04 May 2009

An issue of statements I

A statement on the point at issue

I would like to congratulate Constance Singam, new President Dana Lim and her executive committee for their success in retaking Aware.

Thank you, old guard, for remaining steadfast to your principles, for calmly and clearly telling and showing what you stand for.

Thank you, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Taoists, Catholics, agnostics and atheists, for showing this was never an issue of faith, for telling us this had all to do with ethics, transparency, respect and diversity.

Thank you, old media, for showing there are some principles that we can all agree to care about.

Thank you, women of every social class and profession, for showing that you care enough about airy fairy ideals like ethics and transparency.

Thank you, mothers, sisters, and daughters, for transcending beyond conservative and liberal labels on Saturday. Thank you for showing that Feminist Mentor and her G9 are more of a religious splinter group than representative of any 'conservative Singapore society'.

Thank you.

Now that you've won, let me point out the road ahead of you.

I understand that Constance Singam and President Dana Lim intend to change the constitution of Aware. For good reason too: the illiberal, unprincipled and surreptitious takeover must never be allowed to happen again. "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice..."

Please don't declare the war is not over; it's barely begun.

The G9 has resigned, their supporters outnumbered. They remain on the membership rolls of Aware even now. All 762 to 755 of them, which by the way constitutes more than 1/3 of the organisation.

My understanding is that it takes a 2/3 majority to push through a change in your constitution. You do not have the numbers, should Feminist Mentor and her G9 regroup and play the role of "principled opposition". More alarmingly, should Feminist Mentor and her G9 decide to to play it by the book, they have more than the 1/10 membership to push for another EGM. And another EGM. And yet another EGM.

You have won with the support of 1411 members. Please cherish the numbers. Please make an effort to engage them, to sustain their interest in feminism, in helping other women in need.

The price of your victory is eternal vigilance.

If you and your supporters fall asleep, know that the 762 to 755 sleepers will be activated once more. If civil society falls asleep, we know there will be more than 755 sleepers, skilled letter writers, proxies and other minions available to take over their next NGO, push their next not-quite-transparent agenda, raise their next protest.

Remember, remember, the 2nd of May.


tan said...

i would like to ask about your rationale behind your naming this operation leper. are you casting aspersions on sufferers of this very sad and debilitating disease. i have nothing against the old guard, new guards etc. but we have to be mindful about using the words "leper", "leprosy". they are words that depict a real disease, involving real people who continue to suffer enormous stigma.

suhaw said...

What changes can AWARE make to their Constitution to prevent another G9-like takeover ?

Please bear in mind that AWARE was founded on and thrives in an open and inclusive environment. Won't restrictive new contitutional provisions undermine everything that AWARE stands for ?

akikonomu said...

What changes can AWARE make to their Constitution to prevent another G9-like takeover ?These suggestions still keep Aware moderately open and inclusive:

1. Limiting election of executive committee to active members who have volunteered their time and efforts on Aware's projects or sub-committees for the past calendar year.

2. Require nominations for executive committee to be submitted before the AGM so there are no surprises, and all members can scrutinise the nominees in advance.

3. Allow absentee voting, so it makes no difference how many people turn up at the AGM.

suhaw said...

Pardon my skepticism:

1. Tallying who has volunteered reminds me of the 40 hours that some parents clock up to get priority admission for their 1st-borns in popular schools: it opens up another undesireable can of worms.

2. This is probably a good suggestion because it encourages transparency. But if you do find "unsuitable" nominees, then what ? Also, who gets to say what qualities/attributes/affiliations are "unsuitable" ?

3. Allowing absentee voting simply rachets up the stakes without addressing the problem. Just as one side can go around amassing proxies, so can the other. There are 2 million Singaporeans eligible to be AWARE voting members, does that mean the team that can garner more than 1 million votes wins ?

akikonomu said...

There are always pros and cons, and I guess we need to choose the options that hurt the least. Personally, I am not quite prepared to support item (1) even though it was mooted in the media's reports on Aware.

Let's review the options:


a. no unknown faces
b. those who want an exco position, which has the power to decide the direction of the organisation, had better prove their interest by working in the organisation itself first.

a. Show face, clock time, just to qualify for exco?


a. Everyone knows before the AGM who has been nominated for exco. This allows everyone to do their own research and come up with an informed decision.

b. I did not recommend any veto over nominations. However if Aware does implement such a veto system, your worry about 'unsuitable candidates' and who gets to set the standard would be correct.



a. The takeover succeeded because voting was restricted to those who turned up for the AGM itself.


a. You are right in that it doesn't solve the problem of proxies.

Frankly, the most effective constitution change is for Aware to allow vetting, rejection and cancellation of membership subscriptions. And frankly, that's way too restrictive, exclusive, and turns Aware into a closed organisation.