Political instability could disrupt Podium Programme revamp, Malaysian sports

Political parties in Malaysia have started rallying for support at the grassroots and strengthening machineries as talk about a general election looms.

Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin’s wafer-thin majority in Parliament had many predicting some months ago that the 15th general election could take place last month. But Covid-19 disrupted any such plans as Malaysia recorded the highest daily toll to date on the last day of the year with 2,525 new cases.

Politicians and political parties cannot afford to be blamed for another surge of Covid-19, especially after the bad call to hold the Sabah elections which later saw a spike in cases nationwide.

The narratives today suggest that Malaysians could be heading to the polls in months to come – after the first batch of Covid-19 vaccines are delivered.

What has the general election got to do with Malaysian sports? A lot.

Those involved in the Podium Programme Enhancement Task Force last year spent much time, energy and effort as they interviewed 30-odd stakeholders of various backgrounds and capacities before presenting their views to Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Seri Reezal Merican Naina Merican last September.

An enhancement committee was then formed to look into the findings.

It seems that the minister and the ministry officials are committed to realising the findings. But here are several questions that linger:

  • Will the suggestions translate into reality?
  • Will the minister and his team have the willpower to make the right but tough decisions and live with it?
  • Will this initiative remain if a new minister handles the portfolio after the general election?

In fact, Reezal seems to be inclined in boosting the country’s sports industry which is an income generator and contributes significantly in taxes.

However, the Covid-19 pandemic has left not only him but many of his Cabinet colleagues largely untested as the government’s efforts have been strictly about keeping the population safe since the Movement Control Order started in March last year.

Twentytwo13 had on Sept 20 last year detailed previous reports done in relation to Malaysian sports but none were fully adopted.

Also, if and when a new minister takes over, he or she will have his or her own trusted lieutenants and sadly, they will most likely only look at the political interest of their master instead of Malaysian sports.

There are many ongoing initiatives by other parties and there must be continuity in what they do to attain the desired results.

The only way to move forward is for the ministry to ensure, in writing, that the findings of the task force will be made public and that they will be followed through regardless who occupies the top seat in Wisma KBS. Only tweaks should be made along the way so that the programme remains relevant and evolves with the times.

Communication is important. The findings of the task force is not to be treated like an Official Secrets Act (OSA) document. Make it public to ensure transparency, accountability and more importantly, for sports leaders – professional or amateur – to learn from the ideas put forward and incorporate those ideas in their respective organisations.

Alternatively, the ministry should just forget about such programmes and channel the money directly to the national sports bodies, based on their capabilities, past performances and projections, and hold them accountable for every sen.

This will ensure those who are eager to play president in the national sports bodies are aware they have a responsibility to the sport, athletes, coaching staff and the country.

Tough decisions must be made. The Cabinet, present or future, should by now realise the Youth and Sports Ministry is no longer a “junior” portfolio as it has tremendous potential.

It remains to be seen if the minister and his esteemed colleagues will be brave enough to make tough decisions or if they will instead buy time by stalling until the general election.