Minister for Foreign Affairs K. Shanmugam says the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) handled over 3,000 cases in 2013 when Singaporeans overseas ran into trouble.
He pointed out that while many cases were genuine, MFA's consular staff does get the odd requests for assistance.
In a Facebook post on Thursday, he highlighted some of the requests that MFA could not help with:
Can the government get involved if a Singaporean gets illegal sexual services overseas, but is not satisfied and wants a refund ? The answer seems obvious. But it was not obvious to one person at least.
Some days ago, I wrote on the work done by MFA officers providing consular services. Singaporeans are making more overseas trips, almost 7 million last year compared to 3.6 million a decade ago. From time to time, they run into trouble and seek help from our consular staff. We handled over 3,000 consular cases last year.
Many cases are genuine. But sometimes we do get odd requests. We have to draw the line between what is personal responsibility and what’s not. SPS Sam Tan highlighted some of these cases in Parliament. Here are some of them.
1. A Singaporean sought MFA’s assistance for a refund after he had gotten illegal sexual services in a foreign country. He wasn’t satisfied with what he had gotten. We had to tell him that MFA could not help!
2. We want Singaporeans to marry and have children. But there are limits. A Singaporean had sought MFA's assistance to persuade his foreign girlfriend, to expedite her divorce proceedings with her husband, so that he could marry her. Not something MFA can do.
3. Did the chicken come first or egg. Answer? The locals.
MFA received a complaint from a Singaporean, who claimed that he was subjected to racial discrimination overseas, because he received a smaller piece of KFC chicken compared to what the locals had. He wanted MFA to investigate this instance and seek justice in that foreign country for the unfair treatment he claimed to have received. We told him we could not do that.
4. Success coach Rob Liana once said everyone has baggage, maybe we should help each other carry it. But sometimes we just have to pay for it. A Singaporean insisted that it was MFA's responsibility to retrieve a kitchen appliance he left behind, in a foreign country, because he had no money to pay for the excess baggage.
5. Likewise, a Singaporean living in Indonesia, requested that MFA ship to him a desktop computer that he had ordered online from the US. We don’t do this.
Our staff officers go beyond the call of duty, and help people. That is our duty. But I decided to list the above as examples of some requests which our officers cannot help on.