Haron bin Mundir v Singapore Amateur Athletic Association

JurisdictionSingapore
CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
JudgeG P Selvam JC
Judgment Date16 September 1991
Neutral Citation[1991] SGHC 127
Citation[1991] SGHC 127
Docket NumberSuit No 1273 of 1989
Subject MatterGeneral damages for emotional damage, mental anguish, humiliation and reputation,Civil Procedure,Natural justice,Unincorporated Associations and Trade Unions,Unincorporated associations,Rules of natural justice implied into contract,Validity of member's suspension,Friendly societies,Contract as basis for jurisdiction of court,Terms of contract to be ascertained from constitution or rules of the association,Special damages,Not amenable to court's supervisory jurisdiction,Jurisdiction,Remedies,Disciplinary committee holding hearing,Claim in contract,Contract,Wrongful suspension of member,Damages in contract,Wrongful suspension of member by association,Disciplinary proceedings,Supervisory jurisdiction of High Court,Damages,Procedural injustice,Malice as a factor in awarding damages
Date16 September 1991
Defendant CounselTommy Neo (Tommy Neo)
Plaintiff CounselEdmond Pereira and David Rasif (Assomull Pereira & Partners)
Published date19 September 2003

Cur Adv Vult

The facts

The plaintiff is a well-known amateur athlete in Singapore. He has been the undisputed champion in Singapore in the 100, 200 and 400 metre track events. As such he has represented Singapore at international competitions. The defendants, the Singapore Amateur Athletic Association, are vested with the power and responsibility to `promote, arrange and assist amateur athletic competitions and championships for the benefit of affiliates and foreign teams desirous of visiting the Republic of Singapore and to employ the funds of the association to this purpose and to promote athletics in general`. Their constitution confers such power on them. It is a private body fulfilling public functions.

The defendants are registered as a society under the Societies Act (Cap 311). Organizationally they are an association of several sports clubs. Individual athletes as such cannot be members of the defendants. The association is run by a management committee. The constitution of the defendants confers on the management committee the power to control and discipline individual athletes and athletic life in Singapore. The relevant provision, r 13, reads:

Powers of the management committee



(h) To take disciplinary action on the recommendation of the disciplinary sub-committee.

(i) To suspend for a stated period, indefinitely or permanently anyone infringing the Amateur Definition or being guilty of misbehaviour or unfair practices.

The plaintiff at the material time was a member of Flash Athletic Club which was affiliated with the defendants. The president of the association heads the management committee. At all material times that office was occupied by Mr Loh Lin Kok, a practising lawyer. The management committee included three vice presidents and an honorary secretary. The decision-makers in the management committee were all volunteers from various walks of life interested in the promotion of sports in Singapore. At the material time Mr Maurice Nicholas was one of the vice presidents in the management committee. Captain Selvarajan, a regular officer in the Singapore Armed Forces, was a member of the management committee. Under its constitution the defendant association had several standing and sub-committees. The selection and training committee was one such committee. In 1989, its chairman was Mr Maurice Nicholas. Captain Selvarajan was the secretary of the selection and training committee.

In August 1989 the South East Asian Games (`the SEA Games`) were scheduled to be held at Kuala Lumpur. The plaintiff was an aspirant to the gold medal for the 400 metres in the SEA Games. The final authority to select the participants for the SEA Games from Singapore was vested in the Olympic Council of Singapore. The power and responsibility of selection and submission of the names of the Singapore team to the Olympic Council, however, was in the hands of the defendants. The training and selection committee was in charge of scouting for talent to represent Singapore at the SEA Games. To this end the plaintiff was prospected.

The plaintiff, with primary six as his highest standard of education, was training intensively to qualify for the SEA Games. Major Lim Hong Kang, a national coach and a regular officer in the Singapore Armed Forces, was attending to his training. Besides being a coach, Major Lim was also a friend and mentor of the plaintiff.

In March 1989 Mr Maurice Nicholas decided that the plaintiff should be sent to Japan for three months on training with the view to recommending him to the Olympic Council for the SEA Games. Mr Maurice Nicholas had secured the willingness of the Japan Amateur Athletic Federation (`the Japanese Federation`) to afford an opportunity to the plaintiff to train with Japanese athletes. The plaintiff was reluctant to accept the offer. He feared that conditions in Japan might not suit him because of cultural, religious and language barriers. He had earlier harboured hopes of training in the United States. In the end he was prevailed upon to go to Japan for a five-week stint. He was told that Don Quarrie, an erstwhile Olympic champion sprinter, would be in Japan at the same time and by whose presence the plaintiff would benefit. The plaintiff was also advised that he would participate in competitions there. Being a Muslim, the plaintiff was assured that arrangements had been made for halal meals.

The plaintiff left Singapore on 19 April 1989 for Japan. He had not been prior to his departure, apprised of any definite training programme that might have been arranged for his five-week stint. The following day he arrived at Chukyo University near Nagoya. The plaintiff soon realized that Don Quarrie was not in Japan. He received no information of any programme that had been arranged for him. The promise that he would participate in competitions did not materialize. The coach assigned to him was occupied with other business. His fear that halal food would not be available was confirmed. He was discouraged by the lack of care and attention. Language problems further confounded his problems. He was asked to learn Japanese. In the circumstances it was clear to the plaintiff that cultural and other conditions were not conducive to any concentrated or useful training in Japan. He therefore decided to return to Singapore. His hosts were initially unprepared to release him without clearance from the defendants. An attempt was made to contact Mr Maurice Nicholas but in vain. Thereafter he was permitted to leave. The plaintiff left Japan on 24 April 1989 and arrived at Singapore in the small hours of 25 April 1989. Later that morning he met with his coach, Major Lim, and explained the cause for his early return to Singapore. On the same day the afternoon press, The New Paper , carried a report quoting the plaintiff in some detail on the circumstances of his early return to Singapore. It concluded with a statement by him that he would continue to train under his coach in Singapore for the SEA Games which were then four months away. The New Paper of 25 April 1989 also reported that an investigation into the plaintiff`s aborted training stint in Japan had been ordered by the defendants` president, Mr Loh Lin Kok. He was plainly outraged by the plaintiff`s early return. Mr Loh Lin Kok later told the press that the plaintiff`s return was `an international fiasco` and that the plaintiff had `marred our good image with the Japanese`. Other lines attributed to Mr Loh Lin Kok clearly betokened that the plaintiff`s participation in the SEA Games was at grave risk.

In the meantime at the behest of Mr Loh Lin Kok a meeting was held at the office of Mr Maurice Nicholas on the 26 April 1989. It was attended by Major Lim, the plaintiff, Mr Maurice Nicholas and Capt Selvarajan. At the meeting the plaintiff gave his reasons for his early return. Captain Selvarajan then asked the plaintiff to write two letters of apology: one to the president of the defendants, the other to the Japanese Federation. He agreed. Mr Maurice Nicholas asked the plaintiff and Major Lim not to speak to the press. They agreed. Later the same day the plaintiff signed the letters of apology which were handed to Capt Selvarajan. The letters had been composed by Major Lim as the plaintiff was not fluent in English. Both the plaintiff and Major Lim believed that the matter would end there. Major Lim believed that punishment if any would be minimal. The plaintiff and Major Lim firmly believed that the plaintiff would be allowed to run at the SEA Games. Their belief was induced by what Capt Selvarajan had stated at the meeting.

A month later the plaintiff received a letter from the defendants stating that a disciplinary committee had been constituted to inquire into the plaintiff`s premature departure from Japan. The letter required the plaintiff to `appear in person to answer to the allegations against him`. It stated that the plaintiff would be given `every opportunity to speak and answer to the allegations against him`. It also required him to respond with an exculpatory statement within ten days. The letter was signed by Capt Selvarajan as secretary of the disciplinary committee. The following charge was enclosed with the letter.

You,



Haron Mundir, are charged with committing misbehaviour in that you on or about 24 April 1989, did return to Singapore from your training cum competition stint in Japan prematurely and without permission from the Singapore Amateur Athletic Association, when you were supposed to be in Japan for the training cum competition stint from 19 April 1989 to 23 May 1989 and you have thereby committed an offence punishable under r 13(i) of the constitution of the Singapore Amateur Athletic Association.

The plaintiff appeared before the disciplinary committee on 11 June 1989 without legal counsel or a McKenzie friend to represent or assist him. When the inquiry commenced Capt Selvarajan, who was to function as secretary of the...

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