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Fresh Reads from the Science 'o sphere!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Update: AWARE Exco Remains Silent

Here are some updates from mainstream media sources regarding the AWARE Exco takeover (I've highlighted some key facts in bold):

1. 160 AWARE members call for meeting to question new ExCo

By Pearl Forss, Channel NewsAsia

Posted: 14 April 2009 2057 hrs

SINGAPORE : 160 members of the Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE) have submitted a request to call an extraordinary general meeting for the society, where a motion of no confidence in the newly-elected Executive Committee (ExCo) will be considered.

It all started at the AWARE annual general meeting on March 28.

Nine of the 12 Executive Committee positions went to newcomers during that meeting. Over 100 people had turned up to vote and many of these voters had only just joined AWARE.

Some of the newcomers have previously written to the media speaking against homosexuality. AWARE, on the other hand, is known for its liberal stance.

"It (AWARE) stands for choice, it stands for gender equity, it stands for democracy, it stands for diversity, plurality. That's why our membership has always been open," said Corinna Lim, a former Executive Committee member and AWARE member since 1992.

When asked for their reasons for seeking leadership, the new ExCo members declined comment.

"We told you that ExCo is going to be meeting sometime this week, after which there will be a press release. So there is no comment," said Charlotte Wong, VP of AWARE.

Its newly-elected President, Claire Nazar, a longtime member of AWARE, resigned barely two weeks after being voted in.

Some past presidents in the meantime, have been collecting signatures to call for an extraordinary general meeting - prompting some observers to comment that they are behaving like sore losers.

"We welcome change, it is not about losing at all. Someone from a different group came in, have certain ideas about what AWARE should be doing and hasn't communicated it, and all we want to know now is what this is about," said Lim.

"The extraordinary general meeting is an opportunity for the new guard to explain their position and win the members over. We can't really comment whether they will hold fast to the traditional line of AWARE, but I can't imagine why not, if they chose to enter AWARE and run for office there," said political analyst Gillian Koh.

The current committee has not replied to members' request to hold the meeting.

AWARE has about 500 members.
- CNA /ls

2. Old guard calls for meeting


THE old guard is fighting back.

After a leadership grab by new faces, the abrupt resignation of the new president and rumours of hidden agendas swirling on the Internet, some 150 longstanding members of the women’s advocacy group Aware have called for an Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) that may include a motion of no-confidence in the new executive committee (Exco).

“We don’t know who these people are. We’ve not heard a word from the new Exco for the past two-and-a-half weeks,” said Ms Corrine Lim, a longstanding member of Aware, which stands for the Association of Women for Action and Research. Ms Lim is one of the 150 signatories calling for the EGM.

The concern of the old guard is palpable. On March 28, a large group of new members turned up at Aware’s annual general meeting and apparently staged a coup. Nine of the 12 seats on the society’s Exco went to new members. Eleven days later, its new president Claire Nazar quit abruptly and cyberspace has since been abuzz with rumours about the religious and allegedly anti-gay views of the new Exco members.

“It didn’t help that people were speculating all kinds of things on the Internet. In fact, in times like these, the Exco should come out to respond quickly,” said Ms Lim.

Aware’s new vice-president Charlotte Wong was tight-lipped when Today met her at the group’s office yesterday.

“None of us can answer your questions until the Exco meets. We’re just following the rules. They are in the constitution,” said Ms Wong. “We’ll be releasing a statement after we meet.”

However, a check with Aware’s constitution has turned up no such rule.
Today understands that the Exco will meet today.

Responding to comments by veteran journalist P N Balji that Aware should live up to its spirit of “championing the need for choices in a pluralistic society” and so accept the new line-up, Ms Lim said the EGM will precisely serve this purpose.

“It will be an opportunity for members to raise their concerns with the Exco and also for the new Exco to explain their values and vision of Aware. If the general meeting is happy with their goals, we’ll go along. If not, we’ll put (the matter) to a vote,” she said.

Members of the old guard have asked that the notice to call the EGM be issued no later than 14 days from the date of the request. This is the first time that the society has called for one.

3. Counter-attack at Aware

160 veterans to table no-confidence vote at extraordinary meeting

By Wong Kim Hoh, Senior Writer

THE old guard at the Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware) has launched a counter-attack after several unknowns seized the leadership at its recent elections.

A group of 160 veterans are calling for an extraordinary general meeting (EOGM) where they intend to table a vote of no confidence in the new executive council.

In a statement on Tuesday, they expressed concern over the unusual nature of the March 28 annual general meeting 'when a large number of new members turned up and appeared to vote for several office bearers, all of whom are also new members'.

Older members present were shocked when the newcomers contested and won almost all positions, beating more seasoned members by wide majorities.

Those calling for an EOGM also found it disturbing that Mrs Claire Nazar, who was elected president without a contest, resigned within days.

The new exco members have yet to make known publicly who they are, how they are connected, what prompted them to take over in the manner that they did, or their plans for Singapore's leading women's group.

Repeated attempts to reach exco members for comments have drawn a blank since last week.

Ms Corinna Lim, 44, a spokesman for the old guard group, told The Straits Times: 'It is necessary to have an EOGM because we need an open discussion of what their agenda is.

'We've had a lot of calls from concerned members but we have had no communication from the new exco.'

Ms Lim, a corporate counsel, said that under the Aware constitution, an EOGM must be called if 10 per cent of the membership ask for one in writing. Given the rules, it could be held within a month.


In light of this new information, I think that my previous guess that there is a lack of rapport between the veteran core and their members is incorrect.

The fact that 160 members can stand together and call for an extraordinary general meeting shows that their ties within the organization and their commitment to AWARE's mission remain very strong.

This suggests that the Exco takeover was only successful due to its unexpected nature and not because of any fundamental disunity within the organization.

If there is any schism at all, it is between the new Exco and the vast majority of AWARE members.

And this gulf widens every day with their continued and concerted effort to stop communicating with their own members, not to say the press.

Even more worrying, they appear to be interpreting AWARE's constitution in their own special way.

If this situation persists, the remaining silent majority of about 300 members may become motivated to take a stand.

Anyone who has some experience as a member or a leader of a committee would be aware of the importance of a clear channel of communications, especially during unusual situations.

And this is an unusual situation indeed.

How unusual? Let me put it this way:

Imagine if you just won an election, by a landslide victory, over a group of veterans in an established and respected organization.

You would thank your supporters enthusiastically.

You would immediately reach out to the outgoing exco, thanking them for their previous contributions and assuring their supporters that their voices will continue to be heard by the new administration.

You would greet the new day with a press release announcing the plans of the new exco, affirm your commitment to the core values of the organization and say something optimistic about its future.

In other words, you'd be rather happy. Ecstatic even.

Because you won!

But instead, we get this cold, hard, stonewall.

Even the supporters, who in other elections (remember the US presidential election?) would be running around happily, singing praises of the new committee, remain strangely silent.

"No comment".

In my previous post, I used the metaphor of an iceberg collision to convey my feelings about this matter.

Once a few chunks of ice hit the deck, people will start to ask questions.

If the leaders do not quickly and honestly communicate the situation to the people, the people may begin to imagine all sorts of hideous problems under the surface.

Would you like to know more?

- Time line of events aboard the Titanic


angry doc said...

Heheh. I bet the exco are mobilising their own people to join AWARE so they can outnumber the 160 opposition members by the EOGM. :)

I wonder what material assets we are looking at - with a store and library, their assets may come to quite a bit which makes re-taking the association more worthwhile than starting a new one. Don't seem to be able to find their annual report on their site though.

Edgar said...

This gets more interesting everyday. I'm really eager to hear what the new Exco has to say.