KUCHING: Sarawak's state government on Monday (Jan 28) expressed disappointment over the International Paralympics Committee's (IPC) decision to strip Malaysia of the right to host the 2019 world para swimming championships.
The championships, a qualifier for the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics, had been scheduled to be held in Kuching, Sarawak from Jul 29 to Aug 4.
But the IPC said it would look for a new venue after Malaysia banned Israeli athletes from participating.
Sarawak's Chief Minister Abang Johari Openg said the eastern Malaysian state stands by Putrajaya's decision.
"Malaysia has certain principles on the involvement of Israel. Sarawak is just a venue. So we agree with the federal government," Abang Johari was quoted by Astro Awani as saying.
Echoing those views, Sarawak's Minister for Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sport said the state accepts the IPC's decision with "an open heart".
“This (the ban on Israeli athletes) is a national foreign policy of Malaysia which Sarawak as a state within Malaysia has to respect,” Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah told the Malay Mail.
“Though we are sad that this decision was made, we accept it with an open heart,” he said.
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According to the minister, 64 countries and 1,678 athletes and officials had indicated that they would be participating in the event.
"I have also been told that reservations had been made for accommodations and other preparations had been done for the success of Malaysia as the host of the world swimming championships," he added.
Malaysia, a majority-Muslim country that does not maintain diplomatic relations with Israel, announced this month that it would bar Israelis from any event held in the Southeast Asia nation.
Israel had condemned the ban as "shameful" and said the decision was inspired by Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's "rabid anti-Semitism".