Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Sports Ministers from 1971-1999

Here's a low-down on Malaysia's Sports Ministers over the decades, up until 1999, which I wrote in December that year. Since then we have had four more politicians helming the Ministry, Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said, Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob, Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek and YB Tuan Haji Khairy Jamaluddin. This list requires an update, soon perhaps.

Dec 16, 1999

Ministers down the years

Datuk Hishammuddin Tun Hussein recently stepped in as Malaysia's 12th Sports Minister since 1971. 

The 38-year-old lawyer by profession faces a monumental task of raising the standard of sports excellence in Malaysia just as his 11 predecessors have.

Before we can expect the best from Hishammuddin, Mailsport's Rizal Hashim takes you down memory lane on how the Ministers before him have fared in the hot-seat.

Tan Sri Hamzah Abu Samah (1971-73) Pahang

Tabling the National Sports Council (NSC) Act 1971 was Hamzah's biggest contribution during the days when sports took a backseat in the Ministry's list of priorities. Only later the former magistrate carved a niche as a leader in sports by holding several high-profile posts - among them, 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) Johor (deceased)

The Pontian MP made several amendments to the NSC Act to facilitate the athletes' preparations for international high-performance competitions. He later died in a plane crash at Tanjung Kupang, Johor in December 1977. The Agriculture Minister was on board the flight from Penang and was killed together with 99 others when the MAS 737 exploded in mid-air before crashing into a swamp.

Tan Sri Abdul Samad Idris (1976-80) Negri Sembilan 

Though he was inclined towards arts and culture, Abdul Samad first raised the idea of semi-professionalism in sports, especially soccer, hockey and badminton. Now the Finas chairman.

Datuk Mokhtar Hashim (1980-82) Negri Sembilan

Mokhtar became the youngest Cabinet member following Samad's resignation in 1980 and he quickly formed a task force chaired by Datuk (now Tan Sri) Elyas Omar to look into establishing the NSC, with Noh Abdullah as the first director-general. During his tenure, NSC became a vital arm of the Ministry with the sole aim of enhancing high-performance training and development programmes for athletes.

Datuk Abdullah Ahmad Badawi (1982-83) Penang

A deputy director-general of the Ministry before venturing into politics in 1974, Abdullah became acting Minister when Mokhtar was charged in court. Abdullah encouraged larger participation of the private sector in sports.

Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim (1983-84) Penang

During his brief tenure, Anwar who was also the Umno youth head, pushed ahead with the plans to make the National Sports Complex at Bukit Jalil (suggested in the 1970s) a reality.

Datuk Seri Dr Sulaiman Daud (1984-86) Sarawak

A dentist by profession, Sulaiman initiated the Malaysia Games (Sukma) in 1986.

Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak (1986-89) Pahang

Najib became the youngest Sports Minister in 1986 at the age of 33 and was eventually hailed as one of the best the country has ever had.

The former Petronas executive who was thrown into the political arena following his father's death in January 1976, was instrumental in the successful staging of the 1989 SEA Games.

The contingent registered Malaysia's best ever finish with 67 gold, 78 silver and 70 bronze. Najib too suggested the allocation of an area for the sport school at Bukit Jalil and was behind the introduction of the National Sports Policy in 1988.

Datuk Annuar Musa (1990-93) Kelantan

A town planner and a former 400m runner at university level, Annuar is best remembered for his role in the successful bidding of the 1998 Commonwealth Games. He too saw Malaysia regain the Thomas Cup in 1992 after a lapse of 25 years.

Datuk Abdul Ghani Othman (1993-1995) Johor

An academician who came up with the Rakan Sukan programme, revolutionising the whole concept of funding in an area long dependent on Government handouts for survival. The adoption of the various sports by corporate giants was a boon (Petronas-MABA, EON-BAM, SRAM-YTL, to name a few) although certain associations managed to alienate their partners.

Ghani too proposed the Sports Development Act to police sports associations and curtail rampant malpractices, bickering, infighting and mismanagement.

Tan Sri Muhyiddin Mohd Yassin (1995-1999) Johor

A reluctant Minister who turned out to be a successful one. Under Muhyiddin, Malaysian sports reached a low with the soccer bribery scandal in 1995 but rose to an all-time high with the enormous success of the 16th Commonwealth Games in September 1998.

KL'98 were a spectacle not only in terms of organisation but also the overall performance when we enjoyed our best outing by winning 10 gold, 14 silver and 12 bronze medals to be placed fourth out of 70 countries.

The former Muar district officer oversaw an aggressive Jaya'98 programme since 1995, the inaugural Formula 1 Grand Prix, as well as the initial lobbying to host the 2006 Asian Games and 2008 Olympic Games.

Datuk Hishammuddin Tun Hussein (1999-) Johor

 It's interesting to see whether Hishammuddin, who is also the acting head of Umno Youth, possesses the political will to plug the loopholes in the Sports Development Act, offer solutions for soccer to regain its status as the premier sport and unite youths and students at grassroot level through systematic and interactive programmes.

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