SIBU: Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah said his statement on rewarding National Diving Queen Pandelela Rinong was misunderstood by netizens to the extent that he received a threat of wanting to burn down his house.
“However, I do not want to lodge any police report on it because my statement is not malicious or anything like that.
“That’s what social media is like and I have to accept it because it’s freedom of speech,” he said after visiting the PLUX Incubation Hub here today (May 8).
Pandelela won Malaysia’s first gold medal at the FINA Diving World Cup in Tokyo recently and netizens wanted the 28-year-old athlete to be awarded with a Datukship by the state government.
The minister assured that all athletes who excelled would be accorded due recognition by the state government in its own way regardless of whether the athlete was Chinese, Malay, or Dayak.
Abdul Karim pointed out that the state government would like to see and help Pandelela and her family, as they also contributed to her success.
“That’s what I was trying to convey. When the election is around the corner, certain parties took advantage and linked it to racism.
“This hurts my heart because I am not a racist. We support and help all athletes from Sarawak who achieved excellent results,” he explained.
Abdul Karim assured that the state government has its own way of giving rewards, who should be given and what kind of appreciation should be given.
“We are not like other states that will award the title of Datuk,” he said, adding that he was not in a position to determine what form of prizes are given to eligible athletes in the state.
“The state government has its own way and mechanism by going through a committee responsible for providing such forms of appreciation.
“I have received calls from parties asking what kind of rewards will be given to Pandelela, who is a two-time Olympic medallist.
“They want the title of Datuk in recognition of her achievements just like some other famous national athletes,” he said.
Abdul Karim said, the state government always supported the country’s athletes not only in monetary rewards but also other types of rewards.