Everyone and anyone is entitled to not engage with a politician on a walkabout

I see that some drama erupted at Minister in the Prime Minister’s office, Indranee Rajah’s 1 July 2018 walkabout in Tiong Bahru Market. While I was not present and cannot independently verify what version of events is true, I will give both parties the benefit of doubt and presume for the sake of this article that the truth is somewhere in between.

Although the accounts of how things transpired differ, the basic facts that are not in dispute are as follows:

  1. A man who did not want to engage was indeed approached by Ms Rajah; and
  2. The issue of nationality was raised.

Everyone has a right to privacy and a private citizen not wanting to be disturbed is perfectly acceptable. Rajah herself accepts this. Why then would someone post on Facebook about what should really be a normal run of the mill occurrence? Is it because we still perceive our elected politicians as somehow “above” us in standing and that refusing to engage with them is some kind of act of rebellion?

If that is indeed the attitude we have (whether conditioned or otherwise) then we ought to change it. All citizens reserve the right to have a meal in peace. There is no need to entertain someone even if you don’t feel like so doing when this person has shown up unannounced just because that person is in a position of power. We can’t expect the government to treat us like equals when a man refusing to engage is considered big news.

Secondly, why was the issue of nationality raised? The minister has admitted to asking people on their nationalities but I still struggle to see why that question needs to be asked? Would a person’s nationality affect how she would treat them? Would she spend less time with them? I just don’t understand why there is a need to ask such a question at all. It just seems rather odd and leads me to wonder if she assumed the man was not Singaporean simply because he dared to not engage?

If this is indeed the case then the government really needs to readjust its own perception of itself. They are elected to serve us. Being a politician is a profession like any other. It does not make you some kind of super star that guarantees public fawning.