'Local ratio' an issue at Tanglin Club polls

'Local ratio' an issue at Tanglin Club polls
Facade of Tanglin Club.

The long-running question of whether to admit more Singaporeans has emerged as an issue at the latest elections of one of Singapore's oldest and most exclusive social clubs.

On Monday, the Tanglin Club will hold its annual elections to choose eight general committee members, a treasurer and a president. The vice-president's post is uncontested.

One of the 10 candidates running for the eight general committee posts, lawyer Sim Yong Chan, has called for more Singaporeans to be admitted.

"There are nearly 1,650 Singaporean applicants on the wait-list to join our club. Some have waited almost 20 years," Mr Sim, a former president of the club, argued in a campaign sheet.

Under its Constitution, Singaporeans can make up no more than 2,040 or 51 per cent of the club's 4,000 ordinary members.

It is usually easier for foreigners to get membership as frequent turnover has meant that not all the slots for foreigners are taken up at any one point.

Monday's elections come just two months after snap polls were called in March, which followed the unprecedented resignation of the president and seven committee members in protest against criticism of the outsourcing of the club's food and beverage outlets.

Mr Joseph Chew, a retiree who has served in senior positions at Singapore Airlines and Temasek Holdings, was elected president in March.

He is now seeking re-election against Briton Vincent Lam, whom he defeated by 444 to 173 votes in March.

Mr Chew said in his campaign statement that he wants to build on his deep knowledge of the club to move "away from the morass of factional conflicts towards a more congenial environment".

Mr Lam, an aviation adviser, argued in his statement that the club needs a "skilled, dynamic and enthusiastic professional".

But the issue of admitting more Singaporeans may be potentially divisive and has triggered a move by the club to seek legal advice on Mr Sim's campaign platform, The Straits Times understands. Mr Chew declined to comment when approached by The Straits Times.

A review committee recommended last year that the ratio of the dominant nationality be raised to 58 per cent, meaning the proportion of Singaporeans would rise from the current 51 per cent. Other candidates campaigned on issues such as improving transparency or cultivating "kinship amongst members".

Tanglin Club is one of the richest clubs here and, because of the quota, one of the most exclusive for Singaporeans.


This article was first published on May 24, 2014.
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