Storm in an Ipoh Tea Cup


By Fathol Zaman Bukhari

There seemed to be a strong resentment among members against the committee for a multitude of reasons. The one which had everyone up in arms was the issue of CCTV within the club’s premises…

I have never considered annual general meetings of clubs and non-governmental organisations of significance unless it warrants my presence for a specific reason. However, the Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Royal Ipoh Club on Sunday, April 17 was something else. I had felt the undercurrent of discontent building up among the members who were piqued by the way the management committee, helmed by Stewart Hoo, managed Ipoh’s iconic club.

As I had precious little to do that fateful Sunday, I drove up to the club to see the action first-hand. I was forewarned by my good friend, Rajeindram (Raj) that “sparks would fly”. Curiosity kills the cat. My presence at the meeting that Sunday was not for reason of expedience but to see sparks fly.

I had been to a couple of the club’s AGMs in the past but had never anticipated such a huge crowd. The car park was filled. I parked my car in front of the old Town Hall and had to walk some distance to the club.

When I signed in there were 125 members ahead of me. I collected my voting card and proceeded to Idris Bar for a drink. Raj was already there. He had a file in his hand and wasted no time to explain what it was all about. “I want to raise this issue about ISO9001/2008. Why must the club be so graded when they can’t even quote the right by-laws when issuing warning letters to members?” Letters to debtors, according to Raj, had alluded to a regulation concerning pets in the club. “It’s ridiculous,” Raj protested.  I saw a few more members with ominous-looking files in their hands. They must have similar problems with the management, I assumed.

The President called the meeting to order as the time crept past 12 noon. Members began to trickle into Azlan Shah Hall, where the meeting was held. As soon as Stewart finished his opening remarks, senior member, Jerry Francis, questioned the management’s choice of date for the AGM. “This is Easter Sunday. Why pick this day to hold the AGM? Doesn’t the committee realise it is an important religious festival for the Christians?” he asked.

Before Stewart could reply, past president, Ramanathan, enquired why no mention was made of members who had passed away? “The meeting should begin with a minute’s silence for the departed. That’s the norm,” he reminded. Stewart acceded. A minute’s silence was observed.

No sooner had this been done, Ramanathan was on the floor microphone again. “Is this AGM valid?” he asked. “I am told that the ROS has initiated actions to deregister the club due to non-compliance of members’ request for an extra-ordinary meeting,” he retorted. Stewart took time to explain the exchanges he had had with the Registrar of Society official over the infraction. “The matter has been resolved. I’ve replied to the ROS,” he answered. “Why were members not told?” Ramanathan interjected.

Judging from the questions raised that afternoon, there seemed to be a strong resentment among members against the management committee for a multitude of reasons. The one which had everyone up in arms was the issue of CCTV (close-circuit television) within the club’s premises. Ramanathan voiced his objections and alluded to the extraordinary meeting which was turned down by the President for some flimsy reasons.

The existence of hidden cameras, located at points known only to the committee, was central to members’ dissatisfaction. When a show of hands was made almost all voted for the cameras’ removal.

The other major grouse was the president’s inaction over a fracas involving a member of his committee. Before the situation could turn ugly the said member resigned and walked away. It saved him from future embarrassment as said member was returned unopposed to the committee.

Democratic values need to be upheld, especially in a social club which carries a “Royal” tag. The erosion of these values, either by commission or omission, will impact members the way it had affected those at the AGM that Sunday. In spite of all the rumblings, grumblings and swearing, good sense eventually prevailed.

I wish newly elected President, Doctor Kanagasabai and his committee, a fruitful term ahead. The pitfalls of the past should be avoided. Members’ interests must be protected not dismissed under very dubious circumstances. The past committee had undoubtedly done a wonderful job but in doing so it had overstepped the boundary. Its “success” had got the better of the committee members and that was their undoing.


4 thoughts on “Storm in an Ipoh Tea Cup

  1. Nobody is above the law. Be it the President of a Club or a President of a political party, if one is found indulging in wrong doings, he should be held responsible for whatever wrong doings he had done. Accountability and transparency should be key words in all gatherings.

    Thinking members have the right to put back things in the right track!

  2. Whatever that’s being revealed here is just the tip of the iceberg. What Stewart and his committee had done during his two terms as club president is simply mind-boggling.

    He had approved the appointment of 17 members, whose credentials are suspect, to the exalted position as life-members. He could not account for two very controversial appointments, as the said members never met the criteria for life-membership.

    This issue is being pursued by the Registrar of Society and it may impact the club’s future.

    There is also some fiddling in the staff food subsidy which involves the kitchen operator and Stewart. The old operator, Peter, will be back in the club’s kitchen on June 1.

    Stewart should account for his misdeeds and disciplinary actions be taken against him. He has run the club like his own fiefdom. Members have been taken for a ride.

  3. Ahhh …. the club. Many a banter much enjoyed over a few single malts.

    What I would give to have a moment, aside from the ego’s and the ” I told de fella…” stories, at the long bar right now !


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