Singaporeans can be a demanding lot when dealing with consular officers overseas

A cartoon of an angry-looking man in an embassy gesturing at the counter staff which accompanied Minister for Foreign Affairs K Shanmugam's light-hearted Facebook post on unusual requests that consular officers had to deal with. -- PHOTO: K SHANMUGAM
A cartoon of an angry-looking man in an embassy gesturing at the counter staff which accompanied Minister for Foreign Affairs K Shanmugam's light-hearted Facebook post on unusual requests that consular officers had to deal with. -- PHOTO: K SHANMUGAM/FACEBOOK 

SINGAPORE - Officers from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs (MFA) will go beyond the call of duty to help Singaporeans when they encounter difficulties abroad, but there are limits to what they can do, Minister for Foreign Affairs K Shanmugam said on Thursday when he disclosed some of the more unusual requests that consular officers had to deal with.

One Singaporean asked for help to get refunds for unsatisfactory, illegal sexual services sought abroad while another asked for the launching of an investigation into a case of alleged racism after being served a smaller piece of chicken than the locals at a fast food chain overseas.

Another unusual request from a Singaporean man was for officers to convince his foreign girlfriend to quicken her divorce proceedings so he could marry her.

These were just three of five examples cited by Mr Shanmugam, who is also law minister, in his Facebook post on Thursday afternoon.

The other two cited were of a Singaporean who insisted it was the foreign ministry's responsibility to retrieve a kitchen appliance he had left behind, in a foreign country, because he had no money to pay for the excess baggage.

Another Singaporean, living in Indonesia, requested that MFA ship to him a desktop computer that he had ordered online from the US.

Mr Shanmugam said that in 2013, MFA handled over 3,000 consular cases. He said: "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."

The light-hearted post, which was accompanied by a cartoon of an angry-looking man in an embassy gesturing at the counter staff, drew almost 400 shares and 1,000 likes within two hours of its posting.

Many who commented acknowledged that while funny, the post also highlighted the sense of entitlement that some travellers had. Many Facebook users echoed Ms Amanda Lim's sentiments that some demands listed were "absurd".

User Ajoy Kumar said: "It is individual responsibility to take care of... personal issues in foreign countries, unless there are natural disasters or similar issues that we can seek help from MFA."