[Note: This same post was also published on the 6th of February 2013]
Since late March 2012, the All Women’s Action Society (AWAM) has been under attack by a group of people. We decry the barrage of denunciations and accusations that have been levelled at us and wish to set the record straight as follows.
1. On 24 April 2010, AWAM received an email from a Complainant alleging that an incident which she found offensive had occurred in the course of a private dinner between her and a member of AWAM. This member was not an office-bearer of AWAM at that time. Despite the fact that the alleged incident took place outside of AWAM; that the matter essentially involved two friends who were engaged in a private/personal discussion at the time; and that the Complainant was not a member of AWAM, when approached, AWAM helped to look into the matter in good faith and reached out to both parties to mediate the incident through an internal inquiry by a Committee which heard them out.
2. After speaking to the Complainant and the member, the Committee’s view was that the incident complained of was inappropriate behaviour on the part of the member.
3. On 1 July 2010, the Committee explained its views to the Complainant in a meeting that lasted for one and a half hours. On 11 July, 2010, the Complainant acknowledged and signed off on the views of the Committee and the matter was deemed closed.
4. About nearly one and a half years later, when the member was elected as an office bearer of AWAM on 24 March, 2012 according to the organisation’s Constitution, the Complainant mounted her accusations which began in a stream of disparaging posts on our Facebook Page. When AWAM responded, further accusations were hurled at our direction. In view that the postings could potentially invite a legal suit against AWAM for providing the platform for such comments to be made in public, we discontinued this conversation in the Facebook and appealed to all interested to contact us directly for an explanation.
5. While we uphold the principle of free speech, AWAM will not allow an official platform of the organisation to be abused to unfairly damage the organisation. The disparaging comments then shifted to new Facebook spaces created by the Complainant, e.g., ‘Hold AWAM accountable’ and ‘Malaysians stand up to sexual harassment’. The Complainant has bombarded their attacks by writing to AWAM’s funder and other organisations that have worked with AWAM. These attacks against AWAM continue till today.
6. On 29 August 2012, AWAM held a members’ meeting to discuss this matter. At the end, those present affirmed the organisation’s position and the actions taken. Further angered by this news, the Complainant and her friends embarked another round of attacks by contacting the media with their story.
7. Thus far, any person or organisation that supports AWAM’s position has been subjected to a series of ad hominem attacks based on a serious misrepresentation of facts. Silence on the part of any individual or organisation has been deemed as complicity, tantamount to supporting violence against women, although in most cases people have merely wanted to stay clear of the mud-slinging and verbal assaults by the Complainant and her friends.
8. AWAM will not relent to bullying, harassment and subterfuge. Nor will we be coerced into meeting the Complainant’s demands to remove the member as office-bearer who was duly elected through a democratic process.
9. We fully believe that we have not done anything to compromise our integrity as a feminist organisation. We remain committed to social justice and to ending gender-based violence in this country. AWAM has attempted to resolve this matter as best as we can despite the fact that the incident is essentially a private matter between the two individuals.
10. AWAM hopes that the matter stops here and parties concerned could resolve the matter at their personal level if needs be.