I spoke up now because victims of abuse never forget, says Malaysian Olympic diver Pandelela

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Olympian Datuk Pandelela Rinong says her decision to reveal her personal experience is to give awareness to the public, and support for victims out there, who are always in dilemma, whether to speak up or stay silent. — AFP pic
Olympian Datuk Pandelela Rinong says her decision to reveal her personal experience is to give awareness to the public, and support for victims out there, who are always in dilemma, whether to speak up or stay silent. — AFP pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 26 — A recent revelation about the alleged sexual harassment she had to endure at the hands of her coaches was meant to show her solidarity with other victims, said national Olympian Datuk Pandelela Rinong.

The national diver, through a Twitter thread, said her decision to reveal her personal experience was also to create awareness of the ongoing abuses.

“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, enabler and their backups shouldn’t be glamorised.

“Others may forget, but not the victim,” the athlete said in a tweet posted last night.

This after Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Faizal Azumu downplayed and questioned the timing of Pandelela’s allegations which were made public last week.

Ahmad Faizal had questioned why the revelation was only made recently by the national diver considering the alleged incident had taken place many years ago.

However, the minister did urge all national athletes to speak up on any forms of sexual harassment by alerting their parents or going straight to the authorities.

On October 21, Pandelela claimed in a tweet that for seven years, she had to endure sexual jokes and comments from one of her coaches.

She recalled how she once told the coach off after she had enough of his lewd jokes, but only ended up being bullied by said coach, adding that the coach was later charged with the rape of another athlete.

Also commenting on the issue was Kepong MP Lim Lip Eng, who took a swipe at Ahmad Faizal for downplaying the allegation and said Pandelela would not have come forward if the Misconduct and Harassment in Sports Committee under Malaysia’s Olympic Council had addressed such issues.

He chided the minister for questioning the timing of Pandelela’s revelation, stating that justice delayed is justice denied.

“It is not how long ago the incident happened, but a crime remains a crime, and there is no excuse that the alleged crime happened ‘a long time ago’,” Lim wrote in a statement today.

The DAP lawmaker applauded Pandelela and her bravery for coming forward, albeit it much later, saying such allegations warrant an independent inquiry be held to probe the abuses further.

“Pandelela is older now, and she has picked up enough courage to speak out against the crime. When she was much younger and lesser-known to the Malaysian public, she might be afraid of being kicked out of the national diver team for her expose.

“The said coach should not only be suspended or his head coach’s contract terminated, but an independent inquiry should be carried out immediately by the Ministry of Youth and Sports,” Lim wrote.

In 2017, Chinese national Huang Qiang, who was a coach in the national diving programme, was charged in the Sessions Court with raping a national diver, who was aged 20 then, in a dry gym at the National Aquatics Centre, Bukit Jalil Sports Complex in Sri Petaling.

He was later acquitted after the prosecution withdrew its appeal in the Court of Appeal.

Following that, the national diving setup was disbanded and former head coach Yang Zhuliang was relieved of his duties.

Pandelela’s comments came after actor Fauzi Nawawi apologised for saying, during a recent appearance on talk show Rumah No. 107, that he enjoyed filming a rape scene for the film Anak Halal. The scene ended up being cut from the film’s final edit.

In her tweet last night, albeit it being unrelated to Fauzi’s actions, Pandelela also stood her ground against trivialising rape.

“Still totally in support of #rapejokeisnotfunny, hoping to encourage the future ones to be brave when I wasn’t,” she tweet.

Lim in his statement also expressed his worries towards rape being trivialised, pointing out how Fauzi’s comments and those of a teacher who was exposed through student Ain Husniza Saiful Nizam’s TikTok earlier this year are actions to be concerned about.

“In fact, the trend in the country is quite alarming. Recently, a local actor was featured in a national TV talk show joking about how he enjoyed filming rape scenes.

“Another case involving a school teacher who joked about raping his student also clearly shows that government has failed to address the issue competently, and women, including our national athlete, Pandelela had to take on the social media to highlight the lewd jokes by a national coach,” Lim said.

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