Malaysian Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has reiterated that the nation will continue to deny Israeli para swimmers visas for the 2019 WPS World Championships in July.
“We will not allow them [to enter]. If they come, then it is an offense,” he said in a press conference Tuesday, “If they want to withdraw the championships’ hosting rights from Malaysia, then they can try to do so.”
Malaysia has long enforced a policy of disallowing Israeli passport-holders from entering the country due to a lack of diplomatic relations between the two nations.
From July 29th to August 4th, 2019, the Malaysian city of Kuching is set to host hundreds of swimmers from 70 countries for the meet, which is one of the possible qualifying opportunities for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics. To be eligible for Tokyo, para-swimmers are supposed to have competed at either a WPS World Series event, Worlds, any WPS Regional or Regional Open Championships, or the 2019 Parapan American Games in the timeframe of October 1, 2018 through the 2020 WPS European Open Championships (the dates of which have yet to be announced).
The International Paralympic Committee tells SwimSwam that it is working to remedy the situation.
“We are disappointed at the comments made by the Malaysian Prime Minister regarding the participation of Israeli Para swimmers at the World Championships this summer,” the IPC said. “We will continue to pursue every single avenue with the Local Organising Committee, Malaysian National Paralympic Committee and State Government to try and ensure that all of the world’s best swimmers can compete at this event as World Championships should be open to all eligible nations. We aim to find a solution to this issue.”
Beyond the prime minister’s remarks, a group of 29 NGOs including Palestinian Cultural Organisation Malaysia, Viva Palestina Malaysia, al-Quds Foundation Malaysia, Humanitarian Care Malaysia and ASEAN Coalition for Palestine have come out in support of the ban, and gave The Sun Daily following statement:
“Boycotting and isolating Israel is the very least that can and should be done to express moral outrage. If it worked against apartheid South Africa, it will work against apartheid Israel.”
“The Malaysian Government is doing the right thing in barring Israelis from this country.”
In addition to the IPC, the Israeli Olympic and Paralympic Committees have also been working to find a solution, to no avail thus far.