Sports minister says his remarks to diver Pandelela’s sexual harassment issue taken out of context by media; investigation underway

Sports minister says his remarks to diver Pandelela’s sexual harassment issue taken out of context by media; investigation underway

Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Faizal Azumu said his remarks questioning why the Olympian only spoke up about the issue that happened many years ago had been taken out of context by the media. — Bernama pic

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KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 26 ― Under fire, Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Faizal Azumu today defended his remarks to national diver Datuk Pandelela Rinong who recently spoke up about sexual harassment incidents she endured from national coaches in the past.

Seeking to allay public criticism, he said his remarks questioning why the Olympian only spoke up about the issue that happened many years ago had been taken out of context by the media.

“Of course the government views the matter seriously, what more if acts beyond sexual harassment had indeed taken place which were perpetrated by coaches or sport officers.

“And what I said in a press conference yesterday, that we have to obtain a full and detailed explanation from Datuk Pandelela herself and those allegedly involved in the acts, may have been taken out of context by the media.

“So I tried to obtain a fuller understanding before taking relevant action,” he said in the Dewan Rakyat this morning.

The Bersatu deputy president was replying to Muar MP Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman who wanted to know the government’s stance on the issue.

Now an independent lawmaker, Syed Saddiq was the youth and sports minister during Pakatan Harapan’s 22-month rule.

Puchong MP Gobind Singh Deo then stood up and said Ahmad Faizal was unfit to be a minister for questioning the timing of Pandelela’s revelation.

The DAP lawmaker asked Ahmad Faisal if he was aware that Malaysia has no time limit when it comes to prosecuting criminal acts.

“Tuan Speaker, actually this minister is unfit to be the youth and sports minister for failing to give athletes support.

“I want to ask the minister whether he is aware that there is no time limitation in criminal law. So if there is a complaint, even though it has long happened, there should be action taken,” Gobind said.

“I agree wholeheartedly with what YB has said. I do understand that there is no time limit,” Ahmad Faizal repliee before Petaling Jaya MP Maria Chin Abdullah cut in.

“If you agree, why was no action taken?” she asked.

Ahmad Faizal told Maria that action is being taken.

But he reiterated that he needed to hear from all of those involved before action can be taken.

Pandelela took to Twitter last night explaining her recent vocal stance against making jokes about rape following the controversial airing of a talk show programme on national TV in which a popular local actor disclosed his lusty fantasies while filming a rape scene.

She said she spoke up to create awareness of the ongoing abuses and to show solidarity with other victims so nobody will ever forget what they endured.

In an October 21 tweet, Pandelela said she had to endure sexual jokes and comments from one of her coaches for seven years.

She recalled how she once told the coach off after she had enough of his lewd jokes, only to be bullied by the same coach who was later charged with raping another athlete.

Pandalela did not name anyone in her tweets but in 2017, Chinese national Huang Qiang, who was a coach in the national diving programme, was charged in the Sessions Court with raping a national diver, who was aged 20 then, in a dry gym at the National Aquatics Centre, Bukit Jalil Sports Complex in Sri Petaling.

He was later acquitted after the prosecution withdrew its appeal in the Court of Appeal.

Following that, the national diving setup was disbanded and former head coach Yang Zhuliang was relieved of his duties.

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