Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Close call in Malaysian Chess Federation elections

Although I have been out of the circulation among the local chess fraternity for quite some time now, it doesn't mean that I am completely out of touch with the chess developments in the country. On the contrary, I still have a passionate interest in whatever that's going on at the national level. There are friends that keep me up-to-date whenever I want to know something.

For instance, I do know that after a lapse of countless years, the Malaysian Chess Federation has finally decided to call for an annual general meeting together with an election of new office bearers. The first call for an AGM was supposed to be in January but it was postponed two months, ostensibly to buy more time to get their three-year Statements of Accounts ready.

Definitely, it raised several eyebrows, including mine, because the first thought that came to me was why the MCF couldn't get their one-year, two-years, three-years  accounts right. I would have thought that as a society, it was imperative to account for all public moneys received. Wouldn't the authorities have come down hard on societies that fail to submit their annual Statements of Accounts or even their Annual Reports?

But never mind their inefficiency in this matter. The important point was, the MCF was going to have their annual general meeting last Sunday, on 10 March 2013. Finally. And there would be an election for new office bearers.

In all my years of association with chess in this country, I can hardly remember a time when there was ever a serious contest or even a half-hearted attempt for the president's position. Not for the post of President of the Malaysian Chess Federation (and by the way, certainly not for the post in the Penang Chess Association either.)

So it raised my eyebrows again when I learnt that for the first time, there would be a contest between the incumbent president, Ramli Ngah Talib, and a challenger named Zuhri. Over the past two years, there had been a growing groundswell of discontent over Ramli's management team and people were telling me that it was possible that unless one of the contestants stepped aside, it would be exciting come the AGM day.

Like I mentioned earlier, I can't remember a time when we had contests for the president's post. In 1974, Tan Chin Nam was the unanimous choice as the founding president. Then in the 80s, a person named Lajim took over briefly when Tan decided to call it a day. Lajim was replaced by a cabinet minister, Sabbaruddin Chik, who held the post well into the 90s. I recall that Sabbaruddin always said if anyone wanted to take over, he would give way willingly. Anyway, no one wanted to sit on that chair.

Through time, the politician also decided to call time on the MCF and his deputy, Rosli, took over briefly. When Rosli relinquished the post soon afterwards and nobody new could be found, Tan came back as a caretaker president until Ramli was persuaded to take over as the president in 2005, 2006 or thereabouts.

So through this long period from 1974 until 2013, we haven't had a decent contest for the president's post. Not until this year. Beneath the ground, I heard there were some considerable campaigning going on with both parties successfully convincing the delegates - comprising the various state chess associations - to align themselves with either of the candidates. But don't ask me who they supported because I don't know.

All I know is that on Sunday, both sides came well prepared for the annual general meeting. However, there was a long and heated discussion on the eligibility of the sitting council members to vote. Turned out that this was still allowed for in the new laws of the Malaysian Chess Federation. Nobody had deemed it fit to review this privilege when the MCF had to re-register itself under the Commissioner of Sports, no longer under the Registrar of Societies.

So it became a most delicate annual general meeting on Sunday. With the sitting council members allowed to vote as individuals too, there were a total of 40 eligible votes.

Voting was done by secret ballot. When the results were announced, everyone in the room was surprised that both Ramli and Zuhri had each amassed 20 votes. A tie. I was informed that there was consternation all around. Nobody had expected this to happen. Both sides had gone into the secret balloting with lots of confidence. And now this had to happen. Deadlock.

Another round of discussion arose on the next course of action. Come back another day? Not a good decision because most of the delegates were from outstation. Eventually, the delegates decided on a re-vote. However by then, one or more groups of delegates must have left because there were 37 people left when the second round of voting was called.

At the end of this second round, matters clarified quickly when Ramli was returned as the MCF president with 21 votes compared with 16 for Zuhri. For the people at the AGM, this had been a momentous occasion for them. For all of us who had been following the drama from afar, this has also been an historical moment for chess in the country. Now that everything's been settled, I can only hope that the factions in the Malaysian Chess Federation will close ranks and move forward. In spite of whatever flaws, chess must still be one family. Gens Una Sumus.

No comments: