In glory, past is not for­got­ten nor for­given

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SPEAK UP -

ON THURS­DAY, our Par­a­lympic he­roes re­turned home. At the air­port, there were thou­sands of peo­ple – mem­bers of their fam­i­lies, rel­a­tives and friends and of course fans who wanted to share their glory with the na­tion. The whole na­tion saluted th­ese brave war­riors who de­served ev­ery bit of re­spect for their tenac­ity and courage in over­com­ing phys­i­cal and men­tal abil­i­ties to reach the top.

But wait. Wasn’t this also a photo op­por­tu­nity for politi­cians? Un­der­stand­ably, the prime min­is­ter and the sports min­is­ter re­ceived them but the other min­ions and cronies were there to share the spoils of the suc­cess. There will be many who will be seen on tele­vi­sion hug­ging our he­roes or shed­ding a tear or two in days to come.

On tele­vi­sion, I watched the ath­letes on the up­per deck of the bus. I pon­dered and won­dered if they would have got more medals if there was suf­fi­cient money to spend on train­ing.

That is why we should not al­low this to pass while they are bask­ing in the glory and sparkle of the suc­cess and the medals.

Some­thing sin­is­ter and il­le­gal should not go un­no­ticed. Many in­clud­ing big-wigs will be aware that th­ese Par­a­lympians were hin­dered by the lack of funds for their train­ing. Not small money but RM3.8 mil­lion which was al­lo­cated for their needs.

This news­pa­per has been re­port­ing on the miss­ing funds in­volv­ing the past pres­i­dent of the Par­a­lympics As­so­ci­a­tion of Malaysia in the hope that there are funds to con­tinue their train­ing and meet their spe­cial needs.

About RM4 mil­lion was used by the then Malaysian Par­a­lympics Coun­cil (MPC) pres­i­dent, Datuk Zainal Abu Zarin, to set up a com­pany called Par­alimpik Ven­tures Sdn Bhd (PVSB).

Zainal and his sons, Idi Ir­wan and Ilia Ikhwan, were listed as the di­rec­tors. In a note at the end of its fi­nan­cial state­ment for the year ended De­cem­ber 2010, it was recorded that MPC had on July 5, 2011 re­ceived a let­ter in which PVSB made a com­mit­ment to re­pay the money. But only RM200,000 was re­ceived.

Sub­se­quently, the MPC re­ceived an­other let­ter dated Aug 6, 2012, where it was men­tioned money would be paid lat­est by 2014.

No money has been forth­com­ing. So the long and short of it all is that RM3.8 mil­lion meant for our ath­letes is gone. And two po­lice re­ports have been made and yet there’s no sem­blance of the money be­ing re­turned to its right­ful bene­fac­tors.

The Sports Min­istry was alerted to this sev­eral years ago but it did not lift a fin­ger to en­sure the money is re­turned so that it could be used to train more dis­abled ath­letes.

So, while all Malaysians join the cel­e­bra­tions and give the long-over­due ac­co­lades, will some­one think about get­ting back the money and putting it back where it be­longs?

Talk­ing about sports and money, I’m tak­ing a small step into the past. On a sunny af­ter­noon in March 1994, Pa­trick Ho, now ed­i­tor of Golf Digest, and I were at the Royal Se­lan­gor Golf Club for lunch fol­lowed by a spon­sor­ship pro­gramme for Malaysian golfer P. Gu­nasegaran.

A week ear­lier, Gu­nasegaran was in­volved in a three­man play-off for the Malaysian Open ti­tle with Frank No­bilo and Joakim Haeg­gman. No­bilo dropped off at the fifth leav­ing Haeg­gman and Gu­nasegaran to bat­tle it out. Two holes later, Haeg­gman tri­umphed.

The Malaysian Tobacco Com­pany, which was the spon­sor of the 1994 Ben­son and Hedges Malaysian Open, had wanted to re­ward Guna for his ex­cel­lent fin­ish by un­der­tak­ing his cost to play in re­gional tour­na­ments. But the player kept us all wait­ing for a good two hours be­fore he turned up!

Mem­o­ries of hav­ing cov­ered or watched the Malaysian Open from its hal­cyon “home” at the RSGC and its no­madic moves sub­se­quently, there was a tinge of sad­ness when the Malaysian Golf As­so­ci­a­tion (MGA) an­nounced its “tem­po­rary demise”. The irony is that the an­nounce­ment was made on Malaysia Day when the whole na­tion was sup­posed to be re­joic­ing.

Hav­ing been a fea­ture on the in­ter­na­tional golf cal­en­dar since 1962 and hav­ing seen some of the “old” greats like Vi­jay Singh, Gra­ham Marsh, Jeff Mar­gett and Ste­wart Ginn, hold­ing the tro­phy aloft, its 2016 edi­tion has been shelved.

Why? Isn’t the Malaysian Open one of the many that is be­ing pro­moted by Tourism Malaysia and Malaysia Golf Tourism As­so­ci­a­tion which gets sub­si­dies from the gov­ern­ment?

In a terse state­ment, the owner of the event, the MGA said the Open will not be played in 2016 as “it is cur­rently in a tran­si­tional phase and will aim to re­turn to the golf­ing cal­en­dar in a stronger po­si­tion next sea­son”.

“The MGA unan­i­mously felt it was im­por­tant not to rush things, but rather to take our time in mak­ing sure the Malaysian Open re­turns once again as one of Asia’s stand­out na­tional Opens,” said pres­i­dent Ad­mi­ral (Rtd) Sen­a­tor Tan Sri Mohd An­war Mohd Nor in the state­ment.

What “stand­out” when af­ter 53 years, a pre­mier tour­na­ment does not make an ap­pear­ance?

On the con­trary, it is yet an­other blot in the his­tory of our sports when the pre­mier tour­na­ment is booted out be­cause the or­gan­is­ers claimed a dif­fi­cult mar­ket sit­u­a­tion. Cut­ting out the jar­gon, it meant that no spon­sor wanted to touch the event.

As the coun­try grap­ples with re­li­gious is­sues and re­fuses to ac­cept that money from liquor and beer com­pa­nies are life­lines for any sport to thrive. While we have seen double stan­dards in ap­pli­ca­tion of such un­writ­ten edicts by the pow­ers that be, has the time come for a re­view of what is al­lowed, al­low­able and banned?

Flash­back of theSun’s front­page pub­lished on Fri­day.

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