Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Singaporeans are becoming disinterested and unconcerned as a people.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Channel News Asia, one among all the other state owned and controlled news agencies in the one party dictatorship of Singapore had this story "Committee to be set up to study issue of lawyers embezzling client's monies".

If you did not know already, Singapore relative to it's lawyer population of about 3,400 has the highest rate of theft and embezzlement among lawyers in the world! Almost every month, we hear of at least one lawyer who had run away with his client's money; money entrusted to the lawyer as a stakeholder for pending real estate transactions or civil litigation. Nowhere in the world are lawyers as dishonest as in Singapore, at this rate of dishonesty. The record amount stolen so far was only some months ago when Attorney David Rasif ran away with $12 million of his client's money. Just as all the other dishonest lawyers who had made off with their client's money, he too is nowhere to be found.

It appears now that clients are understandably wary of any Singapore lawyer and are trying to find ways not to hand any money to them; since there is a strong likelihood, at this high rate of embezzlement, that once you have handed over the money, both the lawyer and your money will disappear into thin air!

With this bad name for dishonesty which the Singapore legal profession has recently become well known, it is of course natural for the Chief Justice of Singapore to be alarmed. According to the report, he is working with the Law Society of Singapore to find ways to remedy the situation.

In the report, Mr. Sydney Michael Hwang, SC, the Present President of the Law Society had said on a recent case of embezzlement, that it was a personal case of dishonesty! Not a flaw in the system! Should one not wonder what difference it makes; whether a flaw in the system or personal dishonesty. The point is, Singapore’s lawyers are crooks. And it gives no comfort to the victim of the recent embezzlement by telling him that there is nothing wrong with the system but with the lawyer! Either way, Mr. Hwang, SC, the victim has lost his money. That is what matters!

This tendency for theft among Singapore lawyers is beginning to hurt it's business and trade upon which it relies for survival. Of course the Chief Justice with the Law Society of Singapore can try to put into effect various mechanisms, checks and inspections procedures and various supervisory mechanisms, but the question is whether the Singapore lawyers will become honest? I think not. The problem lies not in the system of monitoring lawyers. The problem lies in the inherent dishonesty of Singapore lawyers. I know these are strong words, which I intend to explain.

The reason for lawyers to be dishonest is simply this. They, just as accountants, taxi drivers, doctors, civil servants, the laksa man and the prata man (I don't mean the President of Singapore) have all lost respect in the system. They have lost respect for the judges, the politicians, for Lee Kuan Yew and his million dollar son and his entire cabinet members, the friends and relatives of Lee Kuan Yew in high places. In short, the people have lost respect for this administration.

It is a system where children are made to recite a pledge for a democratic country; when it is not one. Where the lawyers have to take an oath to uphold the constitution; when the constitution itself is daily violated by the Lee Administration. Where the civil servants claim to be impartial but in truth are beholden to the Prime Minister. Where elections are proclaimed to be free when opposition politicians are threatened and arrested. Where the courts claim to have rule of law but the law is bent to award half million dollar damages without even hearing Lee's opponent; the Judge being Belinda Ang, the hapless victim being Dr. Chee Soon Juan. When Lee claims to have racial equality but yet brings in Peidu Mama (single mothers with their Chinese babies from China) to work at massage parlors and other unsavory places while their children get an education at government expense; while Malays and Indians are excluded.

To put in a nutshell, Singaporeans have no longer any respect for the system. They consider Lee and his friends at the top a bunch of thieves. And so they reckon, if they can do it, why not us. And this philosophy is now prevalent throughout the island. This is how Singaporeans think. Make a buck the best way you can. It does not matter how.

So the result of the bad example shown by the leaders themselves is that the people too begin to steal. Dishonesty has lost its mala fides. Suddenly it has become acceptable; acceptable that is, if you can get away with it.

And it is not just dishonesty. People have lost interest in excelling in their professions. This is because, in Singapore it is not how good you are that matters, but it is who you are. Lee's selected professionals like the lawyer Davinder Singh, whom Lee uses as his lawyer to polish off his political opponents through defamation of character lawsuits; do very well in their careers. But others, who are not well connected, hardly manage to survive, no matter how much law you have in your head.

This practice of favoring and enriching those with political connections naturally work against those who really love their professions for what it is. Now in Singapore, young professionals are trying to succeed not by hard work and assiduous attention, but by trying to be noticed by Lee Kuan Yew through attendances at PAP functions and grassroots work for him. This is how Davinder Singh got to where he has; just as his junior lawyer who has learnt how to do the dirty work, Hri Kumar, has joined his ranks.

This is how it is throughout the island. True professionalism will get you nowhere. But PAP patronage will. So the young are running around purchasing the white and white uniforms (the PAP dress) and making a bee line to the nearest PAP center to do their flattery and the trumpeting so as to catch Lee's attention in the hope that he will approve and the largesse will follow.

Those who are not connected suffer greatly. Lawyers without connection are found in the cheap cubicle offices in Peoples Park Center and the PKMS Building at Changi Road hardly able to pay their monthly rents. Their fault is their inability to be noticed and selected by Lee Kuan Yew.

With the civil service and all government and legal authority discredited and with the very men at the top of Singapore administration themselves dishonest, including Mr. Lee Kun Yew, should anyone be surprised that lawyers are stealing their client’s money.

Should anyone be surprised that all Singaporeans are losing interest in their jobs? They have lost all passion, all fascination and all interest. There is now total apathy among almost everybody. Total disinterest. Can you blame them when the very top in Singapore are themselves dishonest?

Singapore alas has lost its soul.

Gopalan Nair
39737 Paseo Padre Parkway, Suite A1
Fremont, CA 94538, USA
Tel: 510 657 6107
Fax: 510 657 6914
Email: gopalnair@us-immigrationlaw.com


Anonymous said...

Very interesting commentary.
However to be fair, political connections can result in hefty profits in almost all nations.
But the problem is, in Singapore the benefits go to a select few and to the very well connected and closed group of people. This well connected group including lawyers have been able to amass great fortune beyond the imagination or knowledge of many Singaporeans.

Gopalan Nair said...

To Anonymous,

You give the impression that you are unhappy not to have been in the select few who enjoy the largess distributed by Lee. There are many Singaporeans who do not wish to enrich themselves that way. They prefer to earn honorably. I think my view is proven by the phenomenon of overwhelming numbers of educated leaving Singapore. None of them, it appears is interested in Lee's money if it means being a slave to him.

I may be wrong, but if your life's ambition is to seek riches by towing Lee Kuan Yew's line, your chances of succeeding are better than you think. There is always a chance he might spot you from the crowd and make you another Wong Kan Seng. As for me, I don't want the job. I think many others are like me too.

Gopalan Nair

Anonymous said...

(Please don't publish this, but you are free to edit it for publishing in your blog)

Hi Gopalan,

Money corrupts people with good intention. One such person is ex-NTUC INCOME CEO, Tan Kin Lian.

This proud PAP connected Chinese man used to be good, but by year 2000, he thinks too highly of himself, and what he has done for Singapore and NTUC INCOME. He will always have the correct answer, and he does not allows others to be better than him (The UK expats he brought in will tell you about the organisation's culture which smell of nepotism, corruption and high opacity)

He has properties in several countries and his children are abroad. His son is not very bright but he brought him into his organisation to expose him to work. After all, INCOME is HIS company. He can put his people in and sack those who oppose him.

He is in every sense a LKY's YES man.He has also became a mini "Chairman Mao".

He think so highly that he genuinely believe that he can be MP. He passed the first test by his peers, only to be turned down by LKY during round 2 because LKY thinks he is not a people person.

(And we are wondering why the Old Man got real problems recruiting leaders.)

I must admit that in my younger more naive worklife, I have done things for him which makes me a low-life, using technology to spy for him. Someone even got him a lie detector machine so that he can interrogate his staff. It is no wonder the staff fear him.

It is because of me working for people like him that inspire me to leave Singapore. The kind of money earned is dirty money, and the entire experience of working for him give me a massive techicolor yawn (aussie for vomit) and I can never be at peace with myself. I am now happily working as a public servant for my adopted country. It is a thankless job sometimes because I can never meet the public's expectation with the limited resources we have. But for once, I can say that this is work with a passion - a passion to serve the public. And I don't earn big money for it, which is good, because fat cats attract unnecessary attention which disrupt my happy work life. I enjoy this work so much that I proceed to volunteer for the Salvos (aussie for The Salvation Army)

Finally, I can say that I don't think I will find this sort of satisfaction in Singapore.

"Paradise escapee"