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Sharda could be a shoo-in

Loophole in FAS constitution means veteran footballer could get into council without winning any votes

She does not have the sports administration credentials of Annabel Pennefather, nor is she a multi-sport Games veteran like Dr Teoh Chin Sim.

But, on April 29, Sharda Parvin could waltz into the new Football Association of Singapore (FAS) council without having to win a single vote.

The FAS will, for the first time, democratically elect its leadership, but a constitutional loophole could see Tanjong Pagar United player Sharda automatically "elected" because the 32-year-old veteran is the only woman among the 16 in the running for one of six council member slots.

There are nine other positions - president, deputy president, four vice-presidents and three council members - on offer on a slate basis.

There are a total of 15 members on the FAS council.

"Pursuant to Article 35.1 of the FAS Constitution, a female candidate is required to be a member of the Council," said FAS Electoral Committee chairman K Bala Chandran, in response to queries from The New Paper.

"If the Slate without the female candidate is elected into the Council, pursuant to Article 28.16, the female candidate contesting on an individual basis shall be deemed elected by acclamation."

While Pennefather - a former Singapore Hockey Federation president who also sits on various committees on the International Association of Athletics Federations and the International Hockey Federation - and Dr Teoh are part of a slate led by Bill Ng, there are no women on the slate of their only competitors, one led by FAS provisional council president Lim Kia Tong.

Lim, a lawyer, was the lead figure in the FAS' exercise of changing its constitution to allow for an election of its leadership. The new constitution was passed in November last year.

Article 28.16 of the FAS constitution states: "When candidates standing for election on a Slate Basis or a candidate standing for election on an Individual Basis, have or has respectively no opponent, they or he may be elected by acclamation."

Lawyer Eugene Thuraisingam agrees that the FAS Electoral Committee decision is not wrong, but it is a decision reached on what "must be implied" in the constitution.

He believes the FAS constitution could have been clearer.

"This state of affairs is not ideal. It is not fair to the male candidates running on an individual basis and what if there was no female individual candidate?" said Thuraisingam, who has been defending accused people who might face the death penalty, on a pro bono basis under the Legal Assistance Scheme for Capital Offences since 2004.

"While it may be open to the (FAS executive committee) to co-opt a female member, that female member will have no voting rights and that therefore may not gel with the purpose and intention in the Constitution of mandating a female member.

"It may therefore be worth considering amending the constitution to provide for the slate of nine to have at least one female candidate. That dovetails better in keeping with the spirit of having a female member."

"It would have been preferable if the Constitution provided for at least one candidate of each slate of nine candidates to be a female. It has not provided such," added Thuraisingam.

An email sent out from the address at 9.16am on March 18 gave notice of the FAS' election to its 44 affiliates.

In paragraph 2.4 of that email, it was stated that "it is not mandatory for the female member (of the FAS Council) to be elected on the Slate Basis (Article 35.1 (d) of the FAS Constitution)".

There was no explanation of why this was not mandatory.

The nomination process for the FAS election closed at 6pm on Saturday.

The FAS Electoral Committee will now appraise each candidate to see if they meet predetermined eligibility criteria, as well as an integrity test.

The final list of candidates must be released at the latest, on April 19, 10 days before the election.