May 06, 2009

020509 stand up & be heard...

only to be ordered by the new exco to shut up & sit down...

For a moment, Sally Ang made us feel like we were back in kindergarten ;)

Click here for part 1

A group of ladies quickly moved in to grab the seats to the right of the flower-less & badge-less cat when the original occupants shifted elsewhere. One introduced herself to the cat as a new member who joined just before the last AGM & voted in it, 'so you should know where I'm from' (in her own words)...In contrast to other people's accounts of pro-new exco supporters describing them as quiet, calm & dignified, this bunch stood up & screamed & clapped wildly whenever the new exco spoke, & their loudest screams & cheers were reserved for FM Thio.

Things got a little nasty when Ms YouKnowWhereI'mFrom kept screaming into the ears of three ladies directly in front of her...when they turned back to tell her that her screaming was hurting their ears, she saw their We Are AWARE badges & shrieked back at them SO? I CAN DO WHAT I WANT!...For the rest of the afternoon & evening, she would lean forward & scream into the ears of those three whenever she could. The cat could only hope that one day Pastor Derek Hong will teach her that being a child of God doesn't literally mean being childish ;) Whenever she & her group caught sight of Leona Lo, who was seated a couple of rows in front of us, rather unkind comments about 'ah kua' were made. Interesting how some people who say that their God is loving can be filled with so much hatred & bigotry. In a hall where the majority was pro-old guard, the cat had to end up seated right next to the FM Thio fan club...Beanz, who had also turned up alone, was more fortunate. According to her the supporters from COOS next her behaved a lot more maturely. There are both black & white sheep in any shepherd's flock.

Before the EGM could begin, the new exco demanded that NMP Siew leave the 'nice chairs' section. When he refused (Acidflask has awarded him the Best Rosa Parks tribute for refusing to budge :P), the new exco called for him to be removed by the AETOS auxillary police. He & the old guard tried to explain that he was there as legal advisor for the old guard - & at this point it was discovered that the new exco had instructed Ape Communications to keep all microphones on the floor turned off, so that only the new exco on stage could speak. People called out for the microphones to be turned on, but new exco flatly refused. This was when the audience started to get agitated, & how the shouting started (it was the only way those off the stage could make themselves heard), when people realised that they were actively being silenced, & any remnant of hope for a level playing field vanished. The new exco's response was to threaten those who shouted in order to be heard with forced removal by the auxillary police.

The microphones were turned on only after the old guard insisted that the legal counsel be consulted, & Gregory Vijayendran from Rajah & Tann spoke in favour of the old guard - that all microphones should be left switched on. For a moment, the cat felt that perhaps there was still hope for a more even exchange. However, for the rest of the EGM, all microphones on the floor, save for one right at the front, remained dead. The new exco also set the rule that everyone could only speak once, & for a maximum of 3 minutes, on top of other rules such as no flash photography, no audio or video recording, etc. Lagi bestest, the new exco continued to signal to Ape Communications to turn off the one remaining microphone on the floor so that people could not speak, or were cut off in mid-speech, especially when questions pertaining to the new exco's stand on issues related to homosexuality & transgenders were raised. Things might have taken a different turn had the new exco not denied the audience their right to speak in the first place, but the new exco never gave us a chance to find out.

The new exco flashed a powerpoint slide detailing the agenda for today's EGM, saying that it had already been distributed to all members, contrary to an article in today's Straits Times reporting that the new exco had refused to answer queries from the old guard with regards to the EGM agenda. With the EGM starting 40min late, & 'requisition for EGM' listed as item 3 on the agenda, there were fears that the new exco would seek to stall for time & drag their feet, & then call the EGM to a close at 5PM sharp, so that voting could not be carried out today, wasting the time of 3000 people. These fears seemed to be confirmed as Josie Lau started on a lengthy address + powerpoint presentation highlighting the various achievements of AWARE, with no mention that it was 100% the work of the old guard. The pro-old guard camp was naturally indignant at what seemed like an attempt by a month-old exco comprised of new members to claim credit for the old guard's 24 years of tireless effort & personal sacrifice. Those familiar with AWARE's work found it ridiculous for a bunch of newbies to lecture them & the old guard on what AWARE is about, the history of AWARE, etc. The lack of speed at which Josie Lau spoke didn't help one bit. Points of order to bring forward item 3 to the top of the agenda were repeatedly made - the microphones were still being switched off whenever anyone from the floor tried to speak - & repeatedly ignored. The audience decided that it had had enough of such high-handed tactics, & it was no holds barred jeering from then on, in order to force Josie Lau into cutting short her interminable address.

& then came the incident that turned the audience from irate to incensed - when Margeret Thomas told Josie Lau that her 3 minutes to speak was up, Sally Ang yelled back SHUT UP & SIT DOWN...& because the new exco's microphones were switched on, it was heard loud & clear by all & recorded for posterity on handphones, digital cameras & video cameras for uploading onto youtube (more than 3800 views so far) & posting on websites & blogs, & twittered to the world beyond Suntec City Convention Halls 402 & 403. Kudos to Josie Lau for keeping calm & apologising for the behaviour of her exco member, but what people wanted was for Sally Ang herself to apologise for her outburst...which she grudgingly did later, & not without rebuking the audience once more.

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