Leadership tussle at Singapore Recreation Club

President of Singapore Recreation Club Johnny Goh (second from right, with blue tie) at its 120th Annual General Meeting. The 131-year-old SRC will see a full leadership tussle for the first time in more than a decade. -- ST FILE PHOTO: LIM CHIN PING
President of Singapore Recreation Club Johnny Goh (second from right, with blue tie) at its 120th Annual General Meeting. The 131-year-old SRC will see a full leadership tussle for the first time in more than a decade. -- ST FILE PHOTO: LIM CHIN PING 

The 131-year-old Singapore Recreation Club will see a full leadership tussle for the first time in more than a decade as a new 12-man team led by a retired banker, a surgeon and a university don seeks to unseat the incumbents.

In glossy election brochures issued by both sides, the new team is urging change, while the current leaders have taken on lease renewal as their priority.

Hot button issues at tomorrow's general meeting showdown include a bid to change the constitution to allow limited term membership in order to boost fruit machine revenue. Takings grossed $11.3 million last year, down from $22 million in 2009, according to its annual reports.

Another change seeks to free the club from restrictions in investment to the safest vehicles, to allow it to have a wider choice with higher returns.

Office bearers for the next two-year term will also oversee celebrations for Singapore's 50th birthday next year.

Current president Johnny Goh wrote in the club's latest newsletter that ''in my humble opinion, SRC had been blessed and spared the discord that has taken place in some clubs as reported in the local newspapers''.

Managing clubs in the 21st century is no child's play, he added.

Dr Goh, a chartered electrical engineer who has served as president for 20 years, said with 10 years left on the lease, the club's efforts to renew it for another 30 years have not been successful.

He said the Singapore Land Authority is waiting on the ''finalised'' Master Plan by the Urban Redevelopment Authority for the Civic District, and has told the club to revisit the appeal in five years.

The club sits on prime land at the Raffles City end of the Padang, with the Singapore Cricket Club at the other end.

In his team's election brochure, he referred to recent developments in which golf clubs have had to pay more for lease renewals or move out, and said his team had the experience to negotiate with the authorities.

His vice-president, Captain Francis Koh, is a maritime consultant and surveyor who has served eight years in the post. Incumbent finance member Bernard Ho is a project management consultant.

Vying for the president's post in the opposing team is retired senior banker and chief accountant Frederick Siow, with orthopaedic surgeon Sarbjit Singh running for vice-president.

Both have been on previous SRC management committees, and Mr Siow was president in 1998.

Singapore Management University professor of accounting Sum Yee Loong, who is competing for the finance member's post, is a former Safra board member and is an honorary technical adviser to the Institute of Chartered Accountants.

The team, which has adapted the SRC acronym to bill themselves as ''Sincere, Responsible, Committed'', wants to improve the club's image and efficiency.

Among other things, it wants to form a sub-committee of members to look into all the various aspects that affect the value of SRC membership, such as the sporting and current facilities. Its manifesto also calls for a four-year cap on the president and finance member's terms of office.

SRC member V. Nathan, 63, expects a keen contest, with members having to decide if a change in leadership would boost the club.

''Unlike the Singapore Cricket Club opposite, we have a bowling alley, swimming pool and basement carparks, and yet our member value is about $6,500. SCC membership markets for about $19,000.''

vijayan@sph.com.sg