*This press statement has been issued on behalf of General Assembly members attending the meeting.*
Over 60 General Assembly members of the Sikh Council UK from Gurdwaras and Sikh organisations from across the UK have dismissed an unconstitutional and desperate attempt to move against the Executive Committee announced at a press conference on 15 July.
The General Assembly made up of members from Gurdwaras and Sikh organisations is the supreme decision-making body of the Sikh Council UK.
The current Executive Committee of the Sikh Council UK was selected following Ardaas and parchis by the General Assembly on 27 April 2019 at Sri Guru Singh Sabha, Southall. The process for selection was agreed and overseen by the Board of Jathedars.
However, hours before the General Assembly in April 2019 a group of delegates resigned in protest as they preferred elections and disagreed with the selection process to be used by the Board of Jathedars.
To make matters worse those who co-ordinated the resignations went to an anti-Panthic journalist to publicly report the resignations while the General Assembly was taking place to damage the reputation of the Sikh Council UK.
The General Assembly members in April 2019 were highly critical of those resigning and their tactics but tasked the Board of Jathedars to try and bring back those who had resigned as some were very closely associated with some of those resigning.
Gurdwara representatives from several Gurdwaras confirmed straight away they had not resigned and their names had been falsely used in the media report.
However, others that resigned insisted on refunds of membership and then went on to set up the Sikh Assembly and Gurdwara Aid in the summer of 2019. In recent months the damage these two breakaway groups have been doing to Sikh representation with government by backing an unacceptable and patit Sikh faith leader has been revealed.
At the press conference called on 15 July it was publicly revealed for the first time that a sub-group of the Board of Jathedars and a small minority in the Executive Committee had begun undermining the Executive Committee within a couple of weeks of their selection by the General Assembly in April 2019.
It is now clear that since April 2019 several of the previous office bearers and a sub-group of the Board of Jathedars have prevented access to the Sikh Council UK bank account so signatories could be changed as in previous administrations and access has been denied to the main email, website, twitter handle and Facebook pages.
Having waited nearly a year for access and with the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic the Executive Committee was therefore forced to set up a new website, email account and social media accounts to reach out to Gurdwaras with guidance and signage. This guidance and signage have been widely used and appreciated by the majority of Gurdwaras up and down the country.
The Executive Committee met on 11 July and unanimously made decisions on a much-needed review of the constitution requested by the General Assembly, opening up of membership for the next administration in preparation for the General Assembly to approve any constitutional changes and selecting the next Executive Committee.
The Board of Jathedars is an advisory body and matters can only be referred to it by the Executive Committee or General Assembly. The Board of Jathedars are not members of the General Assembly and have no constitutional authority or powers unless mandated by the Executive Committee or General Assembly.
It is understood the Executive Committee also decided on 11 July the Board of Jathedars needed to be refreshed at the same time as selecting a new Executive Committee. Board of Jathedars are appointed for 5 years, although their membership can be renewed. Most have served for well over 5 years and the Executive Committee has the power to remove any Board of Jathedar undermining the work of the Sikh Council UK or bringing it into disrepute.
A meeting of a sub-group of the Board of Jathedars no doubt fearing for their own positions and wanting to control the Executive Committee and the selection process for the next administration met the following day on 12 July followed by the subsequent controversial press conference on 15 July.
The meeting on 12 July was unofficial as it was called by only one of the two convenors. For this reason, any decisions taken at the unofficial meeting are improper and non-binding.
The subsequent press conference on 15 July appears to have been a final and desperate attempt to try and prevent the constitutionally selected Executive Committee from operating until the end of its term. Only around 8 General Assembly members were present from 5 Gurdwaras at the press conference. Others present were either Board of Jathedars or those that have resigned or never been members.
Over 60 General Assembly members from Gurdwaras and Sikh organisations have now approached Board of Jathedars that have supported the Executive Committee from the outset and rejected the unofficial meeting of a sub-group of the Board of Jathedars.
The General Assembly members have strongly criticised the press conference and associated media coverage as an unconstitutional attempt to take control prior to appointment of a new administration. The views of these General Assembly members have been communicated to the two Board of Jathedar Convenors.
Ignoring the press conference and what was announced, the Executive Committee met on 19 July and requested Jatinder Singh, the Secretary General of the Sikh Council UK to convene a General Assembly. According to the constitution only the Secretary General has the power to convene a General Assembly.
Before announcing the date of the General Assembly meeting it was agreed the Executive would liaise with both Convenors of the Board of Jathedars.
Since the meeting on 19 July it is understood Jatinder Singh has had a written request from over a quarter of the General Assembly delegates and more than half the Executive Committee to call an extraordinary meeting of the General Assembly. Jatinder Singh therefore must now call an extraordinary General Assembly meeting.
The support shown by General Assembly members is seen as a massive vote of confidence in the Secretary General and Executive Committee.
This press statement has been issued on behalf of General Assembly members by: Tarsem Singh, Sri Guru Singh Sabha, Newcastle; Professor Harjit Singh, Guru Gobind Singh Gurdwara, Sunderland; Harpal Singh, Leeds Chapeltown Gurdwara; Harbhajan Singh, Sri Harkrishan Sahib Ji Gurdwara, Oadby and Harjinder Singh, Dashmesh Darbar East London.