FAS election: 32 to contest for 15 positions
Suresh and Moklas the only candidates to drop out of April 29 polls
It started with 34 names submitted on March 25 to the Football Association of Singapore's (FAS) Jalan Besar headquarters - two slates of nine, with another 16 running for six individual council member positions.
But, on April 29, when the FAS' 44 affiliates vote in the 15 people who will lead Singapore football for the next four years, they will be selecting from only 32 names.
Four of the five individual candidates who failed to pass muster with the FAS electoral committee (EC) last Tuesday, submitted appeal forms, with only one - Suresh Nair - having his appeal rejected.
With Kembangan United secretary Moklas Ma'arof withdrawing his candidacy, that leaves just 32 contesting in the FAS' first election.
While Team LKT, led by former FAS provisional council president Lim Kia Tong, saw all their 15 candidates pass the eligibility and integrity tests, the exclusion of Suresh and Moklas sees their opposition - Bill Ng's Game Changers - contest with just 13.
Lai Boon Teck and Jeffrey Sim - both from Game Changers - appealed with new forms after a technical error in their initial submissions, and were successful, along with unaffiliated candidate Kumar Appavoo.
"This being the first democratic FAS election ever, it sets a very undesirable precedent where candidates can simply be disqualified without being told why they were, and could give rise to the risk of a perception of arbitrariness in the qualification process," said Suresh, who said the electoral appeals committee (EAC) did not say why he failed in his appeal.
The EAC comprises chairman Michael Kuah, Aziz Tayabali Samiwalla and Abdul Salim Ahmed Ibrahim, who are from the FAS appeals committee.
The EC's initial eligibility and integrity checks revealed that Suresh had "placed bets on Singapore football matches between April 2010 and February 2013 through a Singapore Pools betting account" in his name.
His nomination was rejected because he had answered "no" to a question in the Declaration of Integrity Form asking if he had indeed done so.
"As far as I'm aware, the EC raised a matter which had already been dealt with previously, so going back to rely on that matter as a means of disqualifying me is unjustified, especially when I was subsequently appointed to football positions, where the highest integrity levels were required," said Suresh, an FAS referees' assessor.
He claims that betting account was set up to be utilised by his friends and family, and the matter had been previously raised by senior FAS officials.
Suresh had closed the account in 2013, following advice from the officials. He continued to be an FAS referees' assessor, even advising the match officials on issues of integrity.
Suresh submitted a statutory declaration - a legal document similar to a statement made under oath - along with his appeal forms, affirming that he had not placed bets himself.
"So unless the EAC comes up with good reasons, the primary disquiet over my disqualification will remain unaddressed," he said.
"Having said that (I will) take it on the chin, and as much as I'm now not eligible for the upcoming FAS election, I will wholeheartedly support the 'Game Changers'..."
The EAC did not respond to TNP's queries on the reasons behind Suresh's appeal failure. They revealed that the final list of candidates for the election will be released at least 10 days before the April 29 election.