SINGAPORE: Malaysia's Minister for Youth and Sports Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman has said that he will not tolerate the Terengganu state government barring women gymnasts from competing.
He also pledged that his ministry will intervene and "take over control" of the Terengganu Sports Council to ensure that the future of gymnasts is safeguarded.
"I will never tolerate this," said the minister on his Twitter account Saturday (Nov 9) afternoon. "If true, (the ministry) will take over control of (Terengganu Sports Council) and absorb their young aspiring athletes who (have been) discriminated (against)."
"I personally will meet up with the athletes affected to ensure that their future in gymnastics will not be compromised."
The minister made the comments in response to a CNA report quoting the secretary-general of the Terengganu Gymnastics Association as saying that the state would scale back on recruitment of women gymnasts.
Mr Ahmad Akramin had also said that Terengganu would not field women gymnasts in next year's national Sukma Games.
READ: Dreams dashed for Terengganu's aspiring female gymnasts as state bars them from competitions over attire concerns
Mr Ahmad had said that the move was in line with the Terengganu state government’s guidelines on sports, which includes withdrawing women from competing in all forms of gymnastics as athletes would “display indecent movements” that would expose their bodies.
Responding to media queries, Mr Syed Saddiq issued a statement on Saturday evening saying he would "call for a meeting immediately" to resolve the issue.
He also said the Terengganu government had been inconsistent in its stance, having earlier informed him that it would allow women gymnasts to participate in the 2020 Sukma Games.
“They told me that they’ll allow for the gymnasts to participate in Sukma, that they will be taken care (of). At the same time, (they are) insisting something else when asked by the media. Uncertainty kills talents,” said Mr Syed Saddiq.
The Terengganu state government, led by Islamic party Parti Islam Se-Malaysia, drafted the sporting guidelines based on syariah compliance. Besides attire, the guidelines also address points like coaching, physiotherapy and other areas of sports related to training and competition.
Terengganu's decision to implement the guidelines has drawn flak from the country’s sporting fraternity.
National Sports Council (NSC) director-general Ahmad Shapawi Ismail was quoted in September as saying that the Terengganu state government’s concerns could potentially affect the future of potential women athletes who could make the country proud.
Mr Syed Saddiq had said then that athletes are the country's "heroes and heroines, regardless of what they wear".