Dear YB Datuk Ahmad Shabery Cheek,
RE: Appointment as the Sports Minister
Please accept my heartiest congratulations on being appointed the country's 17th Sports Minister, Datuk.
Although I personally believe Datuk should be focusing your energy on youth issues, sports remains an ideal battleground to win the hearts and minds of youth.
I'm certain your experience as the Information Ministry will put you in good stead.
As we are all aware, Datuk, sports should be a vehicle to build bridges, not to tear them down.
Only through sports can you have a slightly-built Iban carrying the contingent's flag, with a legendary sprinter of Sri Lankan ancestry behind him as the chef-de-mission, followed closely by a multi-racial group of athletes pulling towards the same direction - chasing honours for Malaysia. This scenario took place at the Athens Olympics in 2004, of which I was privileged enough to be part of.
I don't have to remind you, Datuk, of the task that awaits you. Historically speaking, you are the first Sports Minister from Terengganu.
Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-haj (1964-66) and Datuk Senu Abdul Rahman (1966-68), famed for his Revolusi Mental book, were the first two Sports Ministers, when leaders were short on cash but high on integrity.
During his tenure from 1969 to 1973, Hamzah tabled the National Sports Council (NSC) Act in 1971 and later held several high-profile posts such as president of the FA of Malaysia (FAM), Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM), Asian Football Confederation (AFC) as well as FIFA and IOC vice-president.
Datuk Ali Ahmad (1973-76), Tan Sri Abdul Samad Idris (1976-80), Datuk Mokhtar Hashim (1980-82), Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi (1982-83), Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim (1983-84), Datuk Seri Dr Sulaiman Daud (1984-86), Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak (1986-89), Datuk Annuar Musa (1990-93), Datuk Abdul Ghani Othman (1993-1995), Tan Sri Muhyiddin Mohd Yassin (1995-1999) and Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein (1999-2004) took turns to help shape the nation's sporting fortunes.
From 2004 up to the 2008 general elections, Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said's desire was to create a culture of sports, which included grassroots programmes at every Parliamentary and State Assembly constituencies. But she was extravagant and showed little regard for dissent. Virtually all her policies came under attack by the mainstream Press.
In his short tenure, Datuk Ismail Sabri Yaakob took up the courage to stop some of the policies issued by Azalina which were not really cast in stone. The expensive football youth tournament called the Champions Youth Cup was rammed down FA of Malaysia's throats while the Hertfordshire high-performance centre in London was pursued despite public outcry.
You may also want to settle the Malaysian Taekwondo Association (MTA) controversy which began in May 2005.
Since you introduced new initiatives and openness in RTM with the advent of talk shows which openly discussed important issues, you are expected to consider engaging stakeholders like OCM positively and not subject the likes of Datuk Sieh Kok Chi to public ridicule just because he has the audacity to question your policies.
For sure you will encourage dissent since you were a member of Semangat 46. You will no doubt engage your detractors positively and take kindly to criticism.
Datuk, if we were to climb the apex of world domination in sports, sincerity is paramount. Sports and youth cannot be developed through advertisements, slogans or through airtime on the media. The money ought to be better utilised to run the various programmes and reward the people that matter.
Do not think sports is a piece of cake. The experts are few and far between, so make full use of them. The people's hard-earned money, Datuk, should also be spent wisely.
Did you know NSC spent RM160 million from 1993 to 1998, with 10 gold medals in the KL '98 Games as the return on investments? But how much did NSC spend from 2004 to 2008? And what is the result?
Your main task, Datuk, is to give due recognition to the related government agencies like NSC, the volunteers from OCM and NSAs, parents, coaches and all stakeholders and drive them to the same destination. In short, everyone must subscribe to your Mission Statement.
In the event the Cabinet Committee on Sports Development is retained, I would suggest the formation of an audit committee to serve as the watchdog and monitoring body. Someone needs to crack the whip if the NSC or any government agency for that matter, slackens.
Someone too needs to monitor the funds being channelled to the various agencies on periodical basis, in line with the Prime Minister's approach of having a key performance indicator and periodical assessment.
Datuk, do not aspire to be a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) or any international body. As it is, you are already tasked with the heavy responsibility of making the establishment an appealing platform for today's youth.
In your constituency in Kemaman, you might want to engage athletics coach Mohd Zaki Sadri who is coaching a group of youngsters under the auspices of Petronas. He might be able to brief you about the state of affairs in the sport.
You might want to continue Ismail Sabri's policy of lending ex-athletes your ears as this will do you no harm but instead gain their respect. You might also want to fully tap into the experience of Sports Advisory Panel (SAP) and its chairman, Datuk Wira Mazlan Ahmad, who was seldom called upon under Ismail Sabri.
With the help of the newly-appointed Ketua Komunikasi Korporat (Corporate Communications Chief) of the Ministry, Zukri Valenteno, you may want to go on a charm offensive by making friends with the traditional and new media, with youth leaders and sports officials.
If you have any doubts, Datuk, you can always refer to your Deputy Minister, Datuk Razali Ibrahim. As the principal private secretary to Hishammuddin when the latter was the Sports Minister, he knows the Ministry inside out.
Best wishes and warm regards.
P/S We can always discuss pertinent issues over a plate of sattar in Kemaman