The treasurer candidate for the ‘Together’ slate, Lee Chin Wee, has been barred from running in this term’s Union election, per a ruling issued by the Union’s Returning Officer.
It has emerged that Lee is ineligible to stand under Union election rules, which require that all candidates must be a current member of the Standing Committee or a Senior Appointed Official, and must have served for at least one term as a member of the Secretary’s Committee or as an Appointed Official.
This would normally mean that Lee was able to stand, but it transpired that his position as International Officer (an Appointed position) was never been ratified by the Union’s Standing Committee last term as required. Per Union rules, he has thus not officially served a term as an Appointed Official or member of Secretary’s Committee, meaning he does not meet the requirements to stand for election as Treasurer-Elect.
In his official ruling, the Returning Officer wrote that: “I received an envelope with a message from ‘A Member’ in my RO pigeon hole at 2.57 pm, before the Close of Nominations, which informed me that the Member had concerns about the ratifications of Mr Lee as International Officer in MT18.
“Having investigated all of the Standing Committee Minutes from the term, I am satisfied that there was not a vote to ratify Mr Lee as International Officer.”
He continued: “With this in mind I gave Mr Lee the opportunity to make a submission before the hard deadline required for posting a list of validly nominated candidates. However, nothing brought forward by this submission persuaded me from my initial reading of the rules.
“Therefore, I rule that Mr Lee shall not be considered as having been Ratified as an International officer under current Rules. This means that Mr Lee, under the current Rules, can not [sic] be considered as having been International Officer for the purposes of this election.”
The official ruling concluded that: “As CDSC, Mr Lee is a current Member of Standing. However, as Mr Lee can not [sic] be considered as having been International Officer, he does not meet the requirements of having served a further term either on Secretary’s Committee or as an Appointed Official.”
In an official statement posted on social media, Lee wrote: “Yesterday, I was disqualified from running for Treasurer. It’s Union politics in its full, toxic, viciousness: The precise event which triggered my disqualification came three minutes before the close of nominations.
“A letter written by ‘A Member’ was pidged to the Returning Officer, laying out the technical reasons as to why I was not eligible to stand for election. It is clear, both from the timing of the letter and its contents, that this was a pre-planned attack; a move to disqualify an officer candidate from a slate that some individuals just do not want to see win.
“As it turns out, I was never ratified as International Officer because I’d completed an insufficient number of vacation days. Fair enough; but ironic considering my position as International Officer – as an international student, I was unable to serve these vacation days because my flights back to Singapore were pre-booked months in advance.
“It’s a pity, because had I been elected, I’d have pushed for changes to the vacation day requirements that would’ve made it easier for international students to participate in the Union.
“While I served as International Officer, there was no indication anything was amiss. On the minutes, I was indicated as ‘International Officer’. When I organised an International Pub Quiz for the Union, I was recognised as an ‘International Officer’. When I handed over my portfolio to Alice, I was referred to as the ‘Outgoing International Officer’. Yes, there is no evidence I was ratified through a formal vote by the Governing Body; that much is true. The issue of what should count as ratification, however, is a different question – that is a fight left for another time.
“Had I been ratified, I would’ve been eligible to run for Treasurer because I was International Officer for a term, and then Debate Chairperson (a position on the Governing Body of the Union) for another.”
With Lee barred from running and the election’s nomination period closed, the Together slate, led by Brendan McGrath, will now not be able to field a candidate for the position. The ‘Engage’ slate’s candidate for Treasurer, Rai Saad Khan and the independent candidate Shining Zhao will be the only candidates on the ballot.
The Oxford Union, Together, Khan, and Zhao have been contacted for comment.