A former Penang Club president has dismissed as “meaningless” the incumbent president’s reported apology over the cancellation of best-selling writer Kee Thuan Chye’s book launch and forum on the coming general elections.

Penang Club president Yeap Soon Rhee was reported as saying the last-minute cancellation of the event was much regretted.

“The president and the committee members extend their ‘wholehearted apologies’ to (invited guest Chief Minister) Lim for any misunderstanding caused by the said cancellation,” said Soon Rhee.

Malaysiakini said it learned that some members had pressured the club’s committee who did not want to see the low-profile event held at the premises, citing its responsibilities to remain free of partisan politics as it was registered with the Registrar of Societies.

Soon Rhee said “the cancellation has no bearing whatsoever with the proposed attendance by Lim, our honorary member who has in fact spoken at our invitation at the inaugural lecture of the Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Lecture series.

“Our apologies also go to Kee and his panel of speakers for all the inconvenience caused,” said Soon Rhee, who is believed to be in the property development business.

Rumi Manecksha, Penang Club president 1992-93

Rumi Manecksha, Penang Club president 1992-93

But former president Rumi J Manecksha, who helmed the Penang Club committee in 1992-93, said Yeap’s apology and expression of regret was “meaningless”.

“It is my view that the committee should re-organise the book launch and the talk,” asserted the senior lawyer.

Rumi said he himself had registered to attend the talk, “which some ignorant cowards and charlatans directed should be called off”. This, he added, was done without consulting those who had expressed a desire to attend the event.

“‘Free of partisan politics..’? What rubbish!” scoffed Rumi, pointing out that previous speakers at the Club had included Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah and Ong Tee Keat (both from the BN), Ambiga, Marina Mahathir and several others. “It is a disgrace to call these lectures the Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Lecture Series.”

Thuan Chye had invited Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng to launch his latest book and lined up a five-member panel of speakers for the forum on the coming general election: Chin Tong, Zairil, Mustafa K Anuar, Kin Woon and me.

Rumi said the committee should have shown more gumption and not cancelled the event: “Only those not interested in intellectual exchange of ideas would have rooted for cancellation. As a past president, I extend my apologies to the CM and intended speakers.”

Thuan Chye for his part retorted that he resented the insinuation made in the Club’s “so-called apology” as reported in Malaysiakini that he was not telling the truth about the reason for the cancellation of the event.

“I was unequivocally told by the club’s General Manager that the committee disapproved of the Chief Minister of Penang launching my book. But, according to Malaysiakini, the committee is saying this is not so.”

“I don’t think the GM would have lied to me. So it looks like the committee is now trying to cover its a… by denying its disapproval of Guan Eng launching my book.”