Malaysia defies games ban over Israeli athletes

Syed Saddiq Abdul Rahman, Malaysia’s youth and sports minister. (Reuters/File)
Updated 28 January 2019

Malaysia defies games ban over Israeli athletes

  • Malaysia defended its decision to bar Israeli athletes from entering the country
  • Malaysia has had no diplomatic ties with Israel since its establishment in 1948

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia is standing firm on its ban on Israeli athletes despite the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) stripping it of the right to host the 2019 World Para Swimming Championships. 
On Sunday, only hours after the IPC decision, Malaysia defended its decision to bar Israeli athletes from entering the country. 
“We will not compromise,” said Syed Saddiq, Malaysia’s youth and sports minister. 
“If hosting an international sporting event is more important than standing up for our Palestinian brothers and sisters who get murdered, maimed and tortured by the Netanyahu regime, that means Malaysia has truly loss its moral compass,” he said.
However, analysts warned that the loss of the titles, due to be held in Kuching, in Borneo, from July 29 to Aug. 4, could have severe political and economic costs following accusations of discrimination by the international community.
Dr. Bridget Welsh, a Malaysia expert at John Cabot University, told Arab News: “The Malaysian government has chosen to ban Paralympic athletes who have trained for years and have nothing to do with government policy to make its own political statement.”
Malaysian businesses and investments could pay a heavy price for the decision, she said.
The IPC decision means 64 countries and almost 1,700 athletes and officials will no longer be heading to Kuching.
Two major local airlines, Malaysia Airlines and AirAsia, are likely to face losses, while hotels and the tourism industry also will be hit.
Muslims make up more than half Malaysia’s 31 million population. Malaysia has had no diplomatic ties with Israel since its establishment in 1948. 
Earlier, IPC President Andrew Parsons said in a statement that athletes should compete in an environment that is “free from discrimination.”
Participation in the world championships is essential since it acts as a qualifier for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. The IPC has “no alternative” and is now “looking for a new host” for the event, Parsons said.
He said the decision by the new political leadership in Malaysia was made for “political reasons.”
“Politics and sport are never a good mix, and we are disappointed that Israeli athletes would not have been allowed to compete in Malaysia,” he said.
The Malaysian Paralympic Council said it stood behind the government’s decision but respected the IPC’s response. 
“The IPC has the right to terminate the organizing agreement,” the council said.

Sri Lanka churches halt public services over security fears

Updated 40 min 20 sec ago

Sri Lanka churches halt public services over security fears

  • Potential bombers ‘at large’ as death toll lowered to 253
  • Muslims asked to shun Friday prayer

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s Catholic churches suspended all public services over security fears on Thursday, as thousands of troops joined the hunt for suspects in deadly Easter bombings.

A senior priest said that all public services were being suspended and all churches closed “on the advice of security forces.”

Authorities revised the death toll down to 253, from the previous figure of 359, explaining that some of the badly mutilated bodies had been double-counted.

The father of two of the suspected bombers has been arrested on suspicion of aiding his sons.

Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said suspects remained at large and could have access to explosives. Some of the suspects “may go out for a suicide attack,” Wickremesinghe said.

Hundreds of Ahmadi refugees in western Sri Lanka have taken refuge in mosques and a police station after facing intimidation following the bombings. Scores of Ahmadis who settled in Negombo after fleeing persecution in their home countries have been thrown out of their accommodation by landlords.

Sri Lanka’s Defense Secretary Hemasiri Fernando resigned on Thursday over security failures. He submitted a letter of resignation to President Maithripala Sirisena.

Britain’s Foreign Office advised against all but essential travel to Sri Lanka.

“The horrific attack is a demonstration of how tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) that originated in this island nation several decades ago returned to haunt a shocked and broken government thanks to a complete collapse of counterterrorism capability or capacity,” Dr. Theodore Karasik, a security expert, writes in an opinion piece.

Hate preacher Zahran Hashim, head of the National Thowheeth Jama’ath group that is being blamed for the attacks, developed a reputation as a preacher who “copied” Daesh propaganda videos to enhance his posts via the pro-Daesh Al-Ghuraba media channel, which used Facebook and YouTube as its primary platforms, Karasik says. 

Sri Lanka’s Islamic affairs minister, M. H. M. Haleem, asked all Muslims to avoid prayers on Friday for security reasons. He also said it would be a mark of respect for those who perished in the nation’s worst violence in years.

Politician and Western Province Gov. Azath Salley told Arab News that the blasts were orchestrated by a handful of extremists and that the island’s Muslim population could not be held responsible for their “deviant” actions.