Malaysia maintains stance on Israeli Paralympic athletes ban

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said Israeli athletes would not be allowed to compete in the country. (Reuters)
Updated 10 January 2019

Malaysia maintains stance on Israeli Paralympic athletes ban

  • Mahathir Mohamad: We will not allow them (to enter). If they come, then it is an offense
  • The 93-year old prime minister’s statement is in keeping with the country’s long-held policy toward Israel

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia has reiterated that it will not permit Israeli athletes hoping to compete in the 2019 World Para Swimming Championships in Kuching, Borneo, to enter the country. The event runs from July 29 to Aug. 4, and is one of the qualifying events for the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo.
“We will not allow them (to enter). If they come, then it is an offense,” Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad told reporters on Thursday. He explained that since Malaysia, a staunch supporter of Palestinian independence, has no diplomatic relations with Israel and does not recognize it as a state, it would be against the law to issue visas to the Israeli squad.
The 93-year old prime minister’s statement is in keeping with the country’s long-held policy toward Israel. In the past, Israeli squads have been refused entry to compete in international sailing competitions and tennis tournaments in Malaysia.
Despite mounting pressure from the International Paralympic Committee and the Israeli Olympic Committee, Malaysia is holding firm in its stance. “If they want to withdraw the championship hosting rights from Malaysia, then they can try to do so,” Mahathir said.
Muslim Imran, president of the Palestinian Cultural Organization Malaysia and a Kuala Lumpur-based Palestinian, said he sees the ban as a reaction to allegations that Israel undermined Malaysia’s national security through Mossad’s rumored involvement in the murder of Fadi Mohammad Al-Batsh, a Palestinian academic and member of Hamas who was killed in the Malaysian capital last year. Imran also pointed out that Malaysia’s decision was consistent with its long-standing opposition to the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
“Malaysia is serious about its political support for the Palestinian struggle. More pressure has to be piled on Israel to end its apartheid policies,” he told Arab News.
Malaysia has been one of the most vocal critics of the decades-long occupation.
Mahathir voiced his country’s support for the Palestinian state at last year’s UN General Assembly, condemning Israel for ignoring the criticism of the international community and human rights groups for the occupation of Palestine.
Last month, Malaysia expressed its disapproval of Australia’s decision to recognize West Jerusalem as Israel’s national capital. Australia became the second nation to do so after the United States under President Donald Trump. Malaysia slammed Canberra’s actions as a “humiliation” for Palestinians.


‘I feel nothing’: virus-stricken Wuhan buries its dead

Updated 27 min 1 sec ago

‘I feel nothing’: virus-stricken Wuhan buries its dead

  • Wuhan’s gradual re-opening in recent days has offered the first chance in weeks for the dead to be buried
  • After citizens of Wuhan and the rest of Hubei province spent more than two months confined at home, life is slowly inching back to normality

WUHAN, China: As China’s coronavirus epicenter Wuhan awakens from its long nightmare, formerly locked-down citizens are beginning to reemerge, but for many, their first outdoor act in more than two months is grim: burying loved ones.
At the Biandanshan Cemetery, downcast groups of masked residents filed quietly past hazmat-suit-wearing security personnel and police on Tuesday to lay friends and relatives to rest under a leaden sky, a scene repeated in recent days at Wuhan’s graveyards.
Whether from coronavirus or other causes of death, Wuhan’s gradual re-opening in recent days has offered the first chance in weeks for the dead to be buried, and for the bereft to vent over what one called a “hellish” experience for the city.
At Biandanshan, authorities mindful of infection risks funnelled groups into the hillside facility in lines separated by chest-high yellow traffic dividers, checking mourners’ temperatures and spraying them with disinfectant as they entered.
Some bore boxes swaddled in red, gold or black fabrics and containing cremated remains.
Grim-faced, many declined to speak to journalists, but one woman arriving for a family member’s burial expressed numbness.
“I don’t feel anything,” she said blankly.
Her relative had died of a stroke.
She gave no further details, but many of Wuhan’s 11 million residents have complained online of uninfected loved ones dying from other causes due to a lack of medical care during the epidemic, which overwhelmed the city’s hospitals.
One man with a box of ashes said he was a community worker tasked with burying another man who “had no family left.”
He said no more before entering the cemetery.
As small groups gathered quietly around gravesites on the hillside, a man draped in a blue plastic protective poncho stood silently near the cemetery entrance, holding a photo portrait of a woman who had died.
After citizens of Wuhan and the rest of Hubei province spent more than two months confined at home, life is slowly inching back to normality, though many restrictions on movement and public gatherings remain.
The scenes at cemeteries and funeral homes showed that one of the many things put on hold by the crisis were burials.
Relieving that pressure is one of the first things authorities have done, organizing a system in which families are notified that cremated remains are ready to be picked up, according to posts online by many next of kin.
Surviving family members are escorted to graves by government-assigned minders who were dispatched, authorities say, to provide transportation since much of the city’s transport remains shut down.
Citing epidemic-control reasons, authorities have also essentially banned observances associated with next weekend’s Tomb-Sweeping Festival, an annual tradition in which families honor ancestors by cleaning their graves.
The new regimented burial process, which allows only limited numbers of mourners into cemeteries for each funeral, did not sit well with some already angry over their loss.
A 52-year-old man who gave only his surname, Zhang, told AFP he believes his elderly father was infected while in hospital for a broken leg. His father died of coronavirus.
Zhang refused to be accompanied to the graveyard by minders.
“It’s my family business and I don’t want outsiders involved,” he said.
One woman who has written in online posts that her husband died of the virus — leaving her to raise their daughter alone — echoed the comments of other Wuhan residents who have expressed anguish at having to wait so long for burials.
Lamenting a “hellish period in Wuhan,” she finally deposited his ashes at a funeral home last week.
“My poor husband can finally rest,” she wrote, “and no longer needs to wander.”