Youth and sports minister clarifies post-flood volunteer squad ‘launch’ after backlash, says aide made a mistake

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Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Faizal Azumu said that the confusion happened because one of his aides, whom he did not name, used the word ‘launching ceremony’ for the volunteer registration initiative his ministry organised. — Bernama pic
Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Faizal Azumu said that the confusion happened because one of his aides, whom he did not name, used the word ‘launching ceremony’ for the volunteer registration initiative his ministry organised. — Bernama pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 1 ― Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Faizal Azumu has been harshly condemned for seeking publicity in “launching” a volunteer squad to aid relief efforts after tens of thousands of people nationwide were struggling to cope with the devastating effects of the flood.

In an exclusive interview with Utusan Malaysia today, Ahmad Faizal ― or commonly referred to as Peja ― explained that the ceremony had been mistakenly called a launch when it was actually an announcement to get volunteers under his ministry for cleanup work after the floods.

He said that the confusion happened because one of his aides, whom he did not name, used the word “launching ceremony” for the volunteer registration initiative his ministry organised.

“When the floods hit, we at the Ministry of Youth and Sports (KBS) thought to ourselves, what is our responsibility? It is the post-flood clean up work. It’s not our responsibility to organise rescue missions, but to help clean up the mess. And for that to happen, we needed to rally volunteers there and then.

“For that, I had to call the media. So, it was not a launch of the volunteer squad, but it was an initiative to get volunteers onboard. Others said I organised a launch, that’s wrong.

“But I admit the mistake was on my part. My officer wrote it as a launch ― that was wrong, and that was the root of the problem. That is why Najib trolled me,” he was quoted saying, referring to Pekan MP Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

Ahmad Faizal said that his intentions were merely to ensure the post-flood relief efforts were handled smoothly, which was why he called the media.

“Suddenly people were angry with the government, saying NGOs were faster. Why? Because you weren’t ready. People don’t want to talk to KBS, KBS doesn’t want to talk to the Social Welfare Department (JKM), JKM doesn’t want to talk to the National Disaster Management Agency (Nadma), Nadma won’t talk to the police, the police don’t want to talk to the military.

“I know I’m a Cabinet member, but honestly that’s what I tried to do. We want to help people when they are struggling. If I get fired from being minister but the people are still struggling, what's the point?” he told Utusan.

On December 20, 2021, Faizal came under fire for holding a ceremony to launch the ministry’s post-flood volunteer squad while thousands of victims were stranded waiting for help.

Najib led the chorus of criticism, telling Faizal that the ceremony was “unnecessary” because it was better to “move and help immediately”.

On being overseas while the flood was happening, Peja told Utusan that he was disappointed with the people who focused on such matters which he described as meaningless.

“I’m a poor minister, I want to buy a flight ticket back also heart attack. If you haven’t seen your son for two year, he breaks his nose also you can’t see him, because I have to do my job as a representative of the people.

“Right now I'm doing my job normally. For the next term, I don't know, I may not necessarily win. But I'm still a member of Parliament, I have to work, I work crazy, happy-happy, but have I done anything wrong?

“That's what I'm disappointed about. People are more focused on things that don't mean anything. It's true that Peja violated SOPs, it’s true Peja is bad, it’s true Peja went abroad, but has our country developed? The focus is on the wrong places,” he was quoted saying.

On December 27, 2021, Faizal admitted to being among the ministers holidaying abroad amid the flood crisis.

Utusan TV quoted Faizal saying he was in Dubai last week to meet his two sons whom he had not seen for two years as they were studying in the UK.

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