I attended the extraordinary meeting (EGM) of the Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE) yesterday.
I was very surprised by the huge turn out of nearly 3000 people. Singaporeans are a passive bunch who usually do not bother to stand out and be counted. In this instance, maybe the saga had fired up raw nerves as it involved the personal, touchy issues of sexuality and religion.
I arrived at Suntec at around 1.30pm with Rachel who was there to cover the event. There was already a long snaking queue all the way from the entrance at the fourth floor, down the stairs to the third floor! Interestingly, there’s also a Qin Shan (青山) Mother’s Day concert on the sixth floor – there were a lot of confused aunties and grandmothers concert-goers who got mixed up in the AWARE queue. The two very different group of ladies provided an interesting contrast.
To get into the conference hall, you have sign up as an AWARE member for S$40. I did not sign up as I did not want to pay. Hence I headed to the library at Esplanade to wait for Rachel. However, I did manage to get in at around 5.30pm when I got hold of one of the admission stickers.
The hall was only half filled when I got in and the AWARE new guards ex-co, led by Ms Josie Lau, the president were bombarded with fiery and piercing questions from the floor one after another. It was clear to me that the new guards’ supporters had left them in the lurch, unwilling to speak up for them, though willing to cast their votes and be counted.
Dr. Thio Su Mien, the “Feminist Mentor” who orchestrated the new guard takeover was public enemy number one last night. Whenever her name was mentioned, there will be loud jeering and booing. It was impossible for her to speak as the angry crowd will drown out her voice whenever she takes the mic.
Video recording of Dr. Thio Su Mien’s speech, via sqpixels:
The result were out at 8pm. A vote of no confidence to axe out the entire new guard ex-co passed by a margin of 1,414 to 761 votes. The new guards were given 5 minutes to consider their immediate resignation, but they only came back at 9.15pm. Nonetheless, the entire team resigned.
A new ex-co, led by Ms Dana Lam, the freshly minted AWARE president was elected by 9.30pm, thereafter the EGM was closed proper.
Frankly, I was quite taken aback.
I always thought the ones with the most extreme beliefs will be able to mobilise the largest support, given the level of fanatical extremes they will go to just to meet their objectives. The liberals and the moderates on the other hand, tend to be less confrontational and take a back seat to events.
This AWARE saga proved my perception wrong and I am quite heartened this is so.
In any case, the good thing that came out of this whole saga is that most Singaporeans are now aware of AWARE, bringing an obscure civil society into national stardom. Hopefully, the freshly minted ex-co members will be able to leverage on this new-found level of awareness and brings AWARE to greater heights, not forgetting the fundamental principles of extending help and relief to all Singaporean women, regardless of race, language or religion.
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