KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 25 — Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Faizal Azumu has today downplayed Olympian diver Pandelela Rinong’s revelation of alleged sexual harassment by one of her former coaches.
In a report by Free Malaysia Today (FMT), the minister had instead questioned why Pandelela only brought the issue via social media to light now as the incidents happened “long ago”.
“I am trying to understand why after a long time, Lela wants to put this out in the social media,” he told reporters at an official event, referring to Pandelela.
Faizal said that he has already been in touch with several people regarding the incidents, adding that he will be sitting down with then youth and sports minister Khairy Jamaluddin to discuss the incidents further.
He also urged national athletes to speak up on any forms of sexual harassment by alerting them to their parents or the authorities.
“We cannot accept lewd or dirty jokes as it is tantamount to harassment. Don’t choose to remain silent because we must fight such actions,” he said.
On October 21, Pandelela claimed in a tweet that for seven years, she had to endure sexual jokes and comments from one of her coaches.
She recalled how she once told the coach off after she had enough of his lewd jokes, but to only end up being bullied by said coach, adding that the coach was later charged with the rape of another athlete.
In 2017, Chinese national Huang Qiang, who was a coach in the national diving programme, was charged in the Sessions Court with raping a national diver, who was aged 20 then, in a dry gym at the National Aquatics Centre, Bukit Jalil Sports Complex in Sri Petaling.
He was later acquitted after the prosecution withdrew its appeal in the Court of Appeal.
Following that, the national diving setup was disbanded and former head coach Yang Zhuliang was relieved of his duties.
Pandelela’s comments came after actor Fauzi Nawawi apologised for saying, during a recent appearance on talk show Rumah No. 107, that he enjoyed filming a rape scene for the film Anak Halal. The scene ended up being cut from the film’s final edit.