Annual General Meetings

By Fathol Zaman Bukhari

March and April are months earmarked for annual general meetings, better known by the abbreviation AGM, of societies and organisations registered with the Registrar of Societies. They are required by law to hold the stipulated annual meeting where the previous year audited accounts are tabled and passed and the election of new office bearers held to take on the responsibility of managing the said society. This is done in a democratic fashion, albeit with a measure of trepidation when personal interest comes into play.

The management committee can, depending on the society’s constitution, remain at the helm for a single-year term or a two-year term. Tenure of service beyond this required period is not allowed by law. This makes for a very democratic system of governance, where no one person can be in a position of power for an extended period of time.

Several societies, clubs and non-governmental organisations have had their annual meetings in March while some, for reasons of expedience, will hold theirs in the month April. For many it is an insignificant event, as a non-election year does not warrant much attention. An election year, however, garners interest when contest for the top posts becomes keen; usually for the positions of president and deputy president.

I have been a member of the Royal Ipoh Club for over 20 years now and have been on the management committee for the past three years, in a row. Although I was not elected like others, I was co-opted for one simple reason – there was no one to take on the job of the editor of the club’s quarterly bulletin. I guess I was at the right place at the wrong time or maybe, at the wrong place at the right time. No matter what, I was appointed for a good reason.

Ipoh’s premier social club, which is reputed to be 120 years old, will hold its AGM on Sunday, April 26. Like past meetings the event will have a definitive impact on its 1300-odd members, of which some 350 are classified as active and near active. The remaining will not flinch even if hailstones fall on the club’s roof. But this is not the issue. What matters is the incoming committee which will take on the responsibility of managing the club for the 2015/2016 session. The committee serves for a year. Thus, the election of new office bearers becomes a hotly contested event each passing year.

Lobbying and cajoling members to vote for certain individuals have started long before the date for the annual meeting was fixed. Fortunately, I am not involved in this art of convincing members to prefer someone of choice. It is expensive and, unless one has the means, it is simply a wasteful venture that has no ending. Indulging in this extravagance will burn a hole in one’s pocket. But the show goes on, nonetheless.

Even at this time of reporting the jockeying for positions is going at a feverish pace within the confines of the club. The favourite places are the Long Bar, Idris Bar and the new-look Palm Court overlooking Ipoh Padang.

The downside of this insatiable attempt at “vote-buying” is the creation of factions and factions within factions which is detrimental to the club, per se. I have seen this happen in the past and have kept a respectable distance from the goings-on, whether open or closed. Like always, character assassination and bad-mouthing become the norm.

This year, unlike previous years, the tussle for a seat on the committee will be less “thuggish” thanks to an amended clause in the club’s constitution, which was tabled and passed during an extraordinary general meeting on January 25.

The clause demands that members with the “right credentials, aptitude and attitude” be elected to the committee. With this, in the words of the current President, Roland Rama Rao, “the days of the untested, the unqualified, the opportunists and the dreamers are now over. Royal Ipoh Club requires people of calibre and integrity not freaks and wannabes who aspire for positions purely for reasons of aesthetics”. Roland could not have been more precise.

Will the days of the freaks come to an end? Let’s see what happens on AGM day.

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