Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Interview with Encik Muammar of MCF.

Preamble. Here.

FGM: Thank you Mr Muammar for taking part in this interview. Before I ask you my main question I would like to affirm that the opinions expressed here are in your capacity as the Chair of the Ethics and Compliance Committee and not the offical position of the Council of MCF. Is that correct? I am also informed that it is from your chair that the suspension order for Kedah originated.

Directly after the AGM, many of us in the chess community were hopeful that we would see a more professional MCF after many years of dissatisfaction. We saw small improvements although news of new transgressions were being filtered through the social media as well as the grapevines. But all in all we saw satisfactory solutions to many complain cases. So it was a shock to the entire chess community when we heard that Kedah was "banned". Can you tell us what were the events that lead to such a drastic action?

Encik Muammar: I can give my views in my capacity as the Chairman of the Ethics and Compliance committee.
As per Percak's temporary suspension, the MCF letter sent was self explanatory in that until they give their reply to the 'Show Cause' letter, Kedah will be temporarily suspended. Hence, since Percak has replied accordingly, the temporary suspension has been lifted and this matter has been discussed in the recent MCF meeting.

The temporary suspension was not meant to prejudice any party but serves as a tool for strict compliance. The rule is simple, you reply within a day, then the temporary suspension is merely good for a day. But if you opt not to reply, then the temporary suspension will stay until a reply is received. It is one of the ways to ensure MCF's authority is respected by the members who have initially agreed to abide by MCF's rules and regulations.
In other words, there is no question of breach of natural justice since a full and fair hearing will be conducted in the event the reply to the show cause letter is not satisfactory. During the full hearing, Percak will be given the opportunity to defend themselves against charges framed against them. Thereafter, the committee will decide based on justice and fairness.

FGM: Thank you for the reply. I have not viewed the show cause letter itself but it was explained to me by a current MCF Council member. What was explained to me was that the show cause letter was given as a result of a letter sent by Kedah to COS to protest the way the AGM was conducted. So to the vast members of the chess community the perception of the suspension seemed more like intimidation and selective prosecution rather than compliance.

For strict compliance MCF needs to have proper written and transparent guidelines for conflict resolution. Moreover in this case the conflict is with the AGM itself and it would seem correct that in the interest of natural justice the correct authority is the COS. Surely it cannot be correct for the winners of the AGM to rule on whether they had won fairly or not?

Compliance guidelines should also be stated for resolution of conflict in subordinate organisations when MCF is the higher authority; for instance, the guidelines for Chess Clubs showing them the proper way to appeal to MCF, in the event of them not getting satisfaction with the State Affiliates etc.

So the logic flows that in the event that COS does not give satisfaction to questions raised from the AGM then the next step would be an appeal to the Sports Minister. Is that not the process of appeals recognised by the Council of MCF?

I also understand from the same MCF Council member that if the Ethics and Compliance Committee is not satisfied with the replies from Kedah then this matter will be brought to the full Council. Can I understand from your reply that the Ethics and Compliance Committee now recognises that Kedah was indeed compliant with due process and that Kedah has nothing more to answer for and is now a fully reinstated Affiliate with full rights restored?

Encik Muammar: I have to make one thing clear first. Temporary suspension was lifted due to Kedah's compliance in replying the show cause letter. However, as stated before, in the event the Ethics Committee views the reply letter as not satisfactory, a full hearing will be conducted and Kedah will need to present their case. I have stated in the last MCF meeting that I will not chair the MCF hearing to ensure fairness to both sides.

Generally, there is no problem with Kedah lodging it's complaint to COS on the AGM and I have no issue with the procedures you mentioned earlier. However, the complaint must be with a valid reason and merit. There is need to have a controlling mechanism to discourage anyone not satisfied with the AGM to simply lodge a complaint without any valid grounds. Otherwise, in the future, MCF's new management team will end up addressing the same issue and problem at the expense of proper chess development. I agree that MCF needs to have subsidiary rules and regulations to complement the general provisions in the MCF Constitution.

With regards to the perception of the chess community, personally, I have to restrain myself from answering in detail as it could be subjudice to any pending proceedings between MCF and Kedah. We are trying our level best to minimise any unnecessary controversial issues.

On the other note, may I presume that you have viewed Kedah's letter to COS? If the answer is in the affirmative then I will ask you one question as a member of chess community. This question is not asked in my capacity as Chairman of the Ethics and Compliance Committee.

My question is this: If there is something wrong with the AGM election process, who should be blamed?!

A. The Chairman of the AGM Election process.

B. The previous President and Main Committee.

C. The Delegates who gave their views.

FGM: So it appears that Kedah is not out of the woods yet although the temporary suspension has been lifted. Surely a case of this magnitude must be brought before the full elected Council at the very least for further deliberation and perhaps there are even grounds for an EGM or for the case to be brought to the next AGM for the full authority to execute the ban of an entire State.

I am encouraged by your support of subsidiary rules and regulations to complement the general provisions of the Constitution. Would you envisage such rules to also govern the conduct of MCF officials in respect of their dealings with private entities like FGM? I presume you are aware of the complaints issued by FGM and other private organisers.

Returning to the subject of the AGM, your presumption that I have viewed the letter to COS is correct. Allow me to offer you my perspective. It seems to me that Encik Yahya of Kedah wrote-in his protest as the "Chairman of the Election Process". The dispute is that he was unable to excercise his authority in that capacity during the AGM. 

My views as an interested party are that there should have been an earlier exercise, pre AGM to establish the rules of contest; a sort of case management meeting. However given my understanding of the elevated emotions leading to the AGM this was perhaps not possible which has now lead to the current impasse. 

So rather than lay blame on anybody at this late time, I would view that this factor alone is proper basis to call for an EGM today. The rules of engagement were unclear and this has now lead to a fragmented chess community. Would it not be better to have that EGM to at least clear the air? However this time the rules of engagement should be properly thrashed out before the EGM. I believe that as well as pre-agreeing on the permissible motions allowed may lead to a better outcome. 

Wouldn't that be better than going to an appeal to COS which paints a rather immature picture of our chess community? I for one would like to think that we can self regulate ourselves and not let this matter go out of hand.

Encik Muammar: Since the questions are quite lengthy and more than one at a time, I believe I shall address them categorically and respectively.

1. I cannot not answer that question since I won't be involved in the hearing committee should the committee view the need to go for full hearing based on the reply to the show cause letter by Kedah. My name has been quoted in the complain letter to COS. Hence, to be fair to all parties I will need to recuse myself from being part of it to avoid any conflict of interest.

The disciplinary committee have the right to hear and decide in line with the spirit of the constitution. The aggrieved party may then appeal to the MCF main committee against any decision by the disciplinary committee.

2. Precisely, no one is above the rules. Even the President or the Chairman of the Disciplinary committee would be subject any disciplinary action should there be a valid ground for complaint by any member.

I am sorry to inform that I have no idea what has been the complaints in the past since I am a newcomer in MCF. Furthermore, I can only address any official complaints which is lodged through proper channels. I can't simply pluck any complaint from a blog or FB and act on them. Lodging an official complaint indicates responsible and professional gesture of the complainant.

3. On the AGM issue, again I have to avoid answering in detail for the same reason given before. Personally, maybe there is a need to address the vocabulary and phrase like 'unable to exercise his authority' during the AGM. I am not sure if you have read the reply letter by MCF to COS regarding the same complaint lodged. The only thing I can say is that if I were given the trust to be the Chairman of the Election Process, I would conduct the election without any fear or favour. And if there are conflicting version of definitions by the delegates, I will follow the majority view or a view that is convincingly correct because at the end of the day, if there is anything wrong with the election process, I shall take the blame solely as the Chairman.

4. Agree that there should have been a pre-case management meeting prior to AGM. But I cannot comment on that matter since I was not in the main committee then. However, you have to appreciate the actual fact that the two signatories of the complaint lodged with COS were the MCF Deputy President and Exco then and who was at the same time the Presidential Candidate and the Chairman of Election Process respectively during the AGM. Thus, res ipsa loquitor (the thing speaks for itself). As an observer, how do you perceive the matter?!

5. On your personal view, with due respect I beg to differ by reason of the following grounds (these are my personal views and nothing to do with MCF's official stand):-

a) that the complaint lodged by Kedah alone on the AGM dissatisfaction is not a good ground to warrant an EGM;

b) that the EGM may not solve any problem but will only create further disunity among the chess lovers. Unless, you can guarantee it won't happen;

c) that the chess community will end up spending more time dealing with MCF politics. Unless, you can guarantee that the EGM will settle the problem once and for all i.e. no one is going to lodge complaint to COS post EGM;

d) that EGM will involve costs. And if EGM doesn't solve the existing problem once and for all, that will cause MCF and other members to spend unnecessarily. (Just imagine the cost to fly 3 delegates from sabah for EGM) worth it?!

P/s: I can go on and on with other reasons...but since my wife is complaining about why I am spending so much time on my blackberry while doing shopping for the kids, I guess those reasons will have to suffice.

By the way, I stand to be corrected.

FGM: If Kedah was the only signatory then you have a very valid and strong point. However I am informed that 7 States have lent their voice requesting for the EGM together with other signatories in their private capacity. I believe this puts a different complexion on the severity of the matter.

With regards to point 5 generally, I suppose you are correct as in there are no guarantees for a final solution. However it is my belief and also my reading of the sentiments of the vast majority on the ground that we are all tired of the intense politiking and we would like to see order in the running of MCF to enable us to progress and catch up with our neighbours. With some goodwill on all parties I am sure we can affect a culture change and have an EGM that can handle the issues professionally and lead to change for the better rather then allowing this ill will to continue to fester.

Encik Muammar: On the last 3 paragraphs, you mentioned about 7 other states that signed for the EGM petition...however, since our focus was on the complaint relating to AGM and Percak's suspension, I wish to put on record that only Percak has lodged the complaint to COS and not the other states.

The matters must be addressed in two folds:

1. Complaints lodged by Percak to COS regarding the AGM; and

2. The so called EGM petition signed by other members.
The 2 things must be dealt with differently since both matters are not similar and have different content and context, different reasons and grounds. Presuming you have viewed the contents of the EGM petition, you appreciate the differences between the 2 matters.

Thus, on record, the complaint about the AGM to COS was done by Percak alone and was not supported by the other states.

FGM: Thank you for that clarification. I was extremely surprised that you viewed the 2 matters separately. I was of the opinion that the 2 issues were connected as I was not party to post AGM events. Upon hearing that from you I went back to my various sources to check and found that my assumptions could be based on false premises. I believe the vast majority of the chess community also believes the 2 issues are connected. I am now informed that the petition is lead by outside parties not involved with the dispute on the AGM. So this makes it 2 very separate issues. I believe this misconception is based on the article written by Eddy Fong  ref: Here so I thank you for pointing this out to us.

Personally I am extremely heartened that you have stepped forward and laid out your cards on the table. And may I add, in a professional manner. This is definitely a first for MCF for as long as I have dealt with them. I suspect that this new spirit of engagement will be seen by the community as the beginnings of a law abiding MCF and will encourage the contending parties to also take a step forward in finding solutions to any future conflict that may arise from the normal course of business.

All my best for Malaysian chess and thank you for taking out the time to spend with us during Raya.

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