The Way Ahead: In-Person Board Meetings, Not E-Encounters

Kersi Randeria – BPP Trustee

Even as the issue of good governance has been at the centre of what appears to be a great divide between the five current BPP Trustees, it has been an issue where Noshir and I stood firm, as a matter of principle, rather than allowing the rule of the majority to eclipse all parameters of good governance, based simply on an uncompromising attitude of our colleagues.

It was in July this year, when the Unblock commenced, that I requested all my colleague Trustees to go back to our earlier physical/in-person meeting format for Board meetings, instead of continuing these virtual meetings on Zoom platforms which achieved precious little. I distinctly remember Trustee Armaity Tirandaz, in one communication, confirming that we would probably meet, maybe post the 15th of August.

It is impossible to describe through the written word, what happens during digital meetings on Zoom. One of my primary issues of concern, have been the vituperative, aggressive and loud, so-called ‘discussions’. These would take place unfailingly, especially with some Trustees whose high-decibel hostility could be attributed to old baggage revisiting the present Board, where one’s duty as a Trustee had to be unprofessionally compromised at the altar of family pressure.

Truth be told – hardly any issues of importance have been discussed, debated or resolved on these digital ‘E-encounters’, as we had no access to files, old minutes and other relevant documents. Quite literally, the major chunk of our discussions comprised issues like grass cutting and pump repairs… matters meant to be handled by the administration, not Trustees. This is borne out by the items on the agenda, where almost all important issues continue to languish and are deferred to the next meeting and fifty odd housing applications languish at the bottom of the agenda.

Sadly, even issues of great importance and community concern, like shifting of the Parsi Gate and allowing the abominable intrusion of drones or laying pipes within the sacred Doongerwadi, which 100% merited and warranted a physical meeting and solid discussions with all five Trustees, were left to their digital fates on Zoom and / or exchange of messages on WhatsApp! And the results are out there for all to see, even as our community yet again, tries to rise from this gross attack on its most integral religious sentiments.

When significant decisions and others are taken by just three Trustees, as opposed to what should have ideally been seven, but due to unavoidable circumstances, currently stands at just five Trustees strong, the community bears the brunt. Doubtlessly, were these meetings held face-to-face in the Boardroom, one could have sought various inputs before taking this decision and there would be no leeway for things to get lost in translation.

Three weeks ago, Noshir and I decided not to attend any further such digital E-meetings because not only was nothing being achieved, but these meetings left a bad taste in the mouth due to the verbal ferocity. For those who disbelieve this, I’m willing to, with the permission of my colleagues, put out the recordings of proceeds and minutes for humdins to hear first-hand, in the interest of transparency.

Noshir and I also announced our decision to meet with community members as BPP Trustees, and over the last two Tuesdays, we met with a score of people, and most expressed how merely the act of speaking face to face with us Trustees, provided them great comfort and reassurance.  

Our insistence on in-person meetings resulted in Trustee Viraf initially agreeing to consider having at least one physical meeting in the month of December, but subsequently going back on his commitment, claiming he wasn’t free or willing to meet in December. Trustee Xerxes Dastur generally refused to reply, and when he did, claimed that he could not attend the meeting for health reasons. However, a community member with whom I shared this nugget of information, laughed and said that he has himself met with Xerxes a couple times last week and that he seemed to be in perfect health.

So, the question remains, why then are the three Trustees not showing up for in-person BPP meetings, when Viraf and Xerxes have been attending their respective offices and other places too, post the lockdown? It’s because Trustee Armaity Tirandaz refuses to attend Board Meetings, citing the potential health dangers posed by the pandemic. And yet, photos of Tirandaz have gone viral on WhatsApp, where she is attending a public event in a garden, alongside over a dozen people standing in close proximity to her, some without their masks, and with zero regard for social distancing!

The reason why they’re unwilling to attend the meeting simply boils down to the issue of ‘Majority – Minority’. Not wanting to alienate and lose Armaity Tirandaz’s loyal support and risking the 2:2 vote that would take place in a physical meeting without Tirandaz, and thereby losing their majority. Also, with Noshir Dadrawala being the Chairman (as he’s the second senior-most Trustee) with the Casting Vote, these physical meetings would not be technically conducive for the trio in majority and hence these physical meetings are not being held. Plain and simple!

Last week, Noshir and I once again firmly requested that in-person meetings must start. As a result, the three trustees finally realised they couldn’t continue to deliberately hold meetings based on the principle of quorum, rather than holding inclusive meetings with all the Trustees.

The public notice issued by BPP talks of holding one or two meetings from January 2021. I propose and will stand by, that we will hold 2 meetings every month – once every fortnight, but we will not have any Zoom meetings as they are, and will always be, a waste of time.

Kersi Jamshed Randeria
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