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'Help me get refund from prostitute'

Publication Date : 06-06-2014

 

SINGAPORE: Singapore Foreign Minister tells of unreasonable requests for consular aid by citizens ranging from seeking help to get refund over unsatisfactory sexual services to a racial discrimination complaint because of a smaller piece of chicken.

 

Disappointed with the sexual services he had paid for during his travels, a Singaporean turned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) to help him get a refund.

Unsurprisingly, such a request is not something that MFA officers can help with, Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam said in a light-hearted Facebook post yesterday.

In it, he tried to put across a serious message, urging Singaporeans to be more considerate when requesting consular aid.

His post comes at a time when Singaporeans are becoming increasingly well-travelled. Last year, they made almost seven million overseas trips - about twice the number a decade ago.

Last year, the ministry handled more than 3,000 consular cases.

Shanmugam said: "Our staff officers go beyond the call of duty, and help people. That is our duty. But I decided to list... examples of some requests which our officers cannot help (with)."

He cited four other unusual cases when unrealistic demands were made.

One involved a Singaporean who wanted the MFA to launch an investigation into alleged racial discrimination. The reason? He received a smaller piece of chicken than what locals were getting at a fast-food outlet abroad and wanted to "seek justice".

"We told him we could not do that," said Shanmugam, who is also Law Minister.

In another case, the ministry was asked to persuade the foreign girlfriend of a Singaporean man to speed up her divorce proceedings so that he could marry her.

"We want Singaporeans to marry and have children. But there are limits," Shanmugam quipped.

The other two examples cited were of Singaporeans who wanted the MFA to arrange for their belongings to be sent to them.

One was a Singaporean who insisted that it was the MFA's responsibility to retrieve a kitchen appliance he had left in a foreign country as he could not afford to pay for excess baggage.

The other demand came from a Singaporean living in Indonesia who asked the MFA to ship to him a desktop computer that he had ordered from the United States.

The minister's post - accompanied by a cartoon - proved to be popular and racked up more than 2,000 likes and 920 shares.

But the serious message behind it was not lost on most netizens, with many agreeing that the requests for help were "absurd".

One man grateful for MFA help recently was engineer Yang Tiong Hock, 39.

His brother, who suffers from bipolar disorder, had gone missing after boarding a flight to Istanbul in April.

After lodging a police report in Singapore, he got in touch with MFA officials at home and in Ankara, Turkey.

"I understood that there were jurisdiction and bureaucratic issues involved, but MFA officers helped me, on personal grounds, reach out to other Singaporeans on the ground," the elder Yang told The Straits Times.

The brothers were eventually reunited six days after 34-year-old kitchen helper Yang Tiong Wei went missing.

 

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