A penny dropped after the KLK tournament and a meeting I had yesterday in KL. I have puzzled over the events leading to my sacking as a committee member and then the much more drastic act of removing me as a member of PICA. It seemed a crazy and vicious act to me.
But let me start at the beginning here. When I came into PICA, I was surprised that they had no major sponsor in place after so many years in existence. One clue was presented when I went to Cosmopoint to try and get some help for Syuen tournament from their manager. She said that I had some nerve to approach them after not turning up and not informing them that PICA cancelled their tournament the year before. I tried to explain that we were a new committee but I don't think it worked.
What was so controversial that it lead to my sacking? Let's put this in perspective. Income was RM 1,725. Direct expenses paid in tournament is RM 678.03. That means the total in contention is RM 1,046.97.
So what was different about Syuen?
Syuen was a new model. At the outset, I sat down with Chan and said we needed sponsors. I have some corporate contacts although I haven't been in touch with most of them for over 10 years but will do so if it is helpful to bring more life back to PICA. We also had a heart-to-heart where I told him that I was glad he won the Presidency. I only stood when it was apparent that nobody else would make a stand. I tried to assure him that I am happy in the background so long as we produced healthy competitions and we practised transparency because that was the ticket that I stood on at the AGM and I carried the mandate of nearly half of the membership.
My caveat for Syuen was that I would try to recover some of my expenses from the entrance fee but will indemify PICA from losses. So all expenses for Syuen was fully funded by me. And it took me many trips to KL, hundreds of phone calls, manning the registration and website etc etc. It was almost a one-man show until the day of the tournament. Please read the sequence of events in my letter to MCF in this article here.
Direct events that have a bearing on my sacking.
The first came a few days after Syuen when Chan called and demanded for the accounts when I was in Datmo.
Another event took place when I was approached by Dato Tan - see here.
This MCF official was in direct contact with PICA and tried to take over the KLK tournament. Yes, it was offered to me first but I found I could not get a meeting to discuss this when I returned to Perak.
Instead I was called to a meeting with Kamaruddin and Kumar, both of whom got elected on my ticket. They showed me the Batu Gajah accounts and proceeded to tell me where I could buffer the Syuen accounts so I don't lose too much money. They even gave me a copy of the Batu Gajah accounts and told me that if I was to quietly present Syuen's accounts to Chan, then even the money due to PICA for clock rentals can be waived like he did for them. I told them I could not do that. I believe all the accounts must be tabled in the committee and that is what we promised when we stood for elections and we owed that to the members that elected us and that I will continue to hold them to their promises to support change and transparency when they came under my ticket.
The next significant event that took place was Dato Tan coming to Ipoh to meet my potential sponsor DKLS. At that meeting, in front of Dato and the representative from DKLS, Chan said he had no problems working with me when I announced that I would like to form the Chess Academy. Dr Yee, past President and current Treasurer came late to the meeting (as Dato was leaving). After Dato left, we adjourned back to the boardroom to recap. At that point Dr Yee declared that PICA would not work with me.
And 2 days later I was sacked.
Let's now go back to the events leading to Syuen to see if we can find a thread...
Kamaruddin and Kumar did not deliver on their end. At that time Adzlin, Amier's mum, was helping me to find sponsors from Tun's foundation. She suddenly called me out of the blue and said that her contacts told her that Dato Bandar was not aware of the Piala Datuk Bandar (as Syuen was called earlier). My credibilty as well as PICA's was on the line. I was thoroughly embarrassed. I scrambled and asked Kumar and Kamaruddin to produce the letters they said they wrote and the name of the sponsors they had secured. None. Not one letter. Not one sponsor. And no Datuk Bandar.
Chan was calling around the committee members to cancel the event. Kumar and Kamaruddin did not agree. Maybe they thought I would fall flat on my face and they didn't want to miss the opportunity to witness that as they had even more traps in place.
Kamaruddin was to provide help at the registration desk. Luckily I had a plan B, I got my wife, a teacher and students from St. Michael to volunteer as a back up. Of course Kamaruddin's help didn't arrive.
Then another bombshell. I had already argued that we could not pay the prize money for the age groups as we had already lost out from the H1N1 scare (at least 3 busloads of players cancelled). Chan, Kamaruddin and Kumar said that PICA will underwrite that in view of the circumstances. On the day of the tournament, no money from PICA. By now, I was a little smarter. I brought my own money and said, fine. If PICA doesn't pay, I will. My company will sponsor the prize money but then Chan will not go up on the podium to deliver the Presidential address. They coughed up finally.
So why all this ugliness? It didn't make sense to me. I called in favours from my former boss in Syuen. I had stood with him through the financial crisis in 1997 and we lost that battle. I have never asked him or anyone else for a favour for myself in all those years of my own financial difficulties but I did it for PICA. My former boss provided VIP parking at the front of the hotel, free parking for all the officials, a many-course meal served by waiters for the VIPs in a VIP room. The banquet hall was given free. I had to call him in Laos to explain as the hotel management did not have the authority to give us all that. I also went to see Puan Sri Loy from Taylors college (my old bridge partner); I called up all my old contacts for PICA when I would never consider asking for myself. So what is happening?
Inferences from circumstantial evidence.
Why bother to sack me when I was prepared to quit or at least scale down my activity drastically in PICA after Syuen? Why take the step to sack me as a member and smear my good name over RM 1K? In my time at PICA, I have only received RM200 for the set up of the blog. And even that was paid to my staff because I am not technical. All the times I ran events for the blog, organised activities, acted as team manager, I was never paid. Do look at PICA's website to see what I contributed during my term there.
All I asked for from PICA was a meeting to discuss the Syuen accounts since many of the discussions were omitted from the minutes, additional expenses were incurred, and decisions were made over my head as organising chairman. How can the accounts be prepared unless I know what is allowable and what is not? And why can't the accounts be presented to the full committee and why only to Chan?
It didn't make sense. I looked at the Batu Gajah accounts. At most, they could have made a couple of hundred, if any. But wait, who is the boss of PICA? Is it Chan or Yee? Chan agrees and Yee disagrees and Yee's stand holds. Why the "senseless" sabotage of the Syuen tournament? Hmmmmmm.. What if Batu Gajah is only a trial run? What happens if I am discredited, does the KLK money now go to someone else? Why the interest from this MCF official in PICA? Let's try to join the dots.
Let's look at PICA now. Zero transparency, doctored minutes, controlled agendas.
PICA the last bastion
What happens when you have 50K to play with in the above scenario? I needed to be kicked out. No hearing, no due process with flagrant disregard to the constitution. Where is my appeal at the AGM? Under what powers did they use to sack me and deny representation to half the membership that voted me in? I hear it is getting very hard to cari makan in MCF now. There is a new atmosphere for transparency. Is this why it is so important to protect the backward culture in PICA?
Get our house in order or someone else may do it for us.
I met with Greg yesterday and presented my case. He asked for PICA's constitution and said he will raise the matter with Tan Sri. I also met with the person's daughter who has Datuk Bandar's ear. She remembers Kamaruddin very well and tells me of his colourful past. My reporter friend from Ipoh Echo also called me to find out what is happening. Of course we have no facts now. In law, sometimes sufficient circumstantial evidence is enough but the best is concrete proof. And that can only be provided from transparent accounts.
I hope MCF will investigate as promised before everything comes out in the open. I don't think this can be covered up much longer, the way things are going. At the very least, Datuk Bandar will now know who is the Secretary of PICA as the cat is already out of the bag. If any impropriety is investigated by outside agencies, this will be bad for chess. Sponsors will run away. So MCF, you must act. I believe there are enough questions raised to warrant a proper investigation. Call me up. Call PICA up. Let's get to the bottom of this.