KUCHING, Oct 26 — Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Faizal Azumu has been slammed for downplaying national diving queen Datuk Pandelela Rinong’s claims of sexual harassment.
In a statement today, Council of Malaysian Women Political Leaders (Comwel) Sarawak head Voon Shiak Ni demanded he apologise to the country’s two-time Olympic medallist and all Malaysian women.
“Faizal should support Pandelela for her courage to speak up and not to downplay her revelation of her being a victim of alleged sexual harassment,” the social activist stated.
“It is very insensitive and unprofessional of Faizal.”
According to Voon, Pandelela shared her ordeal at the hands of a former coach following viral reports of an actor glorifying an unaired rape scene.
“Faizal, you may not be a woman and may not understand the impact of those sexual utterances and jokes, but it is everyone’s duty to protect our girls and women against any forms of abuse and harassment be it reported early or late.
“Late reporting does not make any crime a lesser crime or less traumatic,” she said.
Voon praised Pandelela for doing the right thing by courageously and boldly using her platform to speak up not only for herself but for all girls and women.
“She is using her influence to encourage all those victims who may still be suffering in silence in their home and workplace. She takes the lead. We are proud of her.
“It is general knowledge that many cases of sexual abuse or sexual harassment are shelved by victims themselves because of the public stigma and threats on reporting or exposing sex crimes. It takes a lot of courage and bravery to report these crimes,” she stressed.
Ahmad Faizal reportedly questioned Pandelela’s motives for bringing up “old stories” that happened “long ago”.
On Twitter last night, Pandelela explained she shared her experience of sexual harassment involving her former coach to offer support and embolden other victims to speak up.
She said she wanted to encourage such victims to “be brave when I wasn’t”.
“I shared my ‘not so nice’ experience to give awareness to the public, and support for victims out there, who are always in dilemma, whether to speak up or stay silent.
“Most importantly, enablers and their backups shouldn’t be glamorised. Others may forget, but not the victim,” she tweeted. — Borneo Post Online