Posers over Tengku Zafrul’s gig as new BAM president

Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Abdul Aziz has been earmarked as the next BA of Malaysia (BAM) president – with many wondering if he can helm the hot seat.

Tan Sri Norza Zakaria had named Tengku Zafrul as his successor, with the BAM Council unanimously agreeing with the decision in its recent meeting.

Yet, some of those who raised their hands on Oct 14 in favour of the new face, are now wondering if Tengku Zafrul’s soon-to-be official appointment was in line with BAM’s constitution.

Norza had described Tengku Zafrul as “dynamic, progressive, and passionate about sports”. Tengku Zafrul, an avid squash player who also runs and cycles regularly, served as CIMB Group chief executive officer before turning politician, having served in former prime ministers Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s Cabinets, at the height of the political crisis in the country.

He was the coordinating minister for Malaysia’s National Recovery Plan during Muhyiddin’s brief tenure in office and was named finance minister during Ismail Sabri’s equally short stint in Putrajaya.

Tengku Zafrul, an Umno man, lost the Kuala Selangor parliamentary seat in the Nov 19 general election, but is now part of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s Cabinet, as International Trade and Industry Minister.

Certain quarters wonder if the move to get Tengku Zafrul on board was in line with Article 9(i)(a) of BAM’s constitution, that states that a president is elected once every four years during the annual general meeting.

Article 9(ii)(c), meanwhile, reads that if a president is unavailable to perform his duties for a certain period of time, the president shall appoint one of the deputy presidents as acting president.

BAM’s deputy presidents are Datuk V. Subramaniam (Selangor BA president) and Datuk Seri Dr Jahaberdeen Mohamed Yunoos (Kuala Lumpur BA president).

In October 2015, BAM’s then-president, Tan Sri Tengku Mahaleel Tengku Arif resigned, citing health reasons. His deputy, Tan Sri Mohamed Al-Amin Abd Majid, became acting president. Al-Amin held on to the seat until April 2017, and did not stand for elections, handing Norza the top post.

It is learnt that the Council could meet in December to call for an extraordinary general meeting (EGM) in January, where Tengku Zafrul will be ‘elected’. While there are some murmurs from several state affiliates regarding the move, it remains to be seen if they will voice their views formally anytime soon.

There are those, however, who insist that Tengku Zafrul’s upcoming appointment was in line with the constitution, as the EGM can be called for the specific reason of electing a new president. Article 11(ii)(e) reads: “Only specific matters concerned with the subject for which the Extraordinary General Meeting is convened shall be discussed”.

Also in question is Anwar’s stand on ministers and deputy ministers holding posts in sports associations. In 2007, the Cabinet decided that ministers and deputy ministers should not hold positions in sports associations. The move was said to “protect the image of top government officials, should a sports association perform badly”.

Among the ministers who had quit their positions in sports associations were Transport Minister Tan Sri Chan Kong Choy (Table Tennis Association of Malaysia), Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Tan Sri Jamaluddin Jarjis (Equestrian Association of Malaysia), and Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor (Kuala Lumpur Football Association).

Norza had initially voiced his intention to step down after the Paris Olympics next year, but then decided to leave at the end of this year. The prominent businessman, had among others, played an instrumental role in securing a multi-million ringgit deal with national oil giant Petronas, and establishing the National Badminton Foundation that oversees and funds the national training programme.

Under his watch, Malaysia saw the crowning of its first world champions, the men’s doubles pair of Aaron Chia-Soh Wooi Yik, in 2022. He was earlier this year appointed Badminton Asia’s honorary president (2023-2027).

Badminton remains among the handful of sports capable of winning Malaysia’s first Olympic gold medal next year.