When a Facebook post does not reflect the expected behaviour of a Ministerial office holder

During the Kim-Trump Summit last month, Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan drew flak for posting a ‘wefie’ with North Korean Dictator Kim Jong Un and fellow Cabinet colleague Ong Ye Kung. The two Ministers were showing Kim around Singapore and were visiting the Gardens by the Bay as part of their itinerary.

On both social media and the mainstream media alike, there were signs of strong disapproval. While it is one thing to play gracious host, it is another thing to get chummy with a dictator who pursued his nuclear ambitions while leaving as much as 70% of his population to starve. The same man had killed his uncle and half-brother as he believed they were plotting to overthrow him.

Last Saturday (7 Jul), it was Ong’s turn to make a blunder on social media. In an Instagram post that was subsequently shared on Facebook, the 4G Minister posted a picture of his laptop keyboard and claimed that he was “[working] so hard that his "E" button fell off!”

While it is one thing to try and connect with his social media followers, there are wrong messages which could be conveyed.

One could say this was a tongue-in-cheek post, but the electorate would surely expect a potential Prime Minister to have more resilience over such a trivial issue. As the world’s trade and regional political balance get more complex, how would a Minister deal with this tricky balance if he chooses to even contemplate so much weight on such a trivial issue?

If today’s technology did exist back in the 1960s, would we expect someone like Winston Churchill or even Goh Keng Swee to make a similar comment? Or would they not have instead obtained assistance from the many staff at their disposal and focus their working from their mobiles?

Secondly, why does the minister think he needs to announce that he is “working hard”? Politicians in developed nations enter their field to serve their motherland. Singapore’s politicians are paid million-dollar salaries with additional directorship Fees for sitting on Boards of Government-linked companies. Is this hard work then not expected of him?

Lastly, where is the logic behind this? A broken key on the keyboard does not necessarily reflect that one has been working hard. The letter key is attached through the keyboard via a retaining clip and membrane. Such a structure is designed to withstand presses over its life, and a breakage reflects careless use rather than overuse.

Not only do our 4G leadership not live up to the image of the 1G PAP, it is sad to say that they have a long way to go.