Athletics: Singapore Athletics makes a run for unity

Singapore Athletics (SA) president Ho Mun Cheong (right) telling reporters at a press conference that infighting must stop at SA. He was joined by vice-president Loh Chan Pew.
Singapore Athletics (SA) president Ho Mun Cheong (right) telling reporters at a press conference that infighting must stop at SA. He was joined by vice-president Loh Chan Pew.ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

Advice from Ng prompts chief Ho to ask affiliates to withdraw request for EOGM

The snap polls that resulted from a split within Singapore Athletics (SA) are unlikely to take place after all, despite the fact that differences within the association's core leadership remain far from resolved.

SA president Ho Mun Cheong, who garnered sufficient support from affiliates to call for an Extraordinary General Meeting (EOGM), will now ask the 10 affiliates to withdraw their request instead.

Originally slated for this evening, the EOGM was called to elect a new management committee.

He made the about-turn yesterday, following meetings with top brass from the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC), and in particular, after deciding to heed the advice of International Olympic Committee (IOC) member Ng Ser Miang.

Ng, who sits on the executive board of the IOC, met Ho and SA vice-president (competitions organising) Loh Chan Pew yesterday morning. The veteran sport official advised the duo that another SA election, called so swiftly after one that was just as divisive last June, would not do the fraternity any good.

NOT AN IDEAL IMAGE

All this infighting gives a very bad impression of the association. It shows that we are weak among ourselves. We're supposed to be elected by affiliates and have a mandate to run SA.

HO MUN CHEONG, SA president, admitting differences within SA could have been dealt with better.


MAKE PEACE

The focus is the harmony of the whole association. We have to get down and work together - for association, for athletes, for country.

LOH CHAN PEW (far left), SA vice-president (competitions organising), stressing the need for unity.

Said Ho: "We had a long discussion with Mr Ng about this. He told us that whatever we do, it must be for the sake of the country and the sport. All this infighting gives a very bad impression of the association. It shows that we are weak among ourselves. We're supposed to be elected by affiliates and have a mandate to run SA.

"Mr Ng hoped that we will be able to work together and continue to run the association, bring up track and field, especially with the SEA Games coming up soon (August)."

Ho was backed by a slate that included Loh.

They would have been up against a side made up mostly of people whom they teamed up with to win the SA election at its annual general meeting barely a year ago.

The EOGM had already looked in doubt on Wednesday, when the team led by vice-president (training and selection) Govindasamy Balasekaran contested the legitimacy of the procedures that led to the calling of the meeting.

Their stand was supported by Sport Singapore (SportSG). The national sports agency issued a statement signed by its chief executive officer Lim Teck Yin stating that some of the proposed motions were unconstitutional.

While Ho emphasised that the decision to withdraw the calling of an EOGM was made solely based on Ng's advice, his opponents reiterated that the EOGM should not have been called to begin with.

Balasekaran told The Straits Times yesterday: "We always questioned its legitimacy. Disagreements within an association are natural - you have to discuss and come to a common ground.

"You can't just come up with an EOGM and get rid of all the management committee members. That's not the way to sort out matters."

With an election now off the table, both sides can at least agree that there are pressing issues they have to learn to work through together. The SEA Games is just three months away. SA also has to work towards regaining funding, which has been withheld by SportSG since last July.

Both sides spent about three hours last night meeting SportSG officials.

SportSG and the SNOC released a joint statement yesterday evening, saying: "SportSG and SNOC are appreciative that the SA leadership had agreed to meet us. We are glad that they have agreed to find an amicable way forward."

Said Balasekaran: "The SEA Games preparation is still going on, the goal is still there. These issues did not affect the athletes.

"We just have to keep doing our work, get the deliverables to SportSG, for the betterment of athletics."

Added Loh: "The focus is the harmony of the whole association. We have to get down and work together - for association, for athletes, for country."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 05, 2017, with the headline 'SA makes a run for unity'. Print Edition | Subscribe