AWARE, a 25-year-old Singaporean women's right organization, recently found itself in turmoil after a coup orchestrated by conservative fundamentalist Christians who signed up in large numbers just before the annual general meeting, then elected a new executive that immediately purged the organization of all its traditional leadership down to the subcommittee chairs.
AWARE held its annual general meeting (AGM) on 28 March 2009. There were over 100 people present. Of them, about 80 had only joined the organisation between January and March, one to three months before the meeting. Nine out of 12 executive committee (EXCO) places, including four Office Bearer positions, went to newcomers, who were voted in by wide majorities. There are wide-ranging suspicions that this "leadership grab" has been orchestrated by a well-organised group who do not share AWARE's values and who are seeking to use the name and the resources of a well-respected institution to further their own agenda. These concerns have been expressed not only by onlookers, but by older members of Aware…
# The new president, Josie Lau and 5 other Exco members belong to the same church, Church of Our Saviour. Given this, it is very likely, in our view, that they have acted in concert to take over AWARE. We do not know why as they have refused to disclose their reasons to either members of AWARE or to the press and this makes us even more worried. They, or persons whom they have been associated with, have written homophobic letters to the press. While that is their personal conviction to which they are entitled, we do not want AWARE to be made into a vehicle for any hidden agenda.
# Josie Lau, was in charge of the DBS Charity Drive in support of Focus On The Family, US-based Christian organisation that is opposed to abortion and equal rights for sexual minorities. This created a controversy last year which was well-documented.
# 160 members, including former AWARE committee members and founder members, petitioned for an extraordinary general meeting to consider a vote of no confidence in the New Exco on the basis that the New Exco has not acted and is not acting in the best interest of AWARE; does not appreciate or share the values of AWARE and does not have the requisite experience of carrying out AWARE's work or is otherwise inadequate to further AWARE's objectives. An EGM will be held on 2 May 2009.