KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 22 — DAP secretary-general, Lim Guan Eng today urged prime minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob to step in and reverse the two-year ban slapped on the country's shuttlers, Lee Zii Jia and Goh Jin Wei.

In a statement this afternoon, the former finance minister said that the move is imperative, as the ban has drawn widespread international condemnation from top foreign badminton players worldwide.

Lim added that Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Faizal Azumu's failure to protect the country's athletes also serves to highlight the incompetence of the government, as opposed to that done by the Singapore government.

He also called on Ahmad Faizal to relinquish his ministerial post.

“The failure of the Youth and Sports minister Ahmad Faizal to protect our sports athletes only highlights the incompetence of the government that sharply contrasts with the success of the Singapore government in enticing top Malaysian players to play for them.

“The newly crowned Singapore badminton world champion Loh Kean Yew, was originally from Penang, but was lost to our neighbouring country because the federal government at that time, failed to appreciate and value our sports talents. If Ahmad Faizal cannot do his job well, it is better for him to resign than sacrifice our athletes, who unlike Ahmad, are working hard to gain glory for the country.

“Unless this ban is reversed immediately, this will discourage youths from excelling in sports. Malaysia’s hopes of Olympic glory and winning our first gold medal in our history will remain a distant dream, Lim added.

Lim said that the “poor treatment” of Malaysia's athletes follows the “forced” retirement of Malaysia women's diving world champion Cheong Jun Hoong after her contract as a full-time athlete with the National Sports Council(NSC) was not renewed.

He said Malaysia’s top female squash player Low Wee Wern was dropped from the Podium Programme by the NSC while recovering from her injury.

“Again, Malaysia is becoming an international outlier for brutal treatment of our top talents by irresponsibly and cruelly taking away their most important commodity ― time to compete when they are at their prime of their careers,” Lim said.

He said that there is nothing wrong in the athletes wanting to follow their own path, choose their own coaches or their own tournament schedule and sponsorship deals to sustain their success as a professional player.

He added that If the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) wants to get back its investment in nurturing successful players, they can work out a reasonable deal either by way of compensation or requesting that the athletes help train young talents.

Denmark's badminton ace Hans-Kristian Solberg Vittinghus yesterday took BAM to task for banning Lee, a national player and world number seven, and Badminton World Federation (BWF) World Junior Championships 2018 winner, Goh for two years.

Taking to his Facebook, Vittinghus lamented the duo's “crime” was only to pursue their own pathways in terms of their training arrangements, which include their own training set up, tournament schedules, choosing their own coaches, as well as to do their own sponsorship deals.

BAM had yesterday slapped Lee and Goh with a two-year ban from participating in any international tournaments.

National news agency Bernama reported BAM deputy president Datuk Seri Jahaberdeen Mohamed Yunoos saying that they would not register Lee for any tournaments for a two-year period effective from January 18.

Jahaberdeen, who is also the BAM Legal Advisory Committee chairman, reportedly said that a series of discussions was held with Lee after he had thrown in his resignation letter on January 11.

BAM also meted out the same penalty against Goh who left the national badminton governing body last year, citing health reasons. Her ban is effective from October 31, 2021.

Shuttlers have to be registered through their national associations in order to compete in any BWF-sanctioned tournaments.

Jahabardeen however was reported saying that the shuttlers could appeal against BAM's decision anytime and the door was open for them to return.