I had actually missed NEA Permanent Secretary Mr Tan Yong Soon’s magnum opus on his cordon bleu course in Paris which was published in The Straits Times’ Life! section on Jan 6. When I read it a few days later, I thought it overly long and could have done with some juidicious editing, which clearly the ST failed to provide.
I might have missed that article altogether if not for the fact I noticed a spike in visitor numbers to this blog, culminating on Jan 8 in the largest single day visits since the blog was started almost a year ago.
I investigated and found an article in The Online Citizen lambasting Mr Tan for writing in the ST about spending almost $50K for his family of three’s holiday cum cooking course over 5 weeks. The article attracted at that time some 40 or 50 comments, with two of them drawing attention to my post on What I ate eating out.
Investigating further, I found one comment had mischievously, maliciously and selectively extracted from my post to demonstrate that I was bragging about my eating experiences. Another comment, masquarading as me by using my nick and blog link, had gone on to give my blog address.
I wrote instantly to Andrew Loh, the author of the TOC article, to point out the masquerade and request that the link be deleted.
“35) singaporegirl on January 8th, 2009 10.06 am
The blog mentioned in (30) by gemami is here https://singaporegirl.wordpress.com/
Is she a TOC contributor
while i don’t mind people sending visitors to my blog i mind it when it’s an imposter pretending to be me…
I suggest u delete the post.Also, yr gemani or whatever has been maligning me. I’m not a civil servant and I don’t only write abt high priced foods in the blog. I’m a frequent patron of food courts and I’m a one-woman crusader against mis-pricing at Cold Storage. U can find all these posts in my blog. I never brag abt what i eat. I write it as it is, including the fact that I’m an after-thought guest.Sadly Andrew u have allowed biased, blinkered, unfair and envious people to take over the tone n spirit of your blog and so make it more like Sammyboy. I used to support your blog because I thought it would criticise fairly (like Sylvia Lim or Low Thia Kiang) but it seems like the likes of CSJ or worse have taken control.. and all we hear is a somewhat crazed version of the sort of criticisms one hears at hawker centres after the participants have enriched APB..Such a pity.. it’s critics like these who make it difficult to direct genuine criticisms at the Govt..I contributed some sane comments on the poor to your blog in 2006 and even added an MP’s speech on it. And also brought the blog’s existence to many friends who believe there needs to be a better S’pore — but we don’t need to do that by creating a surreal version of the current S’pore.. “
It is hard for us to verify all url links which commenters associate with their nicknames. As you would know, we get hundreds of comments everyday for all the articles. It is quite impossible for us to thus verify every link. It is only when they’re brought to our attention that we can know. I thank you for doing so.
This gives the background on why I’m taking a greater interest in Mr Tan Yong Soon’s current plight. If what I’ve been writing about food can be selectively and maliciously distorted, why not his article in the ST?
Yet not only are the Internet hounds baying at him but so too are his political masters! Etu Brute?
What exactly has Mr Tan done wrong? Since when has it become a crime to spend hard earned money and share publicly the experience with others who don’t qualify to earn that level of income or have that sort of experience?
Is the income of a senior civil servant less honorably earned than that of stockbrokers, bankers, entrepreneurs, speculators, people who simply inherited wealth etc that he should be cagey about his spending just because there are poor people? Will he have to duck when he is shopping at Jason’s or Fairprice Finest, in case he’s recognised and be given a black mark for shopping at high end supermarkets? Will his home, car and spending habits be scrutinised?
Sure, there are many poor people in Singapore and under current worldwide economic circumstances, there will be even more. But then, like they say in the Bible, the poor will always be with us.
Oh, have we come to this? Whatever happened to meritocracy and the argument for paying the best for the best talents, if the state is to compete successfully with the private sector for the small pool (given the population size) of talented Singaporeans?
Who would want to be a civil servant and be always paid a bit less than one’s equivalent in the private sector and then be subjected to a hanging by public opinion should one be naive or kind enough to oblige The Straits Times, the world’s 147th ranked newspaper?
Just as well I don’t have children. And hence no grand children. Otherwise I’ll say to them: never be a civil servant in Singapore. U have less rights than other Singaporeans: you’ll have to wave goodbye to freedom of expression.
However, to end up on an upbeat note…Mr Tan still has friends and supporters.
One wrote to me to say: ” I found the article interesting. It’s Tan Yong Soon’s way of sharing his experience with fellow Singaporeans and I don’t think he gloats. He is by nature, a humble person. Both Tan Yong Soon and his wife Lee Cher Ling were my classmates from NJC 1972-73. They were brilliant students from the engineering class. Tan Yong Soon was an SAF scholar, while his wife was the top taxation student in the Accounting faculty. Tan Yong Soon wrote a book on prominent members from the same class including Lee Tsao Yuan, ex nominated MP and OCBC director; and Engeline Teh, senior counsel (both CHIJ girls).”
Another friend said: I know Yong Soon personally. Why he even agree to be featured is beyond me. Civil servants should stay as low profile as possible, as a rule. Not so potically attuned unfortunately. He was in military intelligence before becoming PS. I guess military intellience not quite the same as SID. can confirm that Yong Soon is not the boastful type. Actually quite humble. But in today’s financial climate, would be better off not talking about his holidays and cooking class…
Someone who had worked with him similarly endorsed his openess and humility: “I want to say that I have worked with Tan Yong Soon whom I think-& I’m not alone- is an exceptional civil servant in that he is open, ready to engage with people (including NSS & other NGOs,) & does not fall into the afraid –to- take-personal- responsibility or risks mould of civil servants. He is also an inspiring boss & I noticed that when he headed URA & later MEWR it was much easier to have an open dialogue with him & his staff rather than be met by this defensive wall of silence. I hope this recent storm in a teacup won’t change this. His book The Singapore Dream is worth reading & says a lot for him as a person although it is mainly about his friends & classmates whose experiences he found inspiring.”
From a stranger came this eml: I don’t know why some people like to find faults with others. I think, basically, they are jealous of those who can afford luxury. What Tan Yong Soon did was his own business and he can do what he likes during his vacation and with his own money. I would do the same thing if I have that kind of money and I would let me children learn some Cordon Bleu cooking. And I don’t think Tan Yong Soon and his family were showing off. It is just unfortunate that he and his family did what they did right but what he wrote came out at the wrong time. In fact, if Straits Times has hindsight, the people in charge there should have refrain from printing the article.
I do not know Tan Yong Soon. But I am disgusted at the way some members of the public attack him, including MPs and Cabinet members. I presume these people must be thinking that if he has that kind of money to “waste” why didn’t he donate it to the needy. I am sure he does his fair share of helping the needy and disadvantaged by donating to Com Chest and other charitable organisations. But even if he doesn’t do it, it is none of those people’s business! He and his family have been embarrased enough and these people should leave them alone now.