Choo Zheng Xi / Editor-in-Chief
Josie Lau's interview with CNA raises more questions than it answers. Several assertions in her interview seem to be inconsistent with the facts.
The sound of silence explanation
Both Ms Lau and Honorary Treasurer Ms Maureen Ong both claimed that the new Executive Committee could not speak to the media earlier, because the newly elected president, Ms Claire Nazar had quit. On national television, Ms Lau claimed that “earlier, we couldn’t speak, because there wasn’t a president, and under the Constitution, we could only speak through the president”.
This is at odds with what the AWARE Constitution explicitly says. Article 20 (b) specifically empowers the VP to deputize in the President's absence:
The duties of the Office-Bearers are as follows:
(a) The President shall act as chairperson at all General and Committee Meetings. She shall also represent the Society in its dealings with outside persons, and may appoint other members to represent the Society.
(b) The Vice-President shall deputise for the President in the latter's absence. ...
Besides the silence to the outside world, TOC understands from several sources that the new Executive Committee had not sent any communications to existing AWARE members as of the time of the interview. Instead members had to read the papers and watch the news to hear from the new Executive Committee.
Josie the reluctant leader?
Was Ms Lau a reluctant leader or had she intended to run for the Presidency of AWARE earlier? Ms Lau’s version of the timeline of events is also questionable.
Ms Ong claims that Ms Lau was only elected as a result of her being the last person to be asked to take up the presidency: “on the night of the 15th, she was the last “man” standing”. Ms Lau affirms that by following up “that evening, as Maureen explained, there was hardly any room to move, I was the last woman standing, and I felt I had to pick up the baton”. This gives the impression that she was a reluctant candidate for the position.
However, this contradicts DBS’s statement on how she had indicated, that afternoon before the Executive Committee, meeting that she intended to run as president.
The Kent Ridge Common asks a similar question.
Agreeable “Stormtrooper tactics”?
Josie Lau mentioned wanting to “disagree in an agreeable manner”, but her actions so far seemed strangely at variance with this claim.
The new Executive Committee replaced all subcommittees, contrary to past practice and despite the protests of past President Connie Singam, firing Ms Breama Mathi, who was in charge of the CEDAW reporting process and an established expert in that field. Also, they excluded Constance Singam, who as Immediate Past President has a seat on the exco in an advisory role under the Constitution, from the exco meeting where Josie Lau was appointed President.
They also forced newly elected President Claire Nazar out with what Ms Nazar described as “stormtrooper tactics”.
If Ms Lau is keen on building a collegial working environment, why have their actions been so destructive? A New Paper opinion piece the day after the interview read: “Few straight answers in AWARE interview”. I am inclined to agree.
Excerpt from Alex Au’s blog, Yawning Bread:
Now, here's something the public does not yet know: The television station's original plan was for a member each of the old guard and the new guard to be in the interview. Josie Lau objected vehemently and insisted they would not share the interview room and program with anyone from the old guard. So much for reconciliation.
There's also the extremely curt email (so much for reconciliation, again) they sent to Braema Mathi telling her she's been relieved of her position as chair of the subcommittee preparing AWARE's report to be submitted to the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). Without even a customary word of thanks, the email said:
Kindly note that your term of office as chairman of the CEDAW Committee has ceased at the date of the AGM on the 28 March 2009.
Kindly submit all the work in progess by Friday 17 April 2009 without fail.