The matter with the Singaporean Telecommunications Company that-I-shall-not-name has finally been put to rest.
With many things Singaporean – it has been driving me mad.
Some would say madder.
I don’t give a fuck.
I received another call today and this time it was from Solicitors. To protect the innocent I shall name them Allan, Brown and Cock and then I will then abbreviate this to ABC.
There should be an emphasis on the “Cock”.
They called me on the day that I returned from my holiday back home - whilst I was taking my lunch.
I was eating a chicken and mayonnaise sandwich at the time under the shade of a Banyan tree that is near my office.
I was drinking a freshly squeezed orange juice that was pulp free.
I was in need of some respite after a busy morning.
I had been on calls with architects and consulting Engineers who are based in India since 8.00am.
We are doing some very large construction projects in a city called Pune.
Architects and Engineers think in very different ways.
One is creative and the other is practical.
They are often at odds and both parties in India are just plain odd.
It has been a very difficult morning.
I discovered this shady recluse where I am taking my lunch a while back. It is in a cozy little nook and I think of it as my enclave.
It is far from the madding crowd.
The matter with the Singaporean Telecommunications Company that-I-shall-not-name has being going on for a while now.
It has being going on for more than 12 months.
It is a case of mistaken identity and it has become a debacle that it is testing my resolve.
The matter first arose through written correspondence.
I received a letter – it was in fact a letter of demand.
The letter was from the Singaporean Telecommunications Company that-I-shall-not-name. They were demanding that I pay them one thousand one hundred and twenty three dollars and thirty-seven cents.
The Singaporean Telecommunications Company that-I-shall-not-name claims that the money is owed for an outstanding mobile telephone bill.
This Company that-I-shall-not-name is one of only two such companies operating here in Singapore.
It is a duopoly.
My Internet and Cable television services are provided through the Singaporean Telecommunications Company that-I-shall-not-name however I have never had a telephone account with them.
Neither mobile nor landline.
When I received this initial letter of demand from the Singaporean Telecommunications Company that-I-shall-not-name I rang them immediately.
I spoke to a Customer Services Officer and I politely expressed my surprise at the letter of demand.
I explained that I had never had a telephone account with them.
The Customer Service Officer appeared sympathetic. He asked for my EP number and I gave it to him.
An EP is an Employment Pass. It is required for all foreign workers and by law I am required to carry this card at all times. My name and photograph is recorded on one side of this card and my thumbprint is embedded on the reverse. I am issued with a unique number that has a prefix of the letter "G" which is then followed by a nine-digit number.
I have no idea what the "G" stands for.
None at all.
My EP is required for everything in Singapore. It must be provided to open a bank account and it is necessary to sign a lease and to purchase a car and to connect utilities. I am required to present this card whenever I leave or enter the Country together with my passport.
The Singaporean Government has my number.
They created it in fact.
When the Customer Services Officer input my EP into the system he verified that I did indeed have an account for Internet Services and for cable television subscription.
He confirmed too that I was not in arrears.
I told him that I already knew this and that I always pay my accounts on time.
I told him that I am a stickler for such details.
When I enquired then what this letter of demand was about he put me on hold. He informed me that he had to make some off line enquiries.
I waited patiently for ten minutes or so.
I was listening to appalling musak.
When the Customer Services Officer returned to the call he advised that there appeared to have been a mix up. He told me that someone named Charles Peters in fact owed the debt.
My first name is Peter.
My middle name is Charles.
The Singaporean Telecommunications Company that-I-shall-not-name seemed to have disregarded my surname in this matter.
I can only assume that there was a glitch in the system.
These things happen.
The Customer Services Officer assured me the matter would be remedied and I assumed that the matter was done.
I expected it was dusted.
How wrong I was.
I received another letter about a month later from the Singaporean Telecommunications Company that-I-shall-not-name.
Then a barrage of telephone calls.
They were still demanding the money.
One thousand one hundred and twenty three dollars and thirty-seven cents.
I rang and explained the situation to them again and I also wrote them a letter.
This was all to no avail.
The calls stopped for a little while then they were taken up again.
This time by a debt collection company.
I then explained the situation to them and I also wrote them a letter.
Again to no avail.
Then the other day – upon return from my Christmas break - I received the call from Allan, Brown and Cock.
Whilst I was taking my lunch.
I was informed that the matter has now gone legal.
The lady I spoke to advised that they are intending to take me to court. She was very polite in informing me about the situation. I simply confirmed the address where the legal papers should be served.
Then I told her to bring it on.
I couldn’t be bothered trying to explain it all once again.
I know that I am innocent and I will correct this injustice in person. I shall clear the smirch that is upon my name.
Of Peter Charles - or Charles Peters.
I shall clear the smirch before the Singaporean Courts and I am actually looking forward to having my day in court.
It will be fun.
It will be entertaining.
I plan on representing myself.
And so I had my day in court today.
Well it wasn't actually a court - it was just a small and windowless room in a Singaporean Administration building.
There was no judge or jury either.
The matter was presided over by a little bloke about the same age as me.
He was sitting at a nondescript desk in a suit and tie.
I was hoping for guys in wigs and stenographers recording transcripts.
I had envisioned making impassioned pleas to citizens who had been called up for jury duty just to hear my case.
I had prepared both my opening and closing statements that were full of rhetoric and colorful language. So sitting down across the table from a little bloke with spectacles and a ballpoint pen was a bit disappointing.
To say the least.
The court that my matter was heard in is a part of the Singaporean Subordinate Judicial process.
These courts were developed as a tribunal system to resolve small claims or disputes.
They are not courts though.
They are just small windowless offices.
The word 'tribunal' has it's origins in the thirteenth century and was derived from the Latin word Tribunus. A Tribunus in ancient Rome was literally the 'leader of the tribe'. These leaders were empowered under Roman law to settle disputes between different parties.
Their word was final.
The Tribunus in my legal matter with was a Singaporean chap named Arthur. My combatants were a legal firm I shall refer to as ABC.
Their representative in my matter was a young Singaporean lady named Suzy.
She seemed very nervous when I met her in Arthur's office and she also appeared to be quite vague about the nuances of my case. Her handshake was insipid when I introduced myself and she was nursing a very thin manila folder with only a few pieces of paper inside.
These scant few documents seemed to be the sum of the case against me.
ABC is a fairly large legal firm here in Singapore and they were representing the big telecommunications companies who have been annoying me for more than a year now.
I won't refer to ABC by name as I have found them to be a tenacious bunch of fuckers who have the potential to endeavor to take further action against me simply because they can.
I rate lawyers and the legal profession at about the same level I rate used car salesmen – which is not very highly.
In my previous experience with the legal fraternity I have found them to be much over-valued and not particularly bright. I think that professionals who bill their clients in five-minute blocks tend to serve themselves more than they serve justice.
Despite the advice of my best mate Berty in the US I chose to represent myself in the matter with the telecommunications company. Berty has had much more experience than me in legal and court matters and he strongly recommended that I employed counsel to act in my defense.
I told Berty that it was a simple and straightforward case of mistaken identity and I felt quite comfortable in representing myself.
As I have already covered - the matter involved a debt recovery action for the sum of $1123.37. The telecommunications company alleged that I owed them this amount for an unpaid mobile telephone bill.
The debt is not mine.
It never was.
I have never had a mobile telephone with this particular company and I established very early on in the piece that the phone and the debt belonged to a man named Charles Peters. The telecommunications company in fact confirmed this to me quite some time ago but I somehow got lost in the machine. It eventually ended up with a debt collection company and then with the ABC lawyers. In the end I simply couldn't be bothered explaining the situation over and over again to different people so I thought I would bring it to a head by letting it go to court.
Charles Peters was not in attendance at the court proceedings. I was hoping to call him as a witness but I had been unable to locate him. I don't think that the ABC law firm had even tried to find him.
They thought he was I.
This was the root of the whole problem.
The proceedings commenced when I opened the door to Arthur's office. As I have mentioned earlier his office was tiny and windowless.
Suzy from ABC was already inside and seated and both she and Arthur stood when I entered and we all shook hands.
I told them that I hoped that I hadn't kept them waiting for very long and that I was a little disappointed that the proceedings were not being heard in a proper court of law with a jury and wigs and a stenographer.
Arthur looked impassive at my comments and Suzy looked like she was about to cry.
I could smell her fear.
I asked Arthur whether I should refer to him as 'Your Honour' and he told me that I should just call him Arthur.
I told him that if he didn't mind I would like to call him "Your Honour" anyway. I told him that I had spent some time preparing some fairly wicked opening and closing statements in my defense and it seemed only proper in a legal situation. He told me that he didn't mind and he actually seemed a little chuffed. I could see Suzy's hands shaking a little as she fumbled with her manila folder.
She could tell that I had struck a chord with our arbitrator and I felt that I already had her on the back foot.
The term 'on the back foot' has it's origins in cricket. It relates to a batsman who is forced to take a step backwards because the ball that has been bowled to him is so fast and ferocious it literally forces them into a defensive retreating position.
There was a bit of an awkward silence at the commencement of proceedings so I took the bull by the horns and told Arthur I would like to make my opening statement.
He nodded his consent.
Suzy looked terrified and she continued to fumble with her manila folder.
I made a pretense of looking at my notes and told Arthur with no small amount of dramatic flair that I had been a victim of a prolonged attack of harassment by Suzy's client for more than a year.
I told him that despite my repeated claims of innocence of the debt I felt that the Telecommunications company had persisted in a campaign of threats and terror against me. I told Arthur that I was here today to not only seek justice for myself but to also send a message to this corporation that little people like me should not and could not be harangued.
I told Arthur that I felt my name had been besmirched.
Arthur gave a small chuckle in retort and he calmly told me that he only had the authority to determine whether I should pay the debt or not.
He asked Suzy if she had a copy of the original contract for the mobile phone in question and with trembling hands she removed a document from her folder and handed it to him.
Arthur adjusted the spectacles perched on the bridge of his nose and perused the document closely. After a minute or so he asked me if my name was Charles Peters and I told him it was not. He then reeled off an eight-digit Identification number and asked me if that was my Employment Pass number.
I again told him that it was not.
Arthur then asked me if I could show him my Employment Pass card.
All foreign workers such as myself are issued with such a card. They are emblazoned with our photograph on one side and our right thumbprint on the reverse.
We are given unique identity numbers.
I pulled my Employment Pass out of my wallet and handed it over. After only a quick glance Arthur handed the Pass back and told Suzy that she had the wrong man.
He told me that the case against me was dismissed and that I was free to go.
As I rose to my feet triumphantly I asked Arthur whether he could apply punitive damages against the Telecommunications Company that had wrongfully erred me.
He smilingly told me that he had no such authority but asked - out of pure interest he said - what amount I thought would be appropriate.
When I suggested a figure of one hundred million dollars he laughed out loud.
So did I.
Suzy did not.
Arthur told me that I could lodge a claim for costs if I had incurred any in this matter.
I told him that my bus fare from the office was about eighty cents but I hadn't kept the receipt.
Arthur told me that I could collect a claim form for this expense from the front office if I wanted to.
I told him that it wouldn't be necessary and that I felt that justice had been served today.
I told Arthur that I thought that eighty cents seemed like a fair price for justice in this instance.
I shook hands goodbye with both Arthur and Suzy. Arthur seemed quite pleased with the proceedings and I certainly was.
Not so poor Suzy.
She just looked miserable.