Tag Archive | donation

Coward & snob

… that’s what I am.

This is the conclusion I came to after I reflected sadly in recent days over how I let a high society dame swipe $50 from me in the name of charity when all I wanted was buy a book for $20.

Why didn’t I say “no” when I handed her a $50 note, fully expecting to receive my change, but she said, “Lucia” ever so sweetly and insincerely, “you want to donate the balance to the scholarship fund?”

I actually had no such intention or inclination but I was so taken aback at her audacity that I was at a loss for words momentarily. Then I said “OK” somewhat weakly and unenthusiastically. She, the brazen fund raiser, said a brief “thanks” and was already “charming” the next sucker before I could even gather my wits together to demand a carrier bag for the $20 book for which I had paid a reluctant extra $30.

Now contrast this with the firm folded palms “salem” and “no, thank you” I always dish out to volunteers at the Tan Tock Seng Hospital who invariably gather at the start or end of the hospital’s main escalators trying to sell stuff to raise money for needy patients.

Why can I say no to needy patients when I could allow myself to be intimidated to part with $30 ($50-$20 for the book)?

I can only put that down to cowardice. I was instinctively afraid to offend the high society dame. I was afraid to say “no” and make her lose face since there were many people around. And possibly I was also afraid that the people milling around would consider me mean or couldn’t spare the extra money.

Yup, like it or not, I want acceptance even from people I don’t particularly care about or strangers that I don’t even know.

Then why was I so brave to turn down fund solicitors at TTSH?

Guess I go to the hospital on such a regular basis that I have already grown callouses on my heart. I am less afraid of the volunteers thinking me mean since droves on either side of me also say no or just ignore them. At least I acknowledge their request — even if I don’t give in.

And worst of all, I probably value the opinions of the volunteers less than I do the fellow guests at the book launch, even though the majority were as unknown to me as I to them. But socially I most likely placed them subliminally above the hospital fund raisers.

Which makes me a snob of the worst kind. And a coward to boot!

Since I have for some time decided not to donate to organised charity — a decision taken long before the NKF and Renci sagas among others but strengthened in the wake of the scandals — I should have been as firm with the society dame as I am with knick knack fund raisers.

But I wasn’t.

So I resolve to do better the next time a well heeled tai-tai tries to intimidate me into parting with my money, or at least more than I want to!

So who let the dogs out?

First there was the curious case of the 300 pieces of Peranakan artefacts and silverware  whose value went from $15 million to under $2 million within a matter of three expert valuations. And all because of a complaint, it seems!

The donation to the Peranakan Museum was made in 2008 and announced last year amid much fanfare. The donors, Mr and Mrs Tan Eng Sian, eventually asked for the collection to be returned.

Mr Tan, who is in his 80s, is a descendant of pioneer and philanthropist Tan Kim Seng.

The expert who gave the $15 million valuation is Mr Peter Wee, a well-known Peranakan artefacts dealer and a fourth-generation Baba who is a descendant of prominent businessman Tan Keong Saik.

He is standing by his valuation and also revealed that he received a $15K fee for his job, not the $100K that he was widely rumoured to have received.

National Heritage Board chairman Tommy Koh wrote to the Straits Times to explain why further valuations were called for after the gift had been accepted by the Asian Civilisations Museum.

“…  the Asian Civilisations Museum board felt it had a duty to review the original valuation, after receiving a complaint …..”

While we know that the gift was returned, that there were two sharply lower valuations after Mr Wee made his and that there was a complaint, the Singapore public remains in the dark as to

  • who made the complaint
  • who the two Peranakan experts whose valuations carry more weight than Mr Wee’s and last but not least
  • how much were the subsequent experts paid for their valuations?

Care to enlighten us, Prof Koh?

Now, the Tan Eng Sian donation isn’t the only multi-million dollar deal that has come a cropper as a result of a complaint.

Last week the Singapore stock market, which already had its hands full from the Grecian debt and deficit fall-out, had to deal with the fall-out from an 11th hour (OK, 12 hours, if you must be precise)  pull-out by IPO aspirant, China’s New Century Shipbuilding.

Rumours there were aplenty with various unnamed sources close to the matter giving the same story: the withdrawal was due to the Chinese shipbuilder’s failure to disclose that its subsidiary is the defendant in a US$60 million lawsuit filed by Singapore-based Sino Noble. Also, New Century is alleged to have included two shipbuilding contracts worth a total of US$180 million, which had already been terminated some time ago

And how did our bourse SGX get wind of that lawsuit allegation and contracts inflation? A complaint apparently is New Century’s undoing.

Some powerful complainant it must have been surely for  those astute professionals working on the offering — and whose faces must now be covered in egg, if the complaint is true — to take notice? How can a lawsuit involving a Singapore company, which would easily turn up in a search on public records, be overlooked?

Like NHB and ACM over the Peranakan donation, I’ve a feeling we are never going to know who complained. SGX, MAS, UBS, Morgan Stanley and DBS will probably seal what they know about this fiasco in a … a… kamcheng?

what we know, we'd keep in a kam cheng