Athletics: Team Ho won, call for unity

Former Singapore Athletics president Tang Weng Fei (left) congratulating his successor Ho Mun Cheong after the latter beat lawyer Edmond Pereira 11-9 following a second round of voting at the AGM last night. Ho’s team won 12 of the 14 posts contest
Former Singapore Athletics president Tang Weng Fei (left) congratulating his successor Ho Mun Cheong after the latter beat lawyer Edmond Pereira 11-9 following a second round of voting at the AGM last night. Ho’s team won 12 of the 14 posts contested. ST PHOTOS: KUA CHEE SIONG

Elected after night of drama, new SA chief vows to walk the talk and build sport up

It was acrimonious at times, with arguments heating up. Yet some of the tension was relieved by humorous comments from those in attendance.

In the end, it was just another day, another chapter, in the long-running feud that has divided Singapore Athletics (SA) and as its Annual General Meeting (AGM) ended last night, the fraternity was left wondering if a cohesive new front had been forged.

Beginning at 7.30pm sharp at the Black Box auditorium at the Singapore Sports Hub, the pow-wow finally ended at 11pm with Ho Mun Cheong being elected the hard way - needing a second round of voting to defeat lawyer Edmond Pereira 11-9, after the first round ended in a dead heat.

But once Ho bagged the top post, his team went on to claim 12 of the 14 seats on the management committee.

If Tang Weng Fei's exit was a result of the fractured politics he experienced in the management committee during his six-year tenure, the AGM result hints at smoother times ahead.

  • NEW LINE-UP

  • President: Ho Mun Cheong

    Vice-president (training & selection): Govindasamy Balasekaran

    Vice-president (competitions): Loh Chan Pew

    Vice-president (finance): R. Rajandran

    Honorary secretary: Alexander C. Louis

    Honorary assistant secretary: Tan Ming Jen

    Honorary treasurer: Alvin Phua

    Statistician: Peter Back

    Women's representative: Lee Yan Lin

    Chairman (officials): Joe Yap

    Chairman (race walking): Leong Lee San

    Chairman (tech & equipment): Ong Choon Poh

    Chairman (tug of war): Terry Tan

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

"I think the affiliates have spoken," said Tang, the former president. "The new president has a clear mandate and we have to respect that they won 12 out of the 14 seats.

"I hope that we can work together to be more cohesive from now. I will still be a cheerleader and I will be there if I am needed. I hope this spells good things for Singapore Athletics and I will leave it to the new management team to comment on the future.

"The hardware is all in place, it just needs the system."

Ho, a 67-year-old who runs an engineering firm, added: "You have heard from the outside, everyone also knows that and they always said that SA has a lot of problems. Anyone who takes over will also face problems. So we've got to show them that we are united, willing to spend and invest time and effort to build track and field.

"And actually, talk is cheap, what matters is that we must show for it."

But the election hit an impasse just after it began with both Pereira and Ho tied at 10 votes apiece.

The SA's constitution stated that should the revote end in another tie, the AGM chairman (Tang) has the authority to decide who is the president - an issue which sparked heated exchanges between both camps before Tang eventually held firm.

He later commented: "It's quite sad that it's divisive. At the end, whether it's fair or not, it's the constitution that governs the AGM."

As time dragged on before the revote, some affiliates wondered aloud if they could go for a toilet break or rush home to watch the Euro 2016 football games.

Though only two of Pereira's team members Lee Yan Lin (women's representative) and Ghana Segaran (chairman, cross-country and road running) were elected, Ho insisted that there is no bad blood between both sides and raised the possibility of them working together in the future.

Ho said: "He (Tang) is still going to be involved in track and field. We've known each other for a long time. Yes, we have our own views, but there's no animosity between us."

But Loh Chan Pew had reservations working with former sprinter C. Kunalan, the previous vice-president (training and selection), admitting: "Very frankly I tell you, we will always quarrel."

One affiliate, who declined to be named, credited Ho's team for walking the ground and understanding what the member clubs want.

He said: "Mun Cheong and his team are really close to the ground. They meet us regularly and they help us organise meets.

"Even though we may not agree on everything, their passion cannot be doubted.

"Edmond is well-known to us but he just hasn't been involved enough with the affiliates."

Ho pledged to have a more cohesive and united committee.

He said: "There will be no more internal disagreements. Even if there are arguments in the future, we will work it out as a collective team."

Loh, 71, added: "There could still be arguments on the inside but track and field has no room to be dirty. We must and can work together."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 28, 2016, with the headline 'Team Ho won, call for unity'. Print Edition | Subscribe