On April 7th, the Selection Committee welcomed the new members of the new Working Committee and Auroville Council.
On January 8th of 2007, a meeting of the Residents Assembly decided, by a narrow majority of 85 against 75 votes and 13 abstentions, to create a Selection Committee to choose the members of the next Working Committee and Auroville Council. Each Auroville resident was asked to send a list with 15 names to the Working Committee by email or put it in a ballot box. The 15 most nominated people would constitute the Selection Committee. It was also agreed that members of the Selection Committee would not be eligible to be on either body.
A few weeks later the Working Committee, helped by a few Aurovilians, checked all lists submitted and published the names of all those who had received most nominations in descending order. The top nominees were 13 Tamil Aurovilians (their nominations ranged from 154 to 82), one north Indian (with 98 nominations) and one European Aurovilian (with 52 nominations). This result caused an outcry. Allegations of vote-rigging were rife, but the Working Committee stated that it had found not evidence when checking the lists that any manipulation had taken place. It had also found that many non-Tamil Aurovilians had not bothered to submit a list.
The Working Committee then contacted each nominee to see if he or she wished to be part of the Selection Committee. Some refused as they wished to be part of the next Working Committee or Council; others withdrew as they felt that the group would be too unbalanced and that other nationalities should join to make the group more representative. These vacancies were filled up by people lower on the list. The Selection Committee finally consisted of ten Indian and five Western Aurovilians ,
The Selection Committee met for the first time on February 27th. It decided to select 10 members for the Working Committee (7 permanent, 3 substitutes), 12 members for the Auroville Council (9 permanent + 3 substitutes) as well propose 2 secretaries. Since then, it met six times.
It observed that it had been difficult to find people. “Very few volunteered their services; others had expressed their inability to serve. In many cases this was because of the pressure of other commitments. However, some people refused to serve because they were not ready to face the disrespectful criticism that seems to await those who serve on these collective bodies,” wrote the Selection Committee.
Despite this difficulty, the Selection Committee was happy with the teams proposed. It pointed out that the members proposed could work in a team; that there was a good balance of senior experienced people with younger ones, of women and men, and of different cultural backgrounds. “For the Working Committee we were especially looking for some very experienced people with legal knowledge and organisational skills, who would be able to respond in a constructive way to the challenges and opportunities of the moment. In addition we were very aware of the great need to cultivate good working relationships with local village representatives, not only in times of crisis but all the time, and of having competent people in the Committee to lead this effort. For the Auroville Council we were looking for people with good communication skills and the capacity for conflict resolution, as well as continuity.”
In the middle of March it announced the two lists of names of people which had been chosen, and who had committed themselves to serving the full term of 2 years. The Selection Committee asked for feedback from the Residents' Assembly through a 15 days feedback process.
Feedback was received from thirty-one Aurovilians. Thirteen people expressed objections to the process: either the process by which the Selection Committee had been selected, and/or the process which was followed in choosing nominees for the Working Committee and Auroville Council. Seventeen people communicated feedback relating to some of the individual nominees. “Three small delegations were sent to prospective candidates to discuss the feedback and their commitment and willingness to collaborate. All the views expressed were considered and discussed in depth in two meetings held in the last week of March, and individual replies have been sent to those who objected to individuals. At the meeting of March 31st our lists were finalized, with one dissenting voice regarding one member of the WC,” wrote the Selection Committee.
However, the Selection Committee observed that, “The last three selection processes for the Working Committee and the Auroville Council have not worked well and this continues to be a source of tension and division in the community. The community needs to reflect deeply to find a fair selection process that unites us and brings forward the people who are best qualified to do the work.
“We have been made very acutely aware of the harm that personal remarks about individuals are causing in our community – especially when these are widely disseminated, not only by word of mouth but through the AVNet [Auroville's internal internet network]. At present, individuals about whom accusations and insinuations are made have no recourse – no way to clear the cloud such remarks create around their names, and no way to discourage the practice or habit of making them. As long as this situation continues, really free and transparent public debate is impossible. We feel strongly that the solution will only come when all of us make a collective resolution to eliminate inaccuracy, exaggeration and defamation from our individual and collective expression. This self-discipline would go a long way to improving the atmosphere of our collective life.”