong base politically – if used correctly.”