Singapore student conference cancelled after organiser becomes uncontactable
Decision was taken after organiser become uncontactable, says lawyer
A regional conference modelled on the United Nations to be hosted in Singapore for the first time was cancelled after the organiser could not be contacted, The New Paper has learnt.
The week-long Asia-Pacific Model United Nations Conference 2019 (AMUNC) was due to take place at Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) from Sunday.
Hundreds of delegates from universities in the region were expected to take part in the prestigious event.
Miss Deng Yushan, a second-year arts and social sciences student at the National University of Singapore (NUS), had travelled to Australia to successfully bid for the event, the Political Science Society of NUS (PSSOC) said in a press statement yesterday.
As secretary-general of AMUNC, Miss Deng spearheaded the event, which was supported by the PSSOC, an independent group formed by NUS students. Miss Deng is a member.
PSSOC's lawyer, Mr Alfred Dodwell, told TNP that Miss Deng had approached the society last year to asked if she could partner it to host AMUNC 2019.
"Miss Deng asked if she could borrow their name to host it. The society agreed because it's a big-name event," he added.
"The planning was Miss Deng's responsibility, and the society has nothing to do with it. But then she became uncommunicative."
PSSOC president Ryan Tan said in the statement that Miss Deng's lack of planning and response had raised concerns.
The society made every effort to contact her but did not receive any response, he added.
It then made the "difficult but necessary" decision to cancel the event and took all steps to inform RWS and the other stakeholders.
Mr Tan said: "Our society, though not the organiser, is now forced to clear up the mess that the organiser had created.
"We are trying our level best to settle matters amicably and to protect PSSOC's interests and its members."
He said that while PSSOC was not the event organiser, the society, as a trustee of its funds, would take steps to provide refunds to the participants.
Mr Dodwell said he had sent an e-mail to Miss Deng on June 24 to resolve the matter, but she replied on June 27 that she was overseas and had intermittent connection.
It was at that point that the society decided to cancel the event.
He said there might be potential litigation involving PSSOC, Miss Deng and RWS.
"We will work to seek to resolve all issues amicably. But we may bring in Miss Deng as a third party as she is liable," he added.
Mr Dodwell revealed that Miss Deng contacted him for the first time yesterday since she became uncontactable to try to resolve the issue.
TNP understands that about $400,000 is owed to RWS and delegates, but the money is not missing.
Several delegates from Indonesia said they had tried in vain to contact the organiser after they found out about the cancellation of the conference.
A third-year student said some delegates were planning to approach their embassy in Singapore for help as many of them had spent millions of rupiahs of their own money or from sponsors for the event.
He added: "We even went through a stringent selection criteria just to represent our school. It infuriates us that this has cost us millions."
In a separate statement last night, the NUS Students' Union (Nussu) clarified that the Nussu Executive Committee (exco) and NUS Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) Club have no relationship with AMUNC.
Like other Nussu exco members, Miss Deng was free to pursue other commitments outside of her official capacity, and her involvement in AMUNC was one such case, Nussu added.
Since she became incommunicado over the past month, other exco members had to take over her duties under the Student Life Cell.
Nussu said that its general secretary asked the NUS FASS Club management committee on June 30 to remove Miss Deng as an exco member "due to her complete dereliction of duty".
A Nussu source told TNP yesterday that its members had gone to Miss Deng's home to look for her, but to no avail.
In a Facebook post on Jan 21, Miss Deng wrote about her hopes in organising the AMUNC event.
"I didn't want it to just be another conference, I wanted it to be THE conference that set the standards for the region," she said.
She also said that this year's conference "was not out there to make a profit".
"We slashed the price so much from the original cost per delegate that we run the risk of not breaking even...
"School compounds (cannot be compared with) booking out the entire five-star conference venue in Resorts World Sentosa," she added.