Written by Ng E-Jay
31 December 2008
In his final rally for structured products investors held at Speaker’s Corner on Sat 27 Dec 08, Mr Tan Kin Lian reflected that he had experienced grave difficulties procuring legal assistance for investors who were in the midst of considering whether to initiate a class action lawsuit against the errant financial institutions.
This is in stark contrast to Ms Sylvia Lim’s (Chairman of Worker’s Party) assertion at the IBA Conference in 2007 that WP has no problem finding lawyers — perhaps Ms Lim should step forward to help rope in lawyers for Mr Tan.
Many senior lawyers whom Mr Tan Kin Lian spoke to were too afraid to step forward to provide legal aid or to represent investors because of their ties with the financial institutions. They were fearful of offending the banks, thinking that if they helped investors, the banks might cut them off.
Other lawyers whom Mr Tan has known personally for 10-20 years have also responded negatively to him, citing issues with compensation. These lawyers would not spend the time to read the prospectus and research into the case without first receiving payment, which can be very expensive.
This prompted me earlier to make the following comments: “Has civic-mindedness and social responsibility gone completely out of the window? Are Singapore lawyers so afraid for their livelihood that they do not dare to assist fellow citizens in times of need, or are they so materialistic and caught up in the rat race that they refuse to even spend a little time researching the cases to see if they can be fought in Court? The attitudes of Singapore lawyers are truly disappointing. With our legal profession having castrated itself, no wonder the authorities dare to wayang and deny Singaporeans their basic rights.”
However, at least one more lawyer has expressed his willingness to fight for Singaporean investors, if he had been approached by Mr Tan Kin Lian. He is none other than Chia Ti Lik, my buddy who helps me with this blog, Sgpolitics.net, from time to time.
When I asked Ti Lik if he would be willing to take up these cases and whether he, like so many other lawyers, was afraid of the authorities, Ti Lik answered: “I was not approached. I am willing to take up the case. TKL did not approach me. Afraid of the Administration? — You must be joking!”
Chia Ti Lik is a litigation lawyer who is also a political and civil activist. By his actions and his willingness to stand up to the authorities, he has shown that he is not afraid to walk the talk. I am sure that if he had been approached by Mr Tan Kin Lian to take up a class action lawsuit on behalf of investors, he would have been more than willing to do so.
Perhaps Mr Tan should have cast his net wider.
Or perhaps, Mr Tan should have looked beyond the prejudices which other people have pulled over his eyes.