PETALING JAYA: There is nothing wrong with awarding national diver Pandelela Rinong a “Datuk” title, say opposition politicians.
Former youth and sports minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman said anyone who devoted themselves to the sports industry should be qualified to receive an honorary title.
His comments came after Sarawak youth and sports minister Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah said it was not good to reward athletes every time they won something.
Karim also said there was no need to “spoil” 28-year-old Pandelela with a Datukship, adding that it would be “difficult for her to interact normally outside”.
Pandelela had won the gold medal in the women’s 10m platform at the Fina Diving World Cup two days ago, the first ever gold medal for Malaysia in this competition.
For the record, former badminton world No 1 Lee Chong Wei and squash world champion Nicol David were both awarded Datukships when they were 26.
Syed Saddiq said he was “astonished” to find out that the state minister was against awarding titles to athletes, despite them bringing glory to the country.
“The same group that received their ‘Datuk’ titles in a short period of time are now the ones denying the rights of those who deserve it.
“If we want the country to change, we must first change the mindset of looking down on the nation’s athletes,” said Syed Saddiq.
Stampin DAP Youth chief Abdul Aziz Isa also said that several prominent figures in Malaysia had received Datukships in their 20s, although “not all of them are making this country proud”.
“Some of them are even charged for being involved in organised crime and fraudulent, dodgy companies. Some of their achievements are unknown to the public but they are somehow given the ‘Datuk’ title,” he said in a statement.
Aziz said such a statement from a state minister was a “huge embarrassment” for Sarawakians.
He urged Karim to focus on improving the country’s water sports facilities, organising more competitions and encouraging more people to take part in water sports activities so that Malaysia could produce more young athletes such as Pandelela.
“It would be nice if Karim gives his support and produces positive statements instead of being negative and discouraging,” he said, adding that such statements were damaging Malaysia’s sports industry.