The truth is that in future, policy decisions and those committing government funds will no longer be made without consultation and consensus.
Before proceeding, let me declare my interests in this issue and why we campaigned to stop such wastage of public funds. From the word go, we knew the CYC would be a flop. We are not a society of sports-loving people unlike the Aussies who are passionate about sports. Even if given free tickets to the matches, certain sections of our society would ask: Datuk, Tak kan tak ada duit belanja?!
On March 16 last year, Terence Fernandez and I attended the launch of the Champions Youth Cup (CYC) at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. That was the first step to prevent RM17 million going down the drain. Yes, I was vocal because I felt that it was a waste of money. Three days after the infamous encounter, I wrote:
But as one probing question after another was posed, I can only guess that the pressure was a bit too much for the (Sports) Minister (Datuk Azalina Othman Said.) [Some ministers are used to being asked sedate questions from prepared texts by members of the audience.] But this time, it was a different kettle of fish. The ministry had committed RM17 million to a promoter for a youth tournament which would bring little or no benefit to Malaysians. She was asked to justify it.
As much as she tried, no one got direct answers, but desperate times call for desperate measures. I had countered her claims that the football tournament is part of the Visit Malaysia campaign with a realistic look at the situation – you can’t have tourists flying in by the thousands for the August tournament. Promotions on it should have started a year ago. To date, even the ticket prices have yet to be announced.
Then some strange things happened by design or otherwise – one PR “consultant” gestured to another to take the microphone away from me. Then, Azalina dropped the clanger (it went something like this): “If you are not happy with what we are doing, then you should be a politician and stand for elections”.
How do you reply when there’s no microphone to amplify what you have to say? Desperate times need desperate measures too – scream on top of your voice: “I can’t be a politician. I don’t know how to lie”.
Today, some 14 months after the stand-off, we have been vindicated but it is nothing to rejoice or thump my chest. I had expressed the views of right-thinking Malaysians who do not want their money spent on grandiose projects. If anything, it is time for the rakyat to celebrate because this may be the first of many syiok sendiri undertakings that have been called off.
Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) president Sultan Ahmad Shah echoed similar sentiments – he was puzzled how the RM17 million allocations could easily be channelled by the Youth and Sports Ministry.
“I don’t know how the money can be given easily … if it’s given to the FAM, it can do loads,” Bernama quoted His Royal Highness as saying.
This is precisely the point. How could money – mega bucks at that – be given away without carrying out proper studies and without consultations with the governing body?
The Sultan and his FAM exco should be applauded for their bold stand and they did not pander to the whim and fancy of those entrusted with the disbursement of our money which is meant for sports development – not some sports promoter!
The FAM and our football standards have been making headlines in the back pages of all newspapers for all the wrong reasons. But in this context, His Royal Highness has done the right thing by burying the ghost of the CYC once and for all.
But that should not be the end of the matter. Didn’t the experts in the ministry give their views that such an undertaking was beyond the scope of the ministry? Didn’t people like the then National Sports Council director-general, Datuk Dr Ramlan Abdul Aziz, stand up and say it could not be done? Couldn’t the legal adviser have decreed that the ministry had no power to compel the FAM to sanction the tournament? The conclusion one can come to is that they were silenced by those pulling rank or were spectators and willing accessories.
..this is the second extravagant project proposed by the ministry that has been canned. Remember the RM490 million high-performance centre in Brickendonbury? Against all advice and views, public sentiments and logic, the minister went after it, only to have eggs splattered on the face when the local council dismissed the development application.
What are the other projects we don’t know about? Already, the rumour mill is in top gear suggesting that millions have been spent on a deal with ESPN for the “Sports Centre Malaysia” programme. So, let’s have the truth and nothing but the truth and enough of these cari bakat schemes.