Pandelela now a national unity icon

KUALA LUMPUR: She was born in a little rural village by the riverside in Bau, Sarawak, and moved to urban Kuching for her early school years.

Then, after being spotted as a sports prodigy, she was brought to the bright lights of Kuala Lumpur when she was 14.

Having gone to a Chinese school – SRJK (C) Stampin – she speaks fluent Mandarin and is also good in English, Malay and her native Bidayuh. Although she is a Bidayuh-Christian, she is often mistaken for a Malay-Muslim.

With such a diverse background, it is only fitting that national diving queen, Datuk Pandelela Rinong Pamg has been chosen as a national unity icon.

The Olympics silver and bronze medallist has been installed as an icon alongside leaders, artistes and sports legends as part of the efforts to strengthen unity among the people, said National Unity Minister Datuk Aaron Ago Dagang.

He was replying to a supplementary question by Aminolhuda Hassan (PH-Sri Gading) who wanted to know if the ministry intended to take up his suggestion to produce a short film on a sports legend to promote unity.If anything, Pandelela knows all about unity. “I have felt right at home in Bukit Jalil (sports complex in Kuala Lumpur). Through sports, I mingled with all my Malay, Chinese and Indian friends,” she said in an earlier interview.

“Through our travels to different parts of the world, my team-mates and I saw and experienced many things – the different places, people, lifestyles and cultures. We became more open-minded and understood and appreciated one another’s differences.”

Our national pride: Pandelela has her eyes set on making her fifth Olympics appearance in Paris next year.Our national pride: Pandelela has her eyes set on making her fifth Olympics appearance in Paris next year.

Pandelela has won the National Sportswoman of Year Award four times – in 2011, 2012, 2015 and 2021. She was also named the Sarawak Sports Youth Icon in 2016 and the Yakult Sports Icon in 2017.

The 30 year old, who is now aiming for a fifth Olympics appearance in Paris next year, said she was happy to be made an icon.

“I think this appointment promotes unity through volunteerism among the youths. I will honour this responsibility to contribute back to our community, through sportmanship or volunteerism,” said Pandelela, who is now in training.

Meanwhile, Aaron said the National Unity Ministry was not involved in the process of monitoring and editing dramas and films, as matters related to film production and shooting came under the National Film Development Corporation Malaysia (Finas). He said the grant of approval for a film’s content was the responsibility of the Film Censorship Board (LPF).

Aaron said the ministry’s role was to monitor issues concerning harmony and unity through the e-Sepakat system, and implement programmes for dialogues or discussions on interfaith understanding.

Aaron was responding to a question from Wan Razali Wan Nor (PN-Kuantan) on the ministry’s involvement in the process of monitoring and editing dramas and films to ensure that the works produced uphold the values of harmony and do not touch on racial and religious sensitivities.

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