I have not commented on Tan Yong Soon's S$45,000 family trip so far because to me it’s a non-issue. For those readers who have no idea what I’m talking about; Tan Yong Soon, a top civil servant in Singapore, wrote an article in the Straits Times newspaper saying that he spent S$45,000 for a family trip to Paris to learn cooking at Le Cordon Bleu cooking school. Tan is accused of extravagance by Singaporeans given that Singapore is in the midst of a severe recession.
Frankly, I’m more bemused than angered by all this. If someone wants to waste $45,000 and 5 weeks of his own precious leave to go to France, that’s his choice. I don’t understand why anyone will want to spend his leave on a cooking course, but as they say, ‘to each his own’. I don’t even mind him crowing about his trip. This is Singapore! We have people screaming out how good, rich and important they are all over the island.
For all the talk about empathy, humility, ethos etc; Tan Yong Soon's S$45,000 family trip is a private affair and is no business of mine. That is until Member of Parliament Charles Chong’s ‘lesser mortals’ comment. Unlike his follow MP, Teo Chee Hean and Peter Ho, who tried to put out the fire of discontent by expressing great disappointment over Mr. Tan's article; MP Charles Chong’s comments go like this, "Maybe it made lesser mortals envious and they thought maybe he was a bit boastful. Would people have taken offence if his wife (a senior investment counsellor at a bank) had paid for everything?”
Talk about total and utter stupidity! This off-the-cuff comment by Charles Chong will just add fuel to the fire and Charles Chong’s denigration of Mr Tan’s critics as “lesser mortals” just means that he considered Mr Tan (and himself) as “greater mortals”. Mr Chong must now come forward and apologised for his remark. After the storm of Mr Tan’s cooking trip (which was actually picked up by international press), this has the potential to be an even bigger storm. And unlike Mr Tan who can at least claim that he is a civil servant and not an elected officer, Mr Charles Chong do not even have that luxury.
Defence Minister Teo Chee Hean must be shaking his head right now. After his speech in parliament where he said that it’s important to show solidarity and empathy for Singaporeans facing uncertainties and hardship, this happened! It’s just plain stupid.