Much potential yet Youth and Sports Ministry seen as ‘small portfolio’

On Jan 4, I attended a press conference by Prasarana chariman Datuk Seri Tajuddin Abdul Rahman.

Tajuddin, also Pasir Salak MP and Umno election director, addressed issues surrounding Prasarana and Umno’s survival.

Tajuddin also poked fun at Umno’s portfolios in the government.

He said: “Right now, we play a small part in the government, Youth (and Sports Ministry), Unity (Ministry), Defence (Ministry) … senior (minister) konon (as if) … what can be done to help the rakyat, to help the party?”

Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein, in his statement yesterday regarding the turbulence in Umno, highlighted that the party has been entrusted to lead the Defence Ministry, Health Ministry and Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry.

The Youth and Sports Ministry seems to be the last on everyone’s list, even those in Umno. This despite the minister – Datuk Seri Reezal Merican Naina Merican – being a seasoned Umno man.

The portfolio has always been perceived as a “junior” one. Perhaps, the strength of a ministry is judged solely on the allocation it receives from the government and based on that, the Youth and Sports Ministry is among the lowest.

Many seasoned leaders have at one point in their political careers, helmed the “small” ministry. They include the nation’s first prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman (then known as Youth, Culture and Sports Ministry), PKR leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and Senior Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob.

From a socio-economic and political standpoint, the Youth and Sports Ministry has so much to offer. It’s not only about the elite athletes or promoting youth programmes at national level. It’s about promoting a sporting lifestyle among the rakyat, regardless of age, and initiating youth-driven activities at the grassroots.

An active population promises a healthy and productive nation. The sports industry, professional or recreational, is big business and contributes to the country’s coffers. It also promises job opportunities.

Youths are already shaping the social, economic and political landscapes in Malaysia and will be the game-changer in the next general election.

Why then isn’t the Youth and Sports Ministry given due recognition?

Sporting activities are seen as a networking ground. In the past, business deals were made on golf courses. Today, people network by being part of a cycling group or by playing squash with the who’s who. I’m sure Finance Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Abdul Aziz will agree.

Sports is able to unite people – regardless of colour, religion and political inclination. Sports is a great de-stressor – especially when people are reeling from the current economic downturn due to Covid-19 and are mentally suffocated due to the stresses in their daily routine.

Is the Youth and Sports Ministry a “small” portfolio? Clearly, it is not.

It should be given the respect it deserves. It is the lifeline to many people. It is the “cure” to many illnesses.

If the people and its leaders start taking youth and sports seriously, perhaps we will see more youngsters playing a bigger role in society and a bigger pool of talents representing their village, community, state and even country.

It’s time for the “elders” to show some respect to youth and sports.