The appointment of two politicians within the Youth and Sports Ministry has caused concern among stakeholders with veteran sports leader Datuk Sieh Kok Chi calling it “quite surprising”.
Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM) leader Yaakob Osman serves as the ministry’s head of corporate communication unit while Armada member Muhammad ‘Azizi, named ‘Ketua Cawangan Bukit Jalil Bahagian Seputeh’ in November 2018, was hired to help beef up the National Sports Council’s (NSC) corporate communication department. Armada is PPBM’s youth wing with the Youth and Sports Minister serving as its chief.
Yaakob, who was disqualified from contesting the Penaga state seat in the 14th general election, was in the news recently after he commented about Permatang Pauh MP Nurul Izzah Anwar on social media. Nurul Izzah, had in a recent interview with Singapore’s The Straits Times, expressed dismay with the Pakatan Harapan government for its slow reforms and called Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad a “former dictator”.
NSC insiders confirmed ‘Azizi’s appointment and his political affiliation, but refused to comment. Political appointments are common but usually confined to the likes of the minister’s aide, political secretary or press secretary.
Sieh, who served Malaysian sports for decades as Olympic Council of Malaysia honorary secretary, said the appointments did not seem right as the current administration “seems to go back on its word”.
“The minister had last year (August 2018) said politicians should not run sports associations. Now we have political leaders within the ministry.
“What is their background (to do the job)? And are the appointments based on their true capabilities and because of their (political) positions? This will only create more doubt,” said the former national water polo player.
The Youth and Sports Minister, while winding up the motion on the 11th Malaysia Plan Mid-Term Review for his ministry in October 2018, urged Members of Parliament to not accept appointments as president or chairman of existing sports associations, adding “this may seem small but the implications are great.”
Sieh, known for his frank assessments about Malaysian sports, added such appointments would naturally give a bad impression of the ministry.
“It seems to show that any Tom, Dick and Harry can fill up posts within the ministry. I’m quite surprised this is going on.”
Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail had last month acknowledged members of Pakatan Harapan’s political parties or their associates were appointed in government agencies but was quick to deny croniysm, adding those appointed were chosen based on merit.
A study titled “Government in Business: Diverse Forms of Intervention” by a team led by University of Malaya political economics professor Terence Gomez, last year revealed that Selangor and Penang, helmed by chief ministers from PKR and the DAP respectively, had placed a large number of senior party leaders as board members in all strategic state GLCs and their subsidiaries.
The researchers admitted such practice is deemed common in Malaysia and is seen as a key intervention strategy to carry out the social and development agenda of the political party in power, but is also prone to abuse and encourages political patronage.