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Penalise those who write ridiculous letters February 5, 2008

Posted by Ned Stark in Uncategorized.

I refer to the letter hereby linked to here.

I must say i am rather surprised that such letters are often published in a newspaper that prides itself on a lot of professionalism. Indeed this letter calls to mind the chinese saying “ban men nong fu”, whereby someone with no knowledge attempts to pass himself of as an expert. But judging from the pattern of this writer’s letters i guess there is nothing new in such a self righteous tone. Indeed if such is the norm which is prevalent in Singapore then it comes to no surprise that Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s prediction that Singapore will not be a gracious society in his lifetime will come true.

Now lest i be accused of engaging in ad hominems ( i declare my stand up front, i have never liked this particular writer especially after he wrote such letters)i shall attempt in my own way to show why his letter is utter bollocks.

From his letters he seems to be stating a rather sweeping view that all these issues with En Blocs is due to the greed of buyers who wish out because they want a higher price. While that may indeed be true in some cases, it is by no means a situation in other cases. Anecdotal and personal evidence both show that there are many many funny things going on in En Bloc sales, in fact what seems to happen in some sales is that the sellers are forced to sell because the rules are used against the seller by buyers who are infinitely in a better bargaining position. In fact the only reason why there are suits now is because somehow, along the way sellers decided to actualy cough up money to fight it out for their own homes. The cost of litigation is high, and the burden is higher for a seller who only has his apartment to fall back on, while the developers often have loads of cash to throw into the litigation fray. Indeed it is precisely because of the lack of resources that sellers often “lan lan suck thumb” so to speak and just allow developers to get away. The fact of the matter is there are instances of the big guys bullying the little guys. And the little guys rarely, if ever, are able or willing to do something about it.

Furthermore i find the fact that he claims its crystal clear that sellers want a higher price presumptous to say the least. For one the writer is not a judge, so until such time as a judge or tribunal rules the facts are in doubt, notwithstanding ST’s constant focus on the fact that enbloc sales make profit (not all of them do). Indeed i do hope such man as he never sit on the high seat in court for that would mean miscarriages of justice galore. It would be rather sad day for the law if it destroys the very people it is meant to protect(this is a  layman definition).

Of course then one might ask, is there not a contract whereby obligations are binding? Indeed obligations are often binding but there are many doctrines of contract to deal with situations whereby to hold people to an obligation would be tantamount to injustice. Misrepresentation for one, voids the contract, and is one of the basis by which the Strata Title Board can deny an application for sale. Proof of bad faith can also result in rejection of an application. If one were to take the writers course of action, to wit,  if” the irresponsible party defaults on the terms of the contract so the aggrieved party takes the issue to court, the court should immediately arrive at a verdict. Penalties should be meted out swiftly against the wrongdoer“, then one would essentially be throwing due process out of the window, and in addition fairness and justice for BOTH parties. While contract law places the idea of certainty of a pedestal, it nevertheless has doctrines to deal with situations whereby people are misled, where there is a total imbalance of bargaining power (unit owner v big developer)and whereby  a result would be so absurd to place a great burden on one party. Furthermore the doctrines are not easy to establish, and it is rather interesting that the writer seems to think that everytime the contract is challenged the court will find for the seller; i doubt that the courts will be so foolish as to do that. Indeed such doctrines often operate in the backdrop of the idea of “sanctity of contract”, whereby contracts are set aside only on very narrow grounds. Furthermore, to touch on an earlier point…it is more likely that the seller needs the protection of the law then the buyer…for the buyer is oft a corporate entity with big pockets. Thus i fail to see why the writer harps on protecting the buyer, when it is evident that the seller is the one who is handicapped.

In view of such letters, perhaps someone should conduct a contract 101 course in school. In addition, one should also introduce lessons which teach the virtue of withholding prejudice and developing critical skills of analysis and knowledge acquisition. Tis appears that there is a need for such measures to achieve some measure of sanity in our forum page.

As an aside i must say i am relieved that the jury system is abolished. If ever there was a compelling reason for such a policy it would be justified on the basis of the general quality of forum letters being published. The thought of being judged (prejudged) by such people frighten me, to say the least.