Ahmad Faizal Azumu, the failed former Menteri Besar of Perak made yet another of his trademark gaffes when he responded to the allegations of Olympic diver Pandelela Rinong about her former coach’s behavior.
She claimed that her coach liked to make “lewd jokes” and cause trouble for the athletes he trained.
As the head coach was supportive of his disgusting behavior, the athletes’ efforts to censure him were not successful.
Instead of praising Pandelela’s courage in speaking out about her experience, Ahmad Faizal, the Youth and Sports minister, criticized her and said the diver was merely “bringing up old stories” of her former coach’s alleged sexual misconduct.
When social media and other ministers, including his predecessor Khairy Jamaluddin, attacked him for his insensitivity and callous comment, he backtracked and claimed that his remarks had been taken out of context.
Ahmad Faizal’s excuse is the standard response of incompetent and clueless politicians who will claim their remarks are misconstrued. They only say this because they have been caught out.
Is Ahmad Faizal a father? What would his response have been if his daughter had revealed that years earlier, someone, perhaps a relative or a person known to the family, had sexually abused her?
Would he have scolded his daughter and said, “Why bring it up now?” Or would he have demanded that the alleged abuser be punished?
Where is Ahmad Faizal’s compassion? Pandelela exposed the coach so that Malaysians are made aware. Her actions will also help other victims come forward and seek help.
Her courage in relating her horrible experience should compel the government to provide ample legislation to punish the perpetrators, not hide behind more loopholes and cover-ups.
Many alleged sexual molesters have escaped scot-free.
As is common with Asian cultures, Malaysians are afraid of speaking out about being victims of sexual abuse as this may shame their families. So, in the end, the victims keep silent and carry the trauma of their experiences to their graves.
Ahmad Faizal was clueless in his role as former Menteri Besar of Perak and lost a vote of confidence in the Perak Assembly.
Later, he was an incompetent special advisor to the former prime minister, Mahiaddin Yassin.
He tends to open his mouth before engaging his brain. He does not think about the responsibilities of his post.
As MB, he dismissed the rights of Orang Asli (OA) and instead, invited timber tycoons to fell the trees in OA ancestral lands, thus depriving the OA of a living.
He dismissed open tenders and transparency in government affairs. He signed contracts with little known companies with no experience in forestry-related activities and made them responsible for multi-million ringgit contracts.
In his role as Youth and Sports Minister, Ahmad Faizal does not appear to defend the rights of Malaysian youths.
He had the audacity to claim that any athlete who has suffered sexual abuse to ‘stand-up and speak out’. If that were the case, why did he belittle and attack Pandelela when she made the serious allegations?
His remarks, his insensitivity, his lack of empathy and his ignorance make us wonder how and why he was made a minister.
He does not appear to be aware that there is no statute of limitations in criminal cases.
As a career politician, Ahmad Faizal knows when to wriggle out of a corner.
In 2018, he claimed he was a graduate of Edith Cowan University and only came clean when others turned up the heat, especially as many MPs had lied about their degrees.
When his fellow MPs blasted him for criticizing Pandelela, he claimed that he wanted to seek further clarification on Pandelela’s experience.
The experience of Malaysians, especially women, is that when cases of sexual abuse and harassment have been publicized, little if any action is taken. Most of those in authority go into denial mode, to be followed by cover-ups.
The teenage student who reported her teacher for making crude comments about rape has not seen any justice. The employee of the Malaysian World Wild Life Fund has not seen justice either, nor have other women who had the courage to lodge reports against their perpetrators.
In many cases, the abusers were relieved of their positions or had their contracts terminated. What is the point of sacking them?
The victims want justice. They want their alleged abusers to face the criminal charge of sexual assault, abuse or rape.
Ahmad Faizal has failed the youths of Malaysia, just as he failed the OA and the people of Perak.
He is incompetent, irresponsible and has not displayed any leadership skills. He should consider his position and tender his resignation.
- Free Malaysia Today: Why bring up lewd jokes now, Faizal asks Pandelela
- Free Malaysia Today: The disturbing and damning silence on WWF-Malaysia
- Al Jazeera: The 17-year-old exposing rape culture in Malaysian schools
(Mariam Mokhtar is a Freelance Writer.)