Wednesday, April 29, 2009

My Humble Suggestions involving the AWARE EOGM and the presence of Rajah and Tann

Rajah and Tann has apparently been engaged as the legal advisors for the AWARE EOGM on May 2 to ensure compliance with law and the constitution of AWARE.

I, of course, have my doubts about their role there. However, I'm willing to give Rajah and Tann the benefit of doubt at this point in time.

That being said, I would make a couple of very humble suggestions for those attending. Consider this my contribution to the cause.

Please note here that everything I say here should be verified and fact-checked - I'm no expert on the Societies Act, and I certainly haven't seen or read the Constitution of AWARE.

(1) The first thing attendees must clarify is this: Who is Rajah and Tann's client? Specifically, is Rajah and Tann's client AWARE, or the new Ex-Co, or members of the Ex-Co in their personal capacity?

The distinction here is absolutely important. If Rajah and Tann's client is AWARE, then they are bound to act in the best interests of the Society as a whole - which means that they can neither favour the current Ex-Co nor the existing members. If they do so, then it would be advisable to remind them of their professional duty here.

Things would be somewhat different if they are the Ex-Co's clients. In such an event, please be aware that Rajah and Tann is not obligated to act in anyone's best interests except the Ex-Co.

(2) The second thing is - those who are attending, please study the constitution of AWARE. My concern right now is that there might be some procedural defect in the calling and voting of this EOGM. One that I am especially concerned about is that some societies reserve the power to choose not to accept certain members - which the Ex-Co can exercise quite legitimately to swing the votes in their favour. Others may become members but may not be eligible to vote in this EOGM because they joined too late.

In this regard, I would advise some kind of verification process to clarify who are the members eligible to vote - I would certainly press that this be answered by the Ex-Co at least, and Rajah and Tann themselves if they come out in the open and state that their clients are AWARE.

Another concern I have is the use of a possible procedural defect to render the results of the vote void - the change of venue itself is a bad sign. I don't know what kind of notice provisions the Constitution of AWARE has, but it does seem awfully last minute. My advice here is to clarify and question whether this will eventually render the results of the meeting void, and if so, why was this action taken in the first place.

(3) Given that the crowd may be huge that day, my suspicion is that not everyone will be able to enter the hall. Fire codes, etc may be cited to limit the crowd. In that regard, I would encourage everyone to be patient. Furthermore, I would encourage the attendees to clarify what kind of criteria they would use to allow people into the meeting - first come, first served may be helpful, but again, it may be biased against people who wish to vote against the Ex-Co, given that there is a convention next door.

My suggestion here is to be patient and ask questions about the process and procedure for admittance into the hall. Oh, and make sure to arrive on time.

I would also encourage that AWARE be prepared to find a way for all attendees and voting members to listen to the discussions, even if the capacity is reached. If this is not done, I fear a spontaneous mob may form and more accusations of bad faith be slung about.

Good luck. I will not be present and I will be unable to vote even if I was present. As such, I wish AWARE all the best.

To my lawyer friends and classmates who are more, uh, aware of the issue than I am, please feel free to correct what I have written or dismiss these thoughts outright.

Update 1 If what I have access to is in fact the latest copy of the AWARE constitution, then please be aware that there does not seem to be an express provision for the removal of AWARE Ex-Co members duly elected. This may be a possible tripping point.

My suggestion - don't let this discourage you. A 2/3 majority overturns the rules of the Constitution, subject to the Registrar of Societies' consent. Get the votes, and worry about the acts later. I suspect this will end up in a nasty lawsuit regardless.

Update 2 The newspaper reports I've been reading seem to indicate that Rajah and Tann is acting as counsel for the EX-CO. I suggest a couple of courses of action IF R&T are in fact representing the Ex-Co (i) check whether the bill paid to Rajah and Tann is paid from AWARE funds (ii) if they are, check whether it is within the constitutional limit of $20,000 per month and (iii) question whether there is an issue in having the funds paid out from AWARE's coffers but only benefitting the Ex-Co.


BigBrownBearBear said...

Dun you love democracy?

Xtrocious said...

Yup BigBrownBearBear and none more so than lawyers - $_$

soojenn said...

Good suggestions that should be taken consideration of...

I have already from the start had suspicions of the role of Rajah & Tann. My guess is similar to your, that they are representing th exco, NOT AWARE. Let's see if we are correct.

If yes, AND AWARE IS paying for this, this is an atrocious way to use up the fund of AWARE, which should be use for projects for women instead, not these fanatics.

Not even a month into the power and they seem to be already misuing and abusing it, if the issue with Rajah & Tann is what we presume it to be.

Starbucks said...

It's called one-upmanship (or should it be one-upwomanship?). When the old exco had their press conference, they had a legal counsellor in attendance who did provide useful advice such as avoiding mention of the Thios in the discussions - insurance for libel/defamation suits. The new guard are more careless in this respect. They, including self styled feminist mentor (isn't this copyrighted already?), have said enough to shoot themselves several times over - including potential sedition charges when they include god and country in the same sentence. But, a more insidious motive, Rajah & Tann may be there to wave dubious instruments to prevent the new guard from being booted by the seat of their panty hose. In other words, move the EOGM to the courts.

Yu Sarn said...

Much ado about nothing.

Almost Infamous Anthony said...

Gents and ladies,

I think that there is a bit of jumping the gun here.

I'm concerned about Rajah and Tann's presence, not just because they are lawyers but because they are a potential unknown.

If there are there in the best interests of AWARE - well and good. They can be a valueable resource.

My concern is that they might not be. As such, the first course of action would be to clarify why they are there and who paid their bills.

Yu Sarn said...

Nothing raises hackles better than fundies and lawyers. How much easier it is to impugn these people as having sinister intentions than to suspend judgment and see what people will actually do.

I'm really surprised that a bunch of supposedly open-minded people are gathering to oust the duly-elected ex-co of a society before they actually have any time to prove themselves one way or another. I suppose fundies don't have a monopoly on prejudice.

Anonymous said...

But they've ALREADY proven themselves to be a bunch of conniving liars! :)

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