LAST_UPDATEWed, 18 Jul 2018 11pm

Here’s What Youth And Sports Organisations Are Expecting From KJ’s Successor

Who will become the new Youth and Sports Minister?

It is one of the positions that is receiving a lot of attention as Malaysians wait for the full Cabinet line-up to be announced.

The focus on that particular ministerial position is not surprising seeing that the former minister, Khairy Jamaluddin (KJ) made it widely popular with his continued efforts to introduce programmes that empowered the youths and sporting community.

One name that is being bandied about to become Khairy’s successor is Syed Saddiq Abdul Rahman, the newly minted Muar Member of Parliament, but it remains to be seen.

As whoever will assume this position has big shoes to fill, Malaysian Digest decided to speak with several stakeholders who have a vested interest to share their hopes and expectations for the incoming Youth and Sports Minister.

Youths Need Someone Who Listens And Understands

Founder-CEO of humanitarian organisation SOLS 24/7 that has a focus on youth development, Raj Ridvan Singh, or better known as Teacher Raj, emphasised that the incoming Youth Minister needs to listen to what Malaysian youths, who have a lot of ideas and energy, have to say.

“What was really sad in the past was that youth issues were always related to the mat rempit and always highlighting on the difficulties millennials face and so on, but no one truly listened to what the youths had to say.

“I am well aware that there were youth groups during the previous leadership but they were elitist groups that would just say what the ministers wanted to hear and it was never about the issues that were affecting youths; everything was generalised.

“It is true that youths were disenfranchised but it was because no one was listening to them,” he argued.

Raj Ridvan SinghRaj Ridvan Singh

As such, he asserted that the incoming minister understands that it is important to listen to all voices and everything has to be taken as positive criticism regardless of whether what is being voiced is positive or negative.

To do so, he suggests for the future minister to go on the ground and hold town halls, as well as create focus groups consisting of only youths without the involvement of adults or politics.

“If you want to truly engage with the youths of this country, go and listen to them because trust me, they have brilliant ideas so be prepared to hear what they need to say.

“Also go talk to those who are voiceless and are not represented, and do not talk to those who are seemingly a representative. I think that is important for the incoming minister to note,” he stressed.

But Teacher Raj gave credit where it is due as he believes that the Activate platform by the Ministry of Finance, MaGIC, IM4U with KBS, was a great platform that empowered Malaysians who were interested to do something for the community and hopes that this initiative continues under the new minister.

He also praised KJ for bringing health to the forefront and for championing healthy living.

“I think that was fantastic, he got a lot of people into exercise and I think that it is important to be continued but that is just one part of Youth and Sports.

“The youth’s part is actual engagement – actually finding ways to help the youths participate in the change.

“So a transformation programme for young people needs to be created, a movement for young people to take active action or using the UN term, to become an active citizen.

“It is important for the future youth minister to understand this because if they cannot be pushed to become active citizens, to become a positively contributing member of the community then expect them to continue to be disenfranchised,” he reasoned.

Seeing that the government has a Council of Imminent Persons, or the Council of Elders, Teacher Raj also suggested that the new minister create a Council of Young Leaders, where young people from various sectors are brought together so that they can bring things together.

“Let us bring youths from Sabah, Sarawak, orang asli, Chinese, Indian, Malays, and others together and let us create our own circle of young leaders so that we can then advise the government,” he said while highlighting that a group of successful, brilliant, and dedicated young people does not exist at the moment.

Stressing on the need to have a minister that actually represents the youths, will fight for them and will push their agenda instead of representing a political party, Teacher Raj believes that Syed Saddiq is capable of assuming the responsibility of the youth minister, as he is someone young and understands what the youths think.

Although it is still unknown who will become the Youth Minister, Teacher Raj does have high hopes in whoever will be assuming the position.

“My hope for the incoming minister is that you truly become the minister of the youths who is there to champion our needs, to fight for our rights and to unite and bring us together, and focus on all of us instead of the elites.

“My hope is that you will understand that we are the future and that you need to empower, enable and provide the platform for us to grow upon.

“I would also hope that the new minister will come and talk to me and work with the people who have been serving the youths for the past 10, 15, 20 years, from a very young age.

“I’ve been doing this since I was 17 and now I am 35, come and talk to people like me. There are many of us around. I would be happy to put a group together for you,” he said.

Sporting NGOs Need To Be Strengthened

Datuk Subramaniam Raman Nair, vice president of the Paralympic Council of Malaysia, also has high expectations for the incoming Youth and Sports Minister and one of the things that he would like the minister to do is to relook at the entire sports development strategy.

Datuk Subramaniam Raman NairDatuk Subramaniam Raman Nair“Sometimes we find that a lot of the agencies are not aligned or mutually supportive. Hence, they have to be realigned to ensure that everybody is working to help one another so that at the end of the day, the athletes benefit,” he said while adding that the minister should look into working closely with the NGOs especially the Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) and the Paralympic Council of Malaysia.

“These two bodies are the main drivers of the NGO and the sports development in the country, where all associations belong to these two bodies.

“If the minister strengthens these two bodies and the associations, we can reach out to more athletes and then the National Sports Council of Malaysia (MSN), National Sport Institute of Malaysia (ISN), and the Youth and Sports Ministry can play their role to fund this accordingly.”

Having strong sporting NGOs is important as Subramaniam explained that OCM and the Paralympic Council are the ones that have the international link should athletes want to participate in an international competition, something that MSN and other governmental bodies do not have.

“No doubt they (MSN) give the money but sports does not recognise government interference, they only work with NGOs so the government needs to strengthen the NGOs,” he pointed out.

Aside from that, Subramaniam welcomes new ideas from the incoming minister and believes that the minister should sit down together with stakeholders involved in sports – both government bodies and non-government bodies – to find out what the strengths and weaknesses are so that they can realign and return to the glory of what we used to be.

“Our athletes are doing okay at the moment but there is a lot of room for improvement, and don’t forget that a lot of other countries are moving faster.

“Maybe we are doing okay in the ASEAN context where we were the champions but we need to have consistency and long term sustainable efforts, and not go downhill after winning once.

“People must look at Malaysia and see us as competitors and champions – when they look at Malaysia they think that we are too strong. We need to achieve that kind of status.

“If we could do it before, why can’t we do it now?” he challenged.

But he does hope that the Podium programme introduced by KJ will be continued as it is a good initiative that selects the crème of the crop to be developed over the long-term to achieve the target

New Minister Must Reach Out To Grassroots

Being the Youth and Sports Minister will definitely not be a walk in the park as political analyst Professor Dr Ahmad Atory Hussain notes that the minister has huge responsibilities to shoulder.

Prof Dr Ahmad Atory HussainProf Dr Ahmad Atory Hussain

“The Youth and Sports Minister needs to organise a balanced amount of programmes for youths and for sports, and not favour one over the other.

“Youth programmes need to be organised as much as sports programmes because we need to remember that there are many youth programmes available that contribute to the development of the nation such as youths in agriculture, youths in industries among many others,” he said.

Atory predicts that Syed Saddiq will fill the role of Youth and Sports Minister as he sees that Syed Saddiq will be groomed to be a future leader and is of the opinion that being the Youth and Sports Minister is a stepping stone towards a higher position in the future.

“My prediction is that if Syed Saddiq is given the opportunity to become the Youth and Sports Minister, it is the place to train his leadership as he might be a Malaysian leader somewhere in the future.

“And his proximity to Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir is also a reason why I think he would be appointed to the position,” he opined.

Regardless of who will be appointed, Atory stressed that the new minister needs to approach the grassroots more, something that was missing during KJ’s tenure.

“I think what KJ did for youths and sports was on the right track but he did not reach out to the grassroots in rural areas, so whoever becomes the minister needs to do so.

“They can emulate what KJ has done right but they need to rectify this weakness,” he said while adding that there needs to be a concerted effort to improve what KJ has done as it would be worthless if they were abandoned.

While we are still waiting on the announcement of who will be assuming the huge responsibility that the Youth and Sports portfolio entails, Atory summed it nicely as in his word, “I hope that the new minister will be a good example to all Malaysian youths.”