Andrew Loh / Deputy Editor
This is a personal observation piece on what has been happening at Speakers’ Corner with regards to the credit-linked securities saga.
Mr Tan Kin Lian has been making speeches there for five weeks now – giving advice to the aggrieved investors who have lost, in some cases, all their life savings. When I look at the faces on some of them, especially the more elderly ones, it saddens me a great deal. While there are those who say that they should have known better or that they should have exercised personal responsibility when they bought the products, this is seeing things in a very simplistic and puritanical manner.
There are a number of reasons why they did not understand what was written in the various prospectus provided by the banks, some of which are as thick as 80 to 100 pages. I shall not go into that here. Many have already spoken about it.
What saddens me even more is that none – absolutely zero – of our Members of Parliament have seen it necessary or worthy for them to visit Hong Lim Park on any of those five Saturdays to speak to the affected investors in person. Considering that the first event attracted 1,000 and more people, and subsequent ones between 400 to 600 people, with extensive media publicity, it puzzles me that no MPs found it necessary to grab the opportunity to speak to the hundreds of Singaporean investors in person and see if they can help.
What on earth are our MPs doing? What are our MPs for?
Isn’t 10,000 investors enough reason for them to come forward and help out?
Instead, the job of advising the investors is left to a lone Singaporean, Mr Tan, and his helper, Mr Goh Meng Seng and a group of volunteers. They, to their total credit, are doing what they can. In this, I take heart – that though some may shy away from what they may consider a “sensitive issue” or may be more interested in making sure they do not “get trapped politically”, there are Singaporeans who will stand up for what is right.
I can’t say the same for our MPs, though – whether they are from the ruling party or the opposition. As far as I know, they’ve only made comments and asked some questions in Parliament – to no effect whatsoever. The Workers’ Party, officially, have released one press statement on the issue thus far – expressing “concern” that some investors are contemplating legal action against the financial institutions. The WP said it is “concerned that such investors may end up paying huge legal costs.”
The other opposition parties, save for Mr Goh who is from the National Solidarity Party, basically, have done nothing. Perhaps there are no political points to be scored. Or that it is politically risky to get involved. Maybe they just dislike Speakers' Corner, seeing it as a "rabble-rousing" venue unworthy of their presence. Whatever their reasons, it is sad to see them well, being nonchalant about the losses faced by thousands of investors.
Perhaps some will ask, “What can the opposition do?” I would answer, sometimes, just being there for someone in need is enough. Perhaps just being there will show the government that if they do not take the issue seriously and deal with it quickly, there is a cost to be paid politically. Perhaps you only need to be there to show that you care.
Perhaps you should stop thinking like a politician and behave more like a Singaporean who cares for those in need.
But alas, none of our PAP MPs and opposition MPs care, apparently.
When I was at Hong Lim Park, elderly investors would come up to me and ask me questions about certain investment banks, how to go about writing statements, or what they should do generally. I wish I could give them more substantial advice but I am no expert in such matters. My job in helping Mr Tan is to provide publicity for his events – either through The Online Citizen or by sending out press releases to the media.
I wish I could do more to help the investors individually.
I wish our MPs would do more too.
Mr Tan has said that he will be there at Speakers’ Corner every fortnight until the matter is resolved satisfactorily. Thus, our MPs will still have opportunities to visit Hong Lim Park and speak personally to the investors.
Perhaps only then will they understand the acute anxiety which the affected Singaporeans are feeling – and get a real feel of the ground, so to speak, instead of relying on the newspapers to get their information.
Otherwise, making meaningless speeches in Parliament and issuing press releases are not going to do anything – as have been shown in the past five weeks. Nothing, really, has changed and the banks and the financial institutions – indeed, the Government itself – are dragging their collective feet. Perhaps hoping that this matter will go away somehow. (Compare this to Hong Kong where the government there is doing more and doing it swiftly as well.)
Until some politicians are willing to stand up for Singaporeans, Singaporeans have to stand up for themselves.
If that is the case, one wonders why we elect MPs in the first place.
Indeed, some at Hong Lim have also wondered the same.