The following article is sent to the editorial of MalaysiaGazette by Johan Arif.
Syed Saddiq recently photographed himself jumping in joy, as did many other Malaysians, following Dato’ Azizulhasni Awang’s success in the Olympics Keirin event. The former Youth and Sports Minister has always been one to be associated with his slick social media presence and near limitless enthusiasm – but what did it translate into when he was in power?
We should remember his subpar performance as minister. For example, it was announced that the government will no longer award Critical Service Incentive Allowance for civil servants joining the civil service in 2020, he was quick to voice his disagreement on social media, and even suggested that the government should cut allowances allocated to politicians and ministers instead.
On a larger scale, Syed Saddiq made many a promise to the nation’s youth such as the creation of 350,000 to 1 million jobs for Malaysians and absolving PTPTN debts nationwide – all of which he has frankly failed to deliver.
But more importantly, Malaysians should remember Syed Saddiq’s less than stellar tenure handling a vital pillar for the national psyche: sports.
He jumped into his portfolio as Minister of Youth and Sports promising for a better foundation for athletes across the spectrum, including e-sports and professional wrestling.
What we got was a disappointing SEA Games 2019 performance, with various excuses issued by the portfolio minister in an attempt to explain the contingent’s failure to meet the mark.
It was made more frustrating for sports fans when he put out his excuses, saying that part of the blame lay on part of athletic associations for massaging their potential numbers but has done little to update the public on the post-mortem that was supposed to follow.
This, of course, ignores the many grouses of athletes over a lack of funding and attention under his watch – resulting in the controversy surrounding the cancellation of the elite PODIUM program and perhaps stymying Malaysian progress in sports by decades. Had John Beasly, the track cycling coach been relieved of his services, Dato’ Azizulhasni Awang might not have achieved success at Tokyo 2020. In another loss to the country, national discus thrower Irfan Shamsuddin had voiced out his displeasure at having funding cut for him and his coach dismissed in 2019. Had these cuts not been implemented, he would have made it to the Olympics too.
Syed Saddiq’s much-vaunted reform programs such as the four-tier national program under the National Sports Council (NSC), never addressed the deep structural issues faced by our national athletes. One just needs to recall the termination of former Akademi Mokhtar Dahari director Lim Teong Kim who had been nurturing young footballing talents. This has led to questions of whether the national football squad will have the depth to succeed in the years to come.
It was also revealed in 2019 that 13 ARMADA Exco members were appointed as KBS officers across 13 states – which Saddiq later claimed he had no knowledge of – demonstrating a glaring lack of able leadership and a sheer lack of accountability within his ministry.
These appointments were also almost a year after Saddiq announced that he would not allow political appointees for state sports council directorships and after he chided his fellow MPs for accepting sport association appointments.
His final big announcement of a RM 22.5 million booster shot to allay the worries of athletes participating in the Olympics would have been a welcome relief – but it takes more than money to rebuild the confidence and support system for our athletes that arguably have been left in the wayside.
The sports scene in the country ended on a sour note near the end of Saddiq’s term as Minister – with many athletes publicly voicing out against Saddiq’s management of KBS as ignoring and being out of touch with their needs. This is the legacy that many in our sports scene will remember Saddiq for.
So we shouldn’t give him too much attention, after all there’s little we can expect from Syed Saddiq aside from empty gestures to drive up political mileage but with little to show for in the real world.