Up to Sarawak to let Israeli athletes in, activist says

Activist Zulfaqar Sa’adi says sports should not be politicised, in the wake of the ban on Israeli athletes from entering the country. (AFP pic)

KOTA KINABALU: An activist has urged the Sarawak government to assert its immigration rights under the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) and allow Israeli athletes to participate in the World Para Swimming Championships to be held in the state in July and August.

Sarawak activist Zulfaqar Sa’adi.

Zulfaqar Sa’adi said it was amusing to see the federal government speak on behalf of the state government about who could and could not enter Sarawak.

“Under the immigration rights spelled out in Paragraph 16 (f)(i) and (ii) of the Inter-Governmental Committee (IGC) Report, Sarawak has the right to allow Israelis to participate in the 9th World Para Swimming Championships which will be held from Jul 29 to Aug 4 at the Pandalela Rinong Aquatics Centre in Sarawak,” he said.

He acknowledged that in some cases, the federal government could consult with the Sarawak government to refuse entry to individuals or groups for the sake of national interest.

However, he said the ban on Israeli athletes had nothing to do with national interest but served only the political interest of certain parties and politicians in Malaya.

“This is sports. Sports is universal and should not be politicised.”

Zulfiqar said if Sarawak chose to do so, it could give Israeli athletes a permit or pass to enter the state, leaving the hands of the federal government tied.

“They could come directly to Sarawak from Singapore without having to go through Kuala Lumpur,” he added. “It can be done.”

He also warned that any attempt by the federal government to interfere with Sarawak’s immigration rights could result in the jurisdictional and legislative rights on external affairs automatically reverting to the state.

This is spelled out in Item 1 of Annex A in the IGC Report and Article V of MA63.

Zulfiqar said it was up to Sarawak whether to assert this right or to follow what is dictated by the federal government.

He noted that the Sarawak government had, on numerous occasions, made statements on its intention to fight for state rights.

“They want to be a state government, so they should be ready to make both easy and tough decisions.

“It’s time to decide on the Israeli athletes. Are they going to remain silent, take a stand or run away? It’s up to them to define the kind of state government they are and want to be.”