Citizen Nades - In glory, past is not forgotten nor forgiven

ON THURSDAY, our Paralympic heroes returned home. At the airport, there were thousands of people – members of their families, relatives and friends and of course fans who wanted to share their glory with the nation. The whole nation saluted these brave warriors who deserved every bit of respect for their tenacity and courage in overcoming physical and mental abilities to reach the top.

But wait. Wasn't this also a photo opportunity for politicians? Understandably, the prime minister and the sports minister received them but the other minions and cronies were there to share the spoils of the success. There will be many who will be seen on television hugging our heroes or shedding a tear or two in days to come.

On television, I watched the athletes on the upper deck of the bus. I pondered and wondered if they would have got more medals if there was sufficient money to spend on training.

That is why we should not allow this to pass while they are basking in the glory and sparkle of the success and the medals.

Something sinister and illegal should not go unnoticed. Many including big-wigs will be aware that these Paralympians were hindered by the lack of funds for their training. Not small money but RM3.8 million which was allocated for their needs.

This newspaper has been reporting on the missing funds involving the past president of the Paralympics Association of Malaysia in the hope that there are funds to continue their training and meet their special needs.

About RM4 million was used by the then Malaysian Paralympics Council (MPC) president, Datuk Zainal Abu Zarin, to set up a company called Paralimpik Ventures Sdn Bhd (PVSB).

Zainal and his sons, Idi Irwan and Ilia Ikhwan, were listed as the directors. In a note at the end of its financial statement for the year ended December 2010, it was recorded that MPC had on July 5, 2011 received a letter in which PVSB made a commitment to repay the money. But only RM200,000 was received.

Subsequently, the MPC received another letter dated Aug 6, 2012, where it was mentioned money would be paid latest by 2014.

No money has been forthcoming. So the long and short of it all is that RM3.8 million meant for our athletes is gone. And two police reports have been made and yet there's no semblance of the money being returned to its rightful benefactors.

The Sports Ministry was alerted to this several years ago but it did not lift a finger to ensure the money is returned so that it could be used to train more disabled athletes.

So, while all Malaysians join the celebrations and give the long-overdue accolades, will someone think about getting back the money and putting it back where it belongs?

Talking about sports and money, I'm taking a small step into the past. On a sunny afternoon in March 1994, Patrick Ho, now editor of Golf Digest, and I were at the Royal Selangor Golf Club for lunch followed by a sponsorship programme for Malaysian golfer P. Gunasegaran.

A week earlier, Gunasegaran was involved in a three-man play-off for the Malaysian Open title with Frank Nobilo and Joakim Haeggman. Nobilo dropped off at the fifth leaving Haeggman and Gunasegaran to battle it out. Two holes later, Haeggman triumphed.

The Malaysian Tobacco Company, which was the sponsor of the 1994 Benson and Hedges Malaysian Open, had wanted to reward Guna for his excellent finish by undertaking his cost to play in regional tournaments. But the player kept us all waiting for a good two hours before he turned up!

Memories of having covered or watched the Malaysian Open from its halcyon "home" at the RSGC and its nomadic moves subsequently, there was a tinge of sadness when the Malaysian Golf Association (MGA) announced its "temporary demise". The irony is that the announcement was made on Malaysia Day when the whole nation was supposed to be rejoicing.

Having been a feature on the international golf calendar since 1962 and having seen some of the "old" greats like Vijay Singh, Graham Marsh, Jeff Margett and Stewart Ginn, holding the trophy aloft, its 2016 edition has been shelved.

Why? Isn't the Malaysian Open one of the many that is being promoted by Tourism Malaysia and Malaysia Golf Tourism Association which gets subsidies from the government?

In a terse statement, the owner of the event, the MGA said the Open will not be played in 2016 as "it is currently in a transitional phase and will aim to return to the golfing calendar in a stronger position next season".

"The MGA unanimously felt it was important not to rush things, but rather to take our time in making sure the Malaysian Open returns once again as one of Asia's standout national Opens," said president Admiral (Rtd) Senator Tan Sri Mohd Anwar Mohd Nor in the statement.

What "standout" when after 53 years, a premier tournament does not make an appearance?

On the contrary, it is yet another blot in the history of our sports when the premier tournament is booted out because the organisers claimed a difficult market situation. Cutting out the jargon, it meant that no sponsor wanted to touch the event.

As the country grapples with religious issues and refuses to accept that money from liquor and beer companies are lifelines for any sport to thrive. While we have seen double standards in application of such unwritten edicts by the powers that be, has the time come for a review of what is allowed, allowable and banned?

R. Nadeswaran celebrated the success of the Paralympians with the nation but there was a tinge of sadness that the Open which he has covered for more than a dozen years will not take place this year. Comments: citizen-nades@thesundaily.com