Why We are Rotarians

My Dear Rotarians and Friends, in particular my Action Presidents,

Last Friday, 4 August 2000, the Balloting Committee, comprising Past District Governor Dr. Jason Yeung (Kowloon West), Past President Stanley Mok (Hongkong Sunrise) and Past President Ted Ho (Kingspark Hong Kong), met to examine the returns from club presidents in respect of the Ballot-by-Mail for the 2000-2001 Per Capita Levy towards the District Fund. In attendance were Past Governor Anthony Hung, Governor-elect Johnson Chu, District Secretary (Returns) Edmond Chan and myself.

The Committee has yet to submit its formal report, but I can let you know now the results. First, all the 48 clubs in Hong Kong and Macau returned their ballot which were all determined by the Committee as valid. I thank all the 48 Action Presidents for the part they have played in creating awareness and in taking action in the exercise. That every club in Hong Kong and Macau responded without exception is an unprecedented show of solidarity and a reflection of the seriousness the clubs attached to the exercise. I am proud of all the Action Presidents.

The 48 clubs together mustered 66 votes based on RI rules. Of these, 45 voted for, 20 against and one abstained. This means that the clubs in the District have now voted by majority for the 2000-2001 District Budget. Specifically, the Per Capita Levy towards the District Fund from 1 July 2000 now stands at HK$1,100 for a Rotarian in Hong Kong, and HK$830, Macau.

We must now all get down to work. There is still a lot to be done. As a start, I would need to address the issues put forth by a few clubs in the last few weeks regarding the exercise, and let me premise that any decisions and actions taken in the District must have regard to the Object of Rotary.

First, the Ballot-by-Mail just concluded operated in accordance with Article XV of the RI Bylaws which provides a legitimate process for taking district decisions that are normally taken at district conferences or district assemblies. The District had regard to due processes and had taken advice from RI before initiating the process.

Secondly, we had conducted the Ballot-by-Mail out of necessity. The last District Assembly held on 6 May 2000 failed to return a level for the Per Capita Levy. The result was that there was no District Budget, but we need one so that the District can continue to plan and implement district projects at least at the 1999-2000 level. I must stress that the RI Manual of Procedure provides that the Per Capita Levy is the only legitimate source of funding district projects and operations. Without a Budget for 2000-2001 and sufficient reserves to operate for more than three months, it would make a District Fund meaningless and make it impossible to plan District projects. The suggestion of withdrawing the Ballot-by-Mail or of not doing anything is not acceptable because it would result in a drastic reduction in the level of service to the community that we profess to serve, to the detriment of the image of Rotary in general and to our District in particular.

Thirdly, our attention had been directed to a motion proposed and seconded at the last District Assembly that the Per Capita Levy should remain at the 1999-2000 level. While it was acknowledged that no decision was taken at the District Assembly on the motion, proponents of this school of thought maintained that the District should first deal with the motion and pursue it to its conclusion before initiating the present Ballot-by-Mail process. Our view is that all unfinished business of the last District Assembly lapsed with the conclusion of the Assembly. This is standard parliamentary procedure and process.

Fourthly, it was put to us that since the object of the present Ballot-by-Mail is to seek approval for the same levels of Per Capita Levy and hence to achieve the same effect of a resolution that had failed to be returned at the last District Assembly, it would not be appropriate to conduct the Ballot-by-Mail. Our view is that members at the last District Assembly had asked for more time and information to enable them to examine the Budget and to make informed decisions. This is borne out by the proceedings of the District Assembly compiled by the Organizing Committee and distributed to participants in June 2000. The Ballot-by-Mail process provided precisely such opportunities for doing so.

Fifthly, it was suggested that because a Past Governor had allegedly said, after the motion proposed by me was not returned at the last District Assembly, that the Per Capita Levy for 2000-2001 would remain the same as the 1999-2000 level and that because his view was not disputed, the District Assembly had approved a Per Capita Levy at that level. I would like to point out that the argument could be dangerous and out of line with the fabrics of democracy, rule of law and due processes. It would suggest that one person’s view can override well established and well tried parliamentary procedures and processes. I would say no further.

As matters stand, the membership have spoken and taken action. Ours is a pluralistic community that respects and tolerates differences. We are Rotarians because we believe in the Object of Rotary which seeks to encourage and foster the ideal of service as a basis of worthy enterprise. We are an organization of business and professional leaders united worldwide. We provide humanitarian service, encourage high ethical standards in all vocations, and help build goodwill and peace in the world. Rotary is love, tolerance, caring, understanding, friendship, peace and everything. Rotary is Service Above Self.

Every Rotarian can now proudly say that each member contributes equally and equitably towards the Rotary programme of the District, a programme characterized by our commitment to young people and our desire to add Rotary to our membership through training.

While on training, I would like to let you know that Evanston has been paying for the training of governors-elect and RI Officers through the annual dues collected from the membership. It is only fair and equitable therefore that the District should pay for the training expenses for presidents-elect and District Officials.

The two important features in the finance reform I am pushing through are accountability and empowerment. On accountability, there will be proper procedures for approval and disbursements of funds, and more importantly, funds will not be spent simply because they have been voted for. On empowerment, for the first time, all reigning Presidents will sit on the District Finance Committee and be empowered to approve operating budgets for District projects. If we do not trust our Action Presidents whom the membership have elected, who do we trust?

Our objective is to build up an effective district with effective clubs. For our District to be effective, it needs to be entrusted and equipped with the basic resources and means to enable the District Officials to take prompt and effective decisions that would enhance the image of Rotary in the District and that would be conducive to the administration and development of Rotary in the District. Time will tell that we are moving with times and I urge for patience, tolerance and mutual trust. We are Rotarians. We are all volunteers. We can afford to trust our fellow Rotarians.

We cannot, we simply cannot allow ourselves to be divided because we are different and because we sometimes think differently. It is true that similarities have drawn people together, but it is their differences that make them more interesting to each other. On this happy and optimistic note, I call upon all of you to focus on our many Rotary programmes and on the people who need our services. Together, we will create awareness and take action. That is why we are Rotarians.

Talk to you soon.

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