Pastor gets Polo Club suspension overturned

SINGAPORE - Pastor Lawrence Khong, a former national polo player, yesterday won the fight to quash his two-month suspension by the Singapore Polo Club.

The suspension came after he sent an e-mail message to all the club members and the Registry of Societies in April questioning the conduct of the club's current committee in amending the results of a no-confidence vote against the previous year's leadership.

After the e-mail, disciplinary proceedings were launched against Mr Khong, the club's honorary secretary.

At the disciplinary hearing, he made the point that the five-member tribunal deciding his fate was in a position of conflict of interest, as they were members of both last year's and this year's committee.

In August, he was notified of his suspension for misusing the club's e-mail system and his position as honorary secretary.

Mr Khong, represented by Mr Daniel Goh and Mr Adrian Wee, filed a High Court application to set aside the suspension, arguing that the tribunal was tainted by the appearance of bias.

Yesterday, at the end of a closed-door hearing, Judicial Commissioner Tan Siong Thye set aside the suspension and ruled that Mr Khong was entitled to claim damages, which will be assessed at a later date.

Mr Khong was effectively suspended for six weeks before he got an interim court order to suspend it.

The founder of the Faith Community Baptist Church, which has a congregation of more than 10,000 members, was heartened by the court's decision.

"It has been my belief from the start that the proceedings against me were conducted unfairly. I have sought at all times to act in the club's best interests," he said.

Mr Khong, a club member for more than 20 years, added that he was prepared to waive his claim for damages, if the club and its committee also agree to let the matter rest.

Club president Iqbal Jumabhoy said the committee will carefully consider the decision and discuss its implications with the club's lawyers before deciding on whether to make an appeal.

The club is the only place in Singapore where polo can be played.

Certain members, based on criteria such as contributions to the club or polo- playing experience, may be appointed as charter polo-playing members.

Such members hold 10 votes each, while other members hold one vote each.

The saga arose out of a decision by the 2012 committee to reject an application by the club's former resident polo professional for charter membership.

In the build-up to this year's annual general meeting in March, a number of members tabled a motion of no confidence against last year's committee for the rejection.

At the AGM, the motion was passed and the results were audited and published. But a couple of days later, the votes were recounted on a one member, one vote basis. With this tallying method, the motion was not passed.

Mr Khong, believing that the way in which the results were changed was improper, tried to seek legal advice but was reprimanded by the committee.

That was when he issued the mass e-mail expressing his concerns

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