Headed by the Cambridge-trained economist Kenneth Jeyaretnam, the Reform Party has been a breath of fresh air in the local political scene. This is the first time in many years that a Singaporean senior opposition politician has an economics background.
His participation in the local political scene has brought assurance that the Opposition in Singapore has adequate economics background in looking out for the bread and butter issues affecting many Singaporeans.
We were reminded again of Kenneth Jeyaretnam's economics credentials during the Reform Party 1st Anniversary Dinner in his opening speech:
"JBJ said he was often accused of talking too much about politics so now he was going to speak about economics. For my part, I speak too often of economics. I’m confident you all know by now that I am an economist."
But Kenneth Jeyaretnam is also known to many as a hedge fund manager. At the recent SMU Peace Forum, the moderator introduced him as an Asian hedge fund manager to the audience. In a recent Straits Times report on the Reform Party's 1st Anniversary Dinner, he is described as:
Secretary-General: Mr Kenneth Jeyaretnam, 50. The hedge fund manager is the elder son of Reform Party founder, the late opposition politician J.B. Jeyaretnam. He worked in London's financial sector for many years before returning here with his family in April last year.
Both Straits Times and the moderator at the SMU Peace Forum failed to produce unambiguous information about him despite being in close physical proximity. Straits Times journalists were present at the RP 1st Anniversary Dinner. The organisers of the SMU Peace Forum were instructed not to use his CV which stated clearly that Kenneth is now the full-time Secretary-General of the Reform Party. They were also instructed not to mention that Kenneth is a politician. This misinformation is not harmless.
The Secretary-General role of a fledgling party such as the Reform Party is a full-time job. Kenneth has stepped down as a hedge fund manager since he took over the Reform Party. In this aspect, Kenneth demonstrated leadership by example that credible professionals should be proud of the opportunity to serve their country and need not be afraid.
Moreover, in order to run a hedge fund in Singapore, one has to apply for exemption from the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS). This exemption is given to individuals involved in a hedge fund with less than 30 separate investors. This exemption must be gained before the fund is allowed to be marketed.
Talking to the press or addressing an audience in a public forum falls under the definition of marketing even if the interview or public forum is on a completely different matter and the mention of the fund comes up as an aside.
Kenneth Jeyaretnam had already cancelled his exemption status when he became the Secretary General of the Reform Party. Any news that carries the misinformation that Kenneth is a hedge fund manager may be misconstrued as the illegal marketing of a hedge fund in Singapore.
Will Straits Times or SMU be held accountable should Kenneth Jeyaretnam be mistakenly investigated by MAS? There is no excuse for institutional irresponsibility and a documented apology is very much needed to be communicated to the aggrieved party as proof should MAS comes knocking on Kenneth's door.
"Unlike some foreign newspapers, I think the media here in Singapore has ... taken the position that they would investigate thoroughly before they publish, and if there are good grounds for them to take certain positions which may be detrimental to the interest of establishment and institutions, they are prepared to do so."
The abovementioned reassurance on mainstream media by Lui Tuck Yew, Acting Minister at the Ministry of Information, Communication and the Arts (MICA), during the Singapore Press Club Eminent Speakers Series is hardly comforting. In this case, Straits Times didn't investigate thoroughly before putting up news about Kenneth Jeyeratnam.