PUTRAJAYA: Dr Mahathir Mohamad has again defended Putrajaya’s ban on Israeli athletes taking part in sporting events in Malaysia, saying his stand on the Palestinian conflict has not changed despite once allowing Israeli sportsmen two decades ago.
He was asked why his administration had in 1997 allowed the Israeli cricket team to participate in an international tournament in Kuala Lumpur.
He said he had then allowed the Israelis to enter Malaysia to show that Muslims were not terrorists.
“We are normal people, we talk to people. We behave well,” the prime minister told reporters here.
“We don’t do anything wrong to them. But children who throw stones at them, they shoot bullets,” he said, referring to clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces.
Mahathir was also asked if he would also ban athletes from Myammar and China over their governments’ actions against minorities there, as well as against Saudi Arabia over its Yemen campaign.
“We base it on facts, once we confirm the facts, we will give our opinion,” Mahathir replied.
Yesterday, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) announced that it would not allow Malaysia to host the 2019 World Para Swimming Championships to be held in Kuching in July.
This followed Israel’s appeal to change the venue if Malaysia refused to lift a ban on its athletes.
“When a host country excludes athletes from a particular nation, for political reasons, then we have absolutely no alternative but to look for a new championships host,” IPC president Andrew Parsons said in London.
Mahathir said those unhappy with Malaysia’s ban were free to strip the country of its right to the swimming championship.
“If they want to cancel, cancel lah. We can host other sports,” he said, adding that he was puzzled as to why the world was bowing to Israel.
He called Israel a “criminal nation” that had been breaking international laws without anyone saying anything.
Because of that, Putrajaya had made a stand to ban Israeli athletes from taking part in international tournaments hosted by the country.
“We stand by our principles, we have our right to voice our feelings.
“And we have our own policies,” he said.
Mahathir pointed out that the United States has banned citizens from five Muslim nations – Syria, Iran, Yemen, Somalia and Libya – from entering the country.
“Why is it that people don’t complain?
“We have our reason. It (Israel) is a country that doesn’t obey international laws. And we have to stand by our principles,” he said.
Is the ECRL on or off?
On the fate of the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL), Mahathir urged the people to wait for the announcement by Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng.
“Be patient. Sometimes people make mistakes. We have to understand that this new government has made a number of mistakes but not that much. But people notice it because this is a new government.”
He also said a letter on the social media stating that the ECRL project had been cancelled was not official and could have been doctored.
“People can just take it (government’s letterhead) and turn it into a letter. That is not official.”
The letter, dated Jan 18, purportedly bore Lim’s signature.
“Has Lim Guan Eng made a statement? We’ll wait for him,” he said.
‘BN played up racial issues in Cameron Highlands’
Mahathir said the Cameron Highlands by-election results reflected the wishes of the people.
“BN played up racial issues. It’s too bad but that is the decision of the people. We accept it.”