Syed Saddiq and his policies

Abdul Rahman Talib

Lim Teong Kim’s recent podcast on BFM on the state of Malaysian football was a sobering one. His observations, not as a politician, but as a professional highlight the structural issues that not only permeate our football institutions but our administrative structures.

There is a need for great leadership on part of the Pakatan Harapan government to allow the country to move forward. But 506 days after 9 May 2018, have they shown the Malaysian people that they are capable to do so?

Let’s look at Syed Saddiq Abdul Rahman, our Minister of Youth & Sports.

He certainly is the master of his own brand. Take at how he channeled the negative comments about his “close-up” policy selfie pronouncements as part and parcel of how he approaches his audience.

He has considerable personal charisma, which helped him push the historic Undi 18 Bill with near total bi-partisan support. Nor can we ignore his “enthusiasm” to push for greater youth representation given his near-constant statements on social media for the need to include more youth for policymaking in the country.

But this focus on engagement only highlights some serious deficiencies in how KBS may be negatively affecting the execution of his portfolio.

National athletes have complained over the lack of ‘vision’ on part of the current administration of KBS. Look at statements made by national disc thrower Muhammad Irfan Shamsuddin against the Sports Ministry, given that they ended the contract of his personal trainer Frantisek Petrovic, and rejected an application to train on his own overseas.

While many are familiar with athletes asking Syed Saddiq for support on social media, it also puts brings into question the transparency and effectiveness of his ministry in engaging his stakeholders.

His habit of constantly voicing public support towards newly growing sports is encouraging. Recently it was reported that he had met with representatives from Malaysia Pro Wrestling in a bid to legitimize professional wrestling. This is a good move, given that it helps the country highlight hidden talents authorities may not currently recognize.

But how is this different from his support of E-sports in his early days as the Minister of Youth and Sports?

We also have yet to see the details of his e-sports blueprint and how can he move it away from the cronyism and lack of expertise that plagued our local ecosystem previously.

What is seen however is more of the same, from the presence of Saddiq’s brother as a “guest-of-honor” at an official eSports Malaysia event to the retainment of the same organizational leadership that has been wholly ineffective in building a grassroots environment for e-sports.

But what is truly worrying is the increasingly uncomfortable meshing of personal political and ministry goals in Saddiq’s actions as Minister of Youth and Sports.

Let us not forget over how in his attempt to curry favor with Tun Mahathir over issues with Israeli athletes, it led to the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) stripping Malaysia of the right to host the 2019 World Para Swimming Championships, that was scheduled to be held in Kuching, Sarawak this year.

The recent controversy over the movement of the FitMalaysia programme finale from Johor to Malacca also puts into question how his own tenuous personal relationships with various state authorities are compromising his ability to perform as a minister.

He is also all too comfortable with cozying up to corporate elites, no matter their allegiance during the bitter GE-14 campaign that so readily deployed the assets of those same corporate elites against PH.

Saddiq’s “closeness” with AirAsia boss, Tony Fernandes has certainly paid off for the latter given that was appointed as the Chairman of the Malaysia Stadium.

This was months after Syed Saddiq’s pronouncement that Fernandes was an “unsung hero”, although Fernandes was openly campaigning for Barisan Nasional during GE14.

This preference for big corporates often ignore local stakeholders, as seen in his patronship of GoJek over Dego Ride and Razer, a Singaporean e-sports hardware company over existing local organizations.

When it was revealed that the Dewan Rakyat’s deputy speaker Mohd Rashid Hasnon was offered to contest as Kuala Lumpur Football Association President (KLFA).

Saddiq offered the following statement: “When accepting (appointments), later (the ministry would) receive letters informing it (the ministry) that it must give additional allocation (to this sports association) whereas in the developed world, no politician is leading a sports association,”

He unfortunately did not share the same conviction when 13 members of his own party were given key positions as state coordinators in his own Ministry.

The greatest irony perhaps is that what we are seeing is more of the same from the previous administration – where our ministers compromise the responsibilities and portfolio for their own political gains.

As Lim Lim Teong Kim so avidly mentioned, let’s start acting like professionals.