An update on our ACM plans

Dear Hermonites, it was a great encouragement to see so many of us attend last Sunday’s Mock ACM. In total, we had 152 participants on the webinar, not including family members who tuned in to the proceedings on a common device at home. It is a turnout we would have been pleased with under normal circumstances, and so we are all the more delighted that the Hermon family came together virtually despite the extra effort.

We’re using this editorial to announce that there are some significant changes to the plans for ACM this Sunday. While change is often inconvenient, we hope you’ll find that they represent an improvement to the usual way of doing things.

Why the change?

On Apr 27, the government introduced the COVID-19 (TEMPORARY MEASURES) (ALTERNATIVE ARRANGEMENTS FOR MEETINGS FOR REGISTERED SOCIETIES) ORDER 2020 (The Order). It serves to establish guidelines for Registered Societies (such as Mt Hermon) planning to conduct their Annual Congregational Meetings virtually, in view of the social distancing requirements necessitated by the pandemic.

While the guidelines are generally helpful, we learnt on Monday (May 11) that The Order includes the following clause, “A member may not vote at the meeting otherwise than by way of appointing the chairman of the meeting as the member’s proxy” (Schedule (6), The Order). This clause prohibits us from casting our votes for

Election of Session and the several Resolutions on our agenda during the actual ACM. This means that all voting has to be done by proxy. It also means that we cannot proceed with our electronic voting on the Zoom Webinar platform, as we rehearsed during the Mock-ACM.

There is an exception to the prohibition. The Ministry of Home Affairs has stated that “electronic voting for general meetings is allowed only if the society’s constitution specifically allows this.” Unfortunately, this exception doesn’t apply to us, nor to the vast majority of societies who would not have written this clause into their constitution.

Proxies are essentially voting slips, which include identification markers (full name, last 4 digits of NRIC) as well as your voting decision. These proxies will be completed and submitted online to an independent third party, who will collate and release the aggregated results to our Internal Audit Team. This means that voting remains strictly secret. The other thing to note about the proxy is that it must be submitted before the actual ACM commences.

This presents a problem to our original plan. Normally, what happens during an ACM is that we will preface a Resolution, state it, elaborate upon it and answer questions relating to it, before putting it to a vote. Under The Order, however, our votes will have to be cast before the ACM, which means that the elaboration and clarification of the Resolution(s) will have to take place before the ACM, so that all of us have the opportunity to cast an informed vote.

What are the changes?

We are proposing a prelude to the ACM in the form of a Communications Session (i.e. a Townhall Meeting). This will take place on Saturday, May 16, 2:00pm. That will be 24 hours before the actual ACM. During the Communication Session, the leaders will make their presentations on the four Resolutions that have been tabled for voting, as well as respond to the related pre-submitted questions. We will also leave time for an optional live Q&A on Saturday. If you are unable to attend the Saturday Comms Session, a full video recording of the proceedings will be sent to all members once it concludes.

Having tuned in to (or watched the recording of) the Comms Session, members will be able to make an informed voting decision based on the information received. Members will then be able to submit their online proxies from Saturday, 16 May 4.00pm up until 12 noon the next day, 17 May, Sunday.

On the actual ACM, May 17, 2;00pm, we will conduct non-voting related business, such as the passing of reports and the appointment of auditors. We will also hear the results of the voting.

What do these changes mean?

They mean that we now have more time to pray and think before we vote for the Elections and Resolutions, since we have Saturday to Sunday afternoon to complete and submit our proxy votes, as opposed to having to vote on the spot during the ACM itself. That’s a good thing.

It also means that we will have to commit Saturday, 2:00pm to 4:00pm (2 hours) to the Comms Session. But it’s not a nett two-hour increase, because time spent on during the Comms Session will translate to a reduction in time spent during the ACM itself, since the agenda is spread over two days.

Finally, we do regret these last minute changes. But as COVID-19 has taught us, often things don’t go exactly as we planned, but so long as we strive to walk with the Lord, we can be confident all things will work for our good.

– Rev Luwin Wong