Dr Surinder Singh, Chairperson of the Australian Sikh Association (ASA), says that reconciliation efforts are on to resolve the deadlock over the legality of the nomination of Captain Sarjinder Singh Sandhu for the position of president. Surinder Singh Multani, the Sikh Sangat Sewa Group (SSSG)’s candidate for the post of president in the recently held elections, has challenged the eligibility of Mr Sandhu to contest the elections arguing that he did not fulfil the mandatory constitutional requirement of previously working on the Executive Board, Board of Trustees or Council of Trustees for a minimum period of two years, as per clause 6.7, later amended to clause 6.9 of the ASA constitution.
At the time of the election Sarjinder Singh Sandhu had seven weeks to go to complete the mandatory two years of service. Both Surinder Singh Multani and Sarjinder Singh Sandhu made their submission to the returning officer through legal representatives. The returning officer of the election Sukhdarshan Singh Dhaliwal obtained his own independent advice from Grech & Bannerman lawyers. As per the recommendations of the legal advice he received, Mr Dhaliwal withheld results for the position of president. The results for the other candidates have been declared.
Grech & Bannerman, in their communication with the ASA, have also said, “It is our view that the proper course is to declare the May election invalid and to call for fresh nominations for the position of president of the Association.”
Under these circumstances the SSSG are now insisting that, as per the constitution of the ASA, the vice president of the ASA Executive Committee should assume the role of Acting President. Speaking to The Indian Sun, members of the SSSG said that as per recommendations from the returning officer this issue should be resolved by a dispute resolution committee, or Mr Sandhu and Mr Multani should get a court order before the position of the president is filled.
SSSG members are also alleging that “Mr Sandhu also called unconstitutional meetings of the Executive and tried to operate ASA accounts and has disrupted the overall functioning of the ASA management committee”. They also say that the General Secretary of ASA, due to affiliation to that group, is promoting/allowing him [Mr Sandhu] to function as president and tried to get authority to operate accounts by using minutes of the unconstitutionally convened meeting by Mr Sandhu. Further, they say, Mr Sandhu also issued an ‘illegal warning letter’ on the ASA letterhead to the then Chairman Board of Trustees, because he requested them not to conduct an unconstitutional executive meeting. The SSSG are concerned that the General Secretary displayed a list on the ASA notice board that had Mr Sandhu as President of ASA.
According to the SSSG, “Even after repeated requests the General secretary has failed to produce any document depicting Mr Sandhu as president. The General Secretary under the influence of the other group members is not following the ASA constitution/protocols to call management meetings, which is adding more confusion to already perplexed situation”.
According to the SSSG, this is a “gross violation of the Returning Officer’s decision”. The SSSG says it has requested “Mr Sandhu to live by the ASA constitution and not interfere in the day-to-day running of the ASA”.
Mr Sandhu’s supporters, however, say that the validity of his nomination is a legal issue that his detractors have unearthed in an attempt to undermine him and the Sikhs for Truth and Democracy.
ASA chairperson Dr Surinder Singh says he is optimistic that the two parties will be able to resolve their differences in the ongoing talks.