Athletics: I'm my own man, says Edmond Pereira

Lawyer Edmond Pereira (centre), who is bidding to be the next Singapore Athletics president, named current SA vice-president C. Kunalan and former national men's relay coach Melvin Tan to be part of his team that will contest the elections in two wee
Lawyer Edmond Pereira (centre), who is bidding to be the next Singapore Athletics president, named current SA vice-president C. Kunalan and former national men's relay coach Melvin Tan to be part of his team that will contest the elections in two weeks. ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

A career spanning almost four decades in the courtroom means criminal lawyer Edmond Pereira possesses the force of character required to lead a sport plagued by infighting.

That was the view of the two men who have helmed Singapore Athletics (SA) for the past 35 years, as incumbent Tang Weng Fei joined his predecessor Loh Lin Kok in backing Pereira's bid for the presidency.

Tang, who cited an executive committee (exco) torn apart by disagreements as the main reason for not seeking re-election at the upcoming annual general meeting, said: "Edmond has a very strong personality. You need that in his field. I'm a businessman and I try to compromise whenever possible."

The oil trader was named adviser to the 14-member team - all dressed in shades of grey, black and navy - Pereira unveiled yesterday to contest the June 27 elections.

It includes current SA vice-president (training and selection) C. Kunalan, former national men's relay coach Melvin Tan and former Olympic sprinter Poh Seng Song.

Nominations close on Monday and current SA honorary secretary Ho Mun Cheong, who is expected to also run for the top job, will announce his team on Wednesday.

  • TEAM PEREIRA

  • President: Edmond Pereira

    Vice-president (training & selection): Melvin Tan

    Vice-president (competitions): C. Kunalan

    Vice-president (finance): Cheng Heng Tan

    Honorary secretary: Poh Seng Song

    Honorary assistant secretary: Damon Yong

    Honorary treasurer: Sheena Hu

    Statistician: Ron Koh Tong En

    Women's representative: Lee Yan Lin

    Chairman (officials): Govindaraju Sinnappan

    Chairman (race walking): Joe Goh

    Chairman (tech & equipment): Jezreel Mok

    Chairman (tug of war): Rahmatullah Shaik Dawood

    Chairman (cross-country & road running): Ghana Segaran

This will be the 66-year-old Pereira's third bid for the presidency. He lost in 1983 and 2000 to the fiery Loh, a fellow lawyer who clashed with Pereira on numerous occasions but has now given his former rival his vote of confidence.

While the Flash Athletic Club president intends to seek the counsel of Tang and Loh during his two-year term should he prevail, Pereira dismissed suggestions that he was simply a proxy for either. He said: "After 30 years of trying, I'm not running just to be someone else's mouthpiece. They have the experience but I am my own man."

He appealed to the association's 21 affiliates to pick his entire team to ensure cohesion and avoid a repeat of the disunity within the present exco but vowed to persist with his vision of taking the sport to a higher level, which includes winning medals at the Asian Games, something Singapore has not done since 1974.

"If the members in the committee cannot work with me, then I think we have a problem. But it is not my problem. It is their problem. If they can't keep up with my pace, then I think they have to review their position in the office if they want to continue. It's quite simple," he said.

"Maybe I'm different from Weng Fei. He is a gentleman. I believe so am I but perhaps we have different ways of dealing with things. If they're with me, they're for the sport. If they're not, then they're in it for their own personal ego and glory. Then there's no room for them."

Loh, who is SA's honorary life president, had ruled athletics with an iron fist and believes a similar approach is needed given the "chaos" within the fraternity.

He said: "I've known Edmond for a long time and he is similar to me. He has the leadership needed to take control and get things back in order. It's a gargantuan task and I've told him that. But I believe he is the man for the job."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 18, 2016, with the headline 'I'm my own man, insists Pereira'. Print Edition | Subscribe