Failed Union Presidential candidate Krishna Omkar has had his membership suspended for two terms for bringing a ‘frivolous’ and ‘malicious’ complaint over a poll he initiated.
The punishment, and a fine of £150, were handed down at a tribunal on Monday after Omkar accused a number of Union officials of improper conduct in a members’ poll.
The poll, held last week, was an attempt by Omkar to change electoral rules. Had it been successful, it would have allowed the ex-Treasurer to run for President again.
Current Union President Ben Tansey said, “Mr Omkar’s allegations against Mr Waldegrave, Mr Tryl and the Returning Officer were found to be on all accounts frivolous and not substantiated by any evidence, and the account against Mr Tryl in addition to being frivolous was also deemed to be malicious by the findings of the tribunal.”
Krishna Omkar’s complaint alleged that the actions of Waldegrave, Tryl and the Returning Officer resulted in a “badly conducted poll.”
“The Returning Officer admitted there were more votes in the box than there were voters, and there was clear first-hand testimony that some voters’ names had been struck off the roll without their having voted (which they discovered when they tried to vote)” he said.
Omkar added, “The other fact that this throws up is the blatant, in-your-face hypocrisy of Union politics. I was disqualified and banned for having a slate and a slate meeting – a slate meeting at which all six current officers of the Union were present.”
He also alleged that the use of slates in Union elections is a common practice.
“Emily [Partington, ex-Union President] admitted to having a slate when she was asked at the King and Country debate last term,” he said.
“Two weeks ago, Leo Marcus Wan and Charlie Holt admitted in Standing Committee to being on Josh Roche’s slate in last term’s election. Ed Waldegrave and Charlie Holt are both openly putting slates together for this term’s election. Yet all these people have constantly vilified me and told me that I deserved what I got. The point is that I have tried to change the rules, which are unfair – but I have been opposed by people who constantly break them, but do not want to change them as doing so would require an admission of guilt,” Omkar added.
He suggested that he has been made a scapegoat by Union opponents, saying, “I’m not the cheat. I’m not the bad guy. I’ve been made into one.”
The case originally came to light when a Union member went to vote in the poll and found that his name had already been crossed off the balloting list despite his not having voted. Krishna Omkar also claimed that some votes could not be accounted for and that this raised his suspicions as to whether the poll had been fixed, hence the subsequent tribunal.
Tom Glasspool, Returning Officer at the Oxford Union, said “Krishna originally brought allegations of malpractice against Waldegrave and Tryl, and of interference against the then Extraordinary Returning Officer during the poll. All of these were found to be either not guilty, or that there was no charge to answer.”
Initiating tribunals in the Union are extremely costly and can take many hours to conduct. It is alleged that the 18-hour tribunal on Monday cost the Union up to £1,000.
In an account of the proceedings Tom Glasspool said, “The tribunal began at 10am, ran until 5pm when Mr Omkar was excused due to a pressing dinner engagement which he said he absolutely could not miss. The panel allowed him to attend this. The tribunal then re-convened at 10pm, running until 7am. This meant that the panel of 3 stayed at the Randolph for 2 nights each rather than just one at the Union’s expense.
“A lot of people’s time and the Union’s money have gone into conducting tribunal proceedings which were deemed to be either malicious or frivolous, so once again infer from that what you will” he added.
Current President Ben Tansey commented, “There was very little evidence of malpractice […] given the chance to consider it [the change in ruling] there has been a concrete ‘no’ from Union members.”
Union member Rhiannon Ward commented, “It is a shame it ended so unpleasantly and even went to polling and a tribunal. He [Krishna] will be missed.”
Although Krishna is suspended for 2 terms from the date of the tribunal, until 4th week of Hilary 2009, he will be able to continue to be an ordinary member once the suspension has ended.
Union member Catherine Clark commented, “the worst thing is, he won’t get into the PT for free any more.”