MCF needs to get ahead of the latest dress fiasco

MAY 4 — At the start of the year — and a little over a month after the Malaysian Chess Federation (MCF) elections — I offered an analysis together with advice to the incoming leadership and given recent developments, they might do well to take another read!

After all, we have in the last week seen chess in the news for all the wrong reasons.

It all started with a Facebook posting followed by the response of the mother of the child which drew a response from the Chief Arbiter who started it all.

By now, everyone — even those who are not interested in chess — knows about how a 12-year-old girl withdrew from the National Scholastics Championships because she felt traumatised by a comment by the organisers about her attire.

Naturally a social media storm broke over the incident with nothing less than full support for the girl. 

The Chief Arbiter KK Chan later made a statement saying the organisers disputed the version of events as published in the Facebook post and that there would be an investigation by the Appeals Committee.

As for the Tournament Director Sophian A. Yusuf, he has filed a police report and a complaint to the Multimedia Commission about the “inaccurate” Facebook post, while at the same time claiming the girl’s mother had not filed an official complaint.

In the meantime, arbiters and other tournament officials are beginning to take sides or been pressured to make statements in support of the organisers.

How could the Malaysian Chess Federation manage to allow the entire situation to reach this stage and what about the misinformation being put out by at least one of those involved?

Let me explain. 

This was the National Scholastics Championships which was organised by the Malaysian Chess Federation. Sophian A. Yusuf was the organiser, full stop. He also took on the role of the Tournament Director to provide hands-on oversight of the running of the event and also named himself as one of the Arbiters.

So there is no separation of roles or oversight. The buck stops with him. 

As for the Chief Arbiter, Chan is a self-proclaimed World Ches Federation (FIDE) big shot.

From what I understand, Sophian clearly tapped Chan to be Chief Arbiter to provide expertise that he did not have.

As a start, no competent Chief Arbiter would take a request from the Tournament Director to tell a participant she was inappropriately dressed without first agreeing that it was true, and actually it is not even his job to do so and a task usually assigned to a woman arbiter. 

The statement by Chan purportedly on behalf of the organisers was beyond his authority which was limited to the conduct of competition proper and should not have been allowed by MCF as it was made in his private capacity.

Chan claimed that the Appeals Committee was investigating the incident but if there indeed had been one formed, then it would have been drawn from participants at the event to the sole purpose of hearing any appeals made against the decision of the Chief Arbiter during the event and so would have been disbanded with the completion of the event.

Wth the increased media coverage, Sophian even organised a private press conference where he claims he knew nothing!

Chan also spoke to Malay Mail Online where as usual he says he is looking into legal action, and will complain to FIDE etc.

Which brings me to my questions (appeal) to MCF:

Please take charge in a clear and transparent fashion instead of allowing these individuals to continue like this with statement after statement to the press which just fuels controversy.

Just apologise to the girl, make it right. It’s okay to make a mistake, to be wrong. But it is not okay to cover up, or worst to shift blame, and collectively pretend it is the solution. Do not victimise the girl, her mother or the whistleblowing coach.

Do I have to remind us all that we are talking here about a 12-year-old girl here? I really want to believe that we understand the welfare of the child is of utmost importance.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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