Skål Asia AGM 2020 – A Double Edged Sword

The Skål Asia AGM took place this week. Normally it would be held during the Skål Asian Area Congress (SAAC) however the Congress slated for Phuket back in June was cancelled by the AA back in March 2020.

For the first time, due to Covid-19 pandemic, it was without a home, instead the 49th SAA AGM was conducted on-line and turned out to be the highest attended AGM in recent history.
During the zoom  pre-meeting log-on period warm friendly “Hellos!” and genuine joy was expressed at seeing friends we had not met for so many months of covid enforced lockdown or since last year’s conference in Bangalore or even longer.
The virtual meeting was attended by 3 members of Skål’s Managing Executive Board (EB) namely World President Peter Morrison (NZ) and Directors Fiona Nicholl (AUS) and Vijay Mohan Raj (IN) along with Skål International (SI) CEO Daniela Otero.
We were honoured to be joined by ISC board members VP Denise Scrafton (AUS) and VP Niel Els (ZA).
Also in attendance were SI Past Presidents Lavonne Wittman (ZA) 2018-19, Richard Hawkins (SIN) 1999-00 and SI Hon Past President Uzi Yalon (IL) 1993-94.
Also joining were former Asian Area Presidents Mohamed Buzizi (BH), Gerry Perez (GU), Jason Samuel (IN) and Jano Mouawad (BH).
National Presidents Ranjini Nambiar (IN), Wolfgang Grimm (TH), Tsutomu Ishizuka (JP) and representatives Dr Elton Tan (PH) and James Cheng (TW).
It was also good to see former secretariat Joan Bechard (MU) and former SAA Sec Arun Raghavan (IN).
This was my 18th SAA AGM that I have attended, many of the attendees have over the years become good trusted friends.
The meeting host AA President Sanjay Datta opened the meeting with a warm welcome and quickly introduced World President Peter Morrison, who in the time honoured Skal tradition offered the Skål toast and went on to say as SI President he has, due to the pandemic, meet more Skalleagues around the World this year online than he would have done otherwise but looks forward to being able to meet us all in person when we are allowed to travel once more.
The international panel of judges Richard Hawkins, Uzi Yalon, Gerry Perez and Jano Mouawad announced after careful deliberation the following winners of the 4 SAA awards 2020:
 1. Goa won Club of the Year reflecting their tremendous efforts this year
 2. SKÅL ASIA’s Personality of the Year 2020 was awarded to President Robert de Graaff of Phuket
 3. The Environment Award 2020 was awarded unanimously to Anana Ecological Resort Krabi Thailand,  for their outstanding  commitment to Sustainability. The judges said that the standards were very high this year and to pick the winner they particularly looked at the achievements of each entry
4. Goa and Singapore shared the Young Skål Best Club Award 2020
Congratulations to all winners.
I was delighted that 3 from 4 winners were from Southeast Asia.
Due to the ravages of Covid-19 the AGM agreed to the proposal this year to reduce the Asia portion of the annual membership fee by 50 per cent, during Jan-Dec 2021 from 6 Euros to 3 Euros per member (payable by the club) for all clubs in good standing.
During the bid for next year’s conference there were 2 entries from Srinagar, Kashmir Northern India and Bahrain. India has thriced held the Congress in 1980 (Bombay), 2011 (Delhi) and 2019 (Bangalore) and Bahrain four times in 1983, 1991, 2000 and 2017.
Bahrain in 2017 was famous for promoting single or twin room rates per room not per person and with no single supplements, free visas and with all meals and transfers included, effectively halving the cost of attendance for 2 delegates sharing one room. They also made the same offer for the 2021 congress.
During the Srinagar presentation the meeting was zoombombed by someone shouting and flashing up the Pakistan flag for all to see. The Northern region of Kashmir is just 650 kms from Pakistan and has occasional flare ups such as this. Other technical issues thereafter were annoying but were deftly circumvented by Sanjay’s quick thinking.
Earlier this year Zoom’s founder and CEO Eric Yuan wrote the company blog that they had focussed on security fixes as hackers crash video chats and harass users, a trolling technique known as zoombombing. The company went from 10 million daily users in December 2019 to more than 200 million in four months, today estimates suggests users have doubled.
“We did not design the product with the foresight that, in a matter of weeks, every person in the world would suddenly be working, studying, and socializing from home,” the CEO of Zoom wrote.
Despite the interruptions India won the bid even though they presented higher prices. With visas and airfares it could be the highest priced congress ever. A good win for India but the Asian Area represents 19 countries in Asia but regretably no thought of the many poor countries struggling with the economic aftermath of the pandemic.
India is also a poor country so national zeal aside I am sure they will wonder what they have committed the AA Skalleagues to. Having the numbers gives India the leverage but here’s a good example of what happens as a result. A win for India but a loss for affordable congresses. A double-edged sword.
By the reaction of some of the Indian questions on the zoom chat I think they had not understood fully that the price was SO good from Bahrain. Many had already voted however and couldn’t get back in as the meeting had been locked following the zoombomb.
It did however prompted Skål Thailand’s National President to write:
“Thank you for conducting our 2020 AGM digitally. Technical challenges to the side it was a great display of joint purpose and
fellowship. We demonstrated our efforts to the Skål world leaders and can be proud of our achievements in Asia.
“A lot is still to be done and we have to make sure that the voices big and small of all of Asia is being sought and implemented. The presentations of the 2021 Asia Congress could have been communicated before the meeting for consideration.
“Thailand salutes the Bahrain bid as it
graciously facilitated bringing our partners included in the package. It also
allowed less affluent Skalleagues to share the room and spirit of Skål.
“May I respectfully suggest that Srinagar considers the above concept and the
huge visa cost to increase overseas participation, now that they won the Congress?”
With regard to turnout everyone agrees that it was excellent.
Past President of SKÅL ASIA Gerry Perez said “Personally, I do not recall ever seeing the high number of official participants to an Asia Congress as we did yesterday.  Kudos to you and the Exco for a job well done! Kind Regards, Gerry”
by Andrew J Wood