Trio from national shooting body conspired against member club, ordered to pay damages

SSA president Michael Vaz wrote to the Building and Construction Authority (BCA), asking the agency to demolish "illegal structures" at the National Shooting Centre in Choa Chu Kang.
SSA president Michael Vaz wrote to the Building and Construction Authority (BCA), asking the agency to demolish "illegal structures" at the National Shooting Centre in Choa Chu Kang.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The Singapore Shooting Association (SSA), the national body for shooting, decided to blow the whistle on one of its member clubs, the Singapore Rifle Association (SRA), against the backdrop of a brewing feud between the two groups in 2015.

SSA president Michael Vaz wrote to the Building and Construction Authority (BCA), asking the agency to demolish "illegal structures" at the National Shooting Centre in Choa Chu Kang - a $300,000 range built by the SRA.

When SRA asked who could have alerted the agency, Mr Vaz did not claim responsibility and instead "deceitfully claimed" that anyone could have written the letter, said the High Court on Monday (May 7).

After checking that no approval had been issued for the structures, BCA issued a demolition order. The order came with a letter offering a chance to regularise the lapse in applying for building approval.

But SSA hid this letter and showed only the demolition order to SRA, denying the club the opportunity to seek approval from the authorities.

Later, when SRA sued it for breaching the constitution, SSA tried to seek reimbursement from SRA for the costs of demolishing the range in a counterclaim.

On Monday, the reimbursement claim was dismissed by Judicial Commissioner Pang Khang Chau, who said the costs for demolishing the range were entirely SSA's responsibility.

 

The judge said it was clear from the evidence that the BCA did not consider the structures to be unsafe such that demoltion was necessary.

"SSA's decision not to allow SRA to explore regularisation with BCA, when there is no indication that the structures were unsafe, was clearly unnecessary and wasteful," he said.

The judge also found that Mr Vaz, honorary secretary Yap Beng Hui, and treasurer Patrick Chen had "wrongfully conspired to injure" the SRA by procuring a resolution to suspend the latter's rights.

Mr Vaz, Mr Yap and Mr Chen were ordered to pay damages equivalent to the legal fees and expenses incurred by SRA in investigating and responding to the conspiracy.

In December 2015, the SSA e-mailed a resolution to council members to suspend the SRA's privileges at the National Shooting Centre for failing to comply with SSA directives.

The SRA, represented by Mr Wendell Wong of Drew & Napier, sued the SSA for acting outside its powers as the constitution does not provide for resolutions by circular.

The judge said: "The facts show clearly that there was an intention to cause damage to the SRA by hampering its activities. The facts also show clearly that the intention was to cause sufficient pain and inconvenience to SRA to compel them to comply with previous demands made by SSA."

The judge on Monday ruled that the resolution was null and void.

He said the SSA council has no power to make decisions by circular resolution. In addition, the circular was in breach of natural justice as it did not give SRA a chance to be heard.