KUALA LUMPUR: An MP has suggested that the government initiate a pension scheme for retired national and state athletes, similar to that enjoyed by retired civil servants.
Bukit Gelugor MP Ramkarpal Singh said as far as he was concerned, retired athletes were no different from former government servants.
In a statement, the DAP national legal bureau chairman said the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government should also consider providing a medical insurance scheme for them post-retirement.
He said such incentives would encourage more to get involved in sports from a young age as they would be confident of some form of security upon retirement.
He was responding to news reports that former national and Penang footballer Salahuddin Che Ros had money problems and had been forced to sleep on the streets during his trips to the National Heart Institute in Kuala Lumpur for treatment.
“An exemplary footballer, Salahuddin’s contributions, not only to Penang, but to the nation, are many and his lack of finances today is a sad reflection of how former athletes are taken care of by the government,” Ramkarpal said.
He commended the Football Association of Malaysia and the Penang state government for initiating efforts to contact and assist Salahuddin.
“However, there is a bigger problem here, i.e. that of the long-term interests of such athletes who, after donning state or national colours, ought to be looked after financially as well, the same way government servants receive pensions after their retirement.
“As I understand it, there are currently no long-term benefits for former athletes with the exception of former Olympic and Paralympic medalists who draw a lifetime pension from the government.”
Ramkarpal acknowledged that his suggestions would not be easy to implement now given the government’s current financial status. However, he urged PH to make the issue a priority in the near future.
He also called on Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman to provide some form of temporary financial aid to Salahuddin.
“There can be no doubt that his case is a genuine one which concerns his health condition and must be looked into immediately.
“It is hoped that cases such as Salahuddin’s do not recur in the future. The government must play its part in looking after the interests of these former athletes after the end of their careers.
“It is the least that the government can do in recognition of their contributions to the nation.”