Surprise as Loh backs Pereira

Ex-athletics chief, challenged twice by latter, will now be informal adviser in the latest bid

The last time they spoke was in a heated courtroom exchange six years ago but things were far more cordial yesterday when Edmond Pereira had lunch with his long-time rival Loh Lin Kok.

Pereira is bidding for the presidency of Singapore Athletics (SA) and Loh, who held that post for almost three decades, has emerged as a surprise advocate of his fellow lawyer.

The 66-year-old Pereira told The Straits Times yesterday: "There was some prompting on the ground for me to speak to Lin Kok and I thought it would be good to get his support and mandate so I called him and we had a good meeting."

He added with a chuckle: "His first words to me were 'do you know what you're getting yourself into?'

"He gave me a lot of insights into the association, shared his views and what problems I might encounter. He was very fair, frank and candid."

Loh, 69, was the athletics chief for two spells, from 1981-2004 and 2006-2010. His successor on both occasions was Tang Weng Fei, who announced on Tuesday that he would not be standing for re-election at SA's upcoming annual general meeting on June 27.

NO HARD FEELINGS

Lin Kok knows the sport. It was his baby for many years. He still keeps himself abreast of what's going on the ground and he has offered his assistance to me and I'm happy to accept it.

EDMOND PEREIRA, on his meeting with former rival Loh Lin Kok.

The tough-talking Loh, who could not be reached for comment, was a lightning rod for controversy during his time in charge. He also fended off two failed attempts by Pereira, in 1983 and 2000, to unseat him. But according to the latter, Loh now believes that the former schoolboy track star is the right man to lead this generation of Singapore's track and field athletes.

Nominations for the SA elections close on Monday and Pereira will formally announce his team tomorrow. It is expected to include current SA vice-president (training and selection) C. Kunalan, former national men's relay coach Melvin Tan and former Olympic sprinter Poh Seng Song.

Loh, who is the SA's honorary life president, will not be part of Pereira's team but will act as an informal adviser.

Pereira said: "Lin Kok knows the sport. It was his baby for many years. He still keeps himself abreast of what's going on the ground and he has offered his assistance to me and I'm happy to accept it."

Pereira played down their past clashes, noting that it was never personal and that it was all water under the bridge after the 21/2-hour lunch at the Singapore Cricket Club, the first time either man had sat down for such a long and open dialogue.

"Yes I've taken the association to court twice but I was acting in the interest of the athletes I represented," said Pereira, who has handled cases for prominent athletes including sprinter Haron Mundir, footballer Abbas Saad and bodybuilders Jojo Sinclair and Azman Abdullah.

"I was fighting for their rights and that's something I will continue to do. Hopefully the affiliates will see that and it will make the difference at the elections."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 16, 2016, with the headline 'SURPRISE AS LOH BACKS PEREIRA'. Print Edition | Subscribe