The following is an excerpt from ‘Think Happiness’
Tan Kin Lian is no politician. He is a simple man, with a fiercely independent streak. He says it like it is. He has an acute sense of what is right or wrong, and often does what he feels is right. He is decisive, prepared to take chances and ever ready to learn from the mistakes he makes. He is candid about his strengths because of his conscious preference to focus on what is positive.
When he wanted to reduce the cost of motor insurance, he stood up against the motor workshops. At industry meetings, he rattled other insurers with his unbendable resolve. Some motor workshop operators ended up in jail. Cases also went all the way up to the Court of Appeal to secure precedents that would bind judges in the lower courts.
As former corporate counsel of NTUC Income, I know Tan Kin Lian is a passionate advocate of the rule of law.
I once met a District Judge at an event for the legal fraternity. She asked most accusingly, “Why does NTUC Income send so many cases to court? Why can’t you all just settle the matters? Why are you always appealing decisions?”
I replied, “Firstly, we want a fair outcome for all parties involved in the matter. Secondly, ma’am, you should be grateful we send so many cases. It means the courts are kept busy and we create jobs for people like you.”
Not surprisingly, she found my answer unimpressive. She is still actively hearing motor insurance cases in the Subordinate Courts. When I became a trial lawyer some years later, I had the good fortune to appear before her weekly. I am not sure if she felt likewise.
In the meantime, Tan Kin Lian moved on to other causes. He single-handedly took on financial institutions in Singapore, when many lawyers were reluctant to take on these companies for fear of never being instructed in cases from such organisations. He gave relevance to the Speakers’ Corner by organising the largest gathering of protestors in the history of that public space. He pressured our financial regulators to remarkably change the retail space for investment products in a manner that protected consumers.
These are the stories that people know of Tan Kin Lian. There are many other untold stories of him.
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