45 members were expelled in June this year after an “Emergency General Meeting” EOGM called by 68 members was held on May 18 to remove the Board of Directors of the TRC Multi-Purpose CooperativeSociety Ltd (“Co-op). Only the 45 who voted were expelled but the remaining few who left the meeting earlier were not affected. This included the Chairman Mr Kalaichelvan, a committee member and a lawyer who is now in the Committee left just before the voting took place.
According to the expulsion letter, the members were accused of acting in a manner detrimental to the organisation and causing confusion among members, and tarnishing the reputation of the office bearers. Members felt that it was too very general without any specifics and asked if it is the price they had to pay for raising issues. They shared that if the Co-op had been run well, it would have given no room for issues to be raised. But it was glaringly going down the slippery road.
The Online Citizen (TOC) was alerted to the matter after the affected members exhausted all means to redress their grievances and concerns that they had
Circumstances forced members to file a motion of no-confidence
Speaking to TOC, members shared that they had tried to obtain clarification from the management committee which had been in their position for four years, about the status of membership , non-issuance of Annual Statement of Accounts, not holding Annual General Meetings for two years, about 30 irregularities highlighted by the external auditors appointed by the Registrar and also the lack of commitment by the committee.
They shared that the Co-op has been mismanaged by the current management and making a mess out of the Co-op that has been painstakingly built up and funded by the members over the years.
Giving the example of how the accounts were not tallied over the past three years before the committee bulldozed the accounts through the annual general meeting held in June this year, the members said they simply had no choice but to file a motion of no-confidence to vote out the whole committee.
In response to the voting results, instead of complying in accordance with the by-laws, the committee expelled the members who only voted in the EOGM.
Were there problems with the committee’s management?
However, not all members received the expulsion letter. Some members were “terminated” but did not receive the letter. One possible reason that the affected members shared, is that the membership records were in a mess.
As a testament to the claims made by the members who voted for the motion of no-confidence, the loans offered by the co-op has dwindled from 1.1 million in 2014 to $30,000 in 2017 under the current management while recruitment of members from 142 in 2014 and 7 in 2017. The Sinking Fund was reduced to zero by transferring it to the Revenue account to boast up the surplus. There was also $120,567 being unidentified receipts towards loan payments by members. There was $30k paid as advance for telephone equipment but nothing done. There was also excess payments recoverable from members to the tune of $30k. Even more alarming is her claim that committee members claim travel expenses from the co-op to and back from India when there is no business being conducted between the two countries.
Rani, a former employee of the Co-op who worked there for 14 years told TOC that she resigned in 2014 as two of the other staff were forced to leave by the current Chairman. According to her, the Chairman told her that he is not comfortable working with staff from the previous era and wanted her to leave.
Speaking to another former employee from the co-op who worked 11 months between Feb 2017 to Dec 2017, she shared that during her course of work, a large number of members had called up the co-op to ask for their money left with the co-op and question why there have been no u in tes to the members for an extended period of time. According to her, she had to dissuade many of them from filing police reports against the Co-op or terminating their membership.
This was acknowledged by the findings of the Registry of Co-operative societies (Registar) under Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth in March 2017. In the findings, the Registar noted that audits for FY2015, 2016 were not completed and that the statements of accounts were not mailed to members.
Registar sides with illegal committee
Despite the complaints that the Registrar received and the warning she gave to the current committee that it will close the co-op if they do not rectify the faults in Registar’s findings, the Registar took a stance that it only acknowledges the current committee which was only voted in this year’s AGM.
While the EOGM held on 12 May 2018 to vote for the removal of the Management Committee had met the quorum as according to the by-laws of the Co-op, the Registrar ruled the results invalid because the vote was conducted via a show of hands which should have been by a secret ballot.
However, the election of 4 members for the Board of Directors at the AGM held in 2014 was by show of hands and not by secret ballot but acknowledged by the Registrar.
On the expulsion of members, it is important to note that there had been no AGM held for 2015 and 2016. The entire committee's term had expired in 2017 in accordance to the bye-laws of the Society, and the Registrar had allowed them to retain their seats and continue to manage the Co-op. Technically they were an illegitimate committee as from 2017.
So in this situation, while the members were terminated in accordance to the by-laws, but the current committee is illegitimate because they had not sought re-election and no election was held since 2015.
Furthermore, according to the by-laws of the Co-op, the terminated members could seek redress in the following Annual General Meeting (AGM). This was also echoed by the Registrar in their reply to complaints by the terminated members.
However, the terminated members were prevented from entering the AGM under the reasons of them being terminated. As shown in the video below, members tried to enter the AGM but were denied entry by the Chairman. Even with police being called to the scene, the officers said that they cannot do anything.
Two representatives from the Registrar were also present at the AGM, which begs the question of why did it advise the affected members that they could have contested the termination at the AGM?
Registrar dared concerned members to take over “messy” accounts
Prior to the EOGM and termination, members took to the Registrar to file complaints against the current management, raising the above issues.
Some members whom TOC spoke to, shared that the Registrar had in a way "intimidated" them by asking if they are willing to take up the burden of correcting the accounts as they are very messy.
New PRs members present at AGM
According to members who attended the AGM in 2018, more than half of the members present were new members who were Permanent Residents. More suspicion when members were not allowed to inspect the membership records although available in the law.
Some claim that this is how the current management pushed through the accounts of 2015, 2016 and 2017 with no one contesting the figures.
The presence of the PR members also quietened the members who had wanted to voice out for the terminated members kept out of the AGM by the Chairman.
TOC has sent queries to the Co-op but it has not provided a response nor acknowledgment of the query.
TOC has also sent queries to the ROS, MCCY, Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministers such as Grace Fu and K Shanmugam a few weeks back. However, till date, there has been no reply from the ministries nor the politicians on the matter.
As the Co-op management has denied access to the membership list, the affected members are trying to group together and seek redress over the matter. Please write to [email protected] to be connected to the expelled co-op members.