Le Cordon Bleu-trained, Chef Tan Yong Soon

Le Cordon Bleu-trained, Chef Tan Yong Soon

The current Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources, Mr Tan Yong Soon got rapped by his boss, minister in charge of the civil service, Mr Teo Chee Hean for an article he wrote about his trip with his family to study cooking at the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. In his article, Mr Tan boasted about taking five weeks leave from work and spending S$42,000 on the course fees (excluding travel, lodging and other expenses). If you have missed Mr Tan’s article previously, you can read it HERE.

Mr Tan’s antics did not go unnoticed by the international media. He managed to earn himself an article in Reuters: “Bureaucrat’s cooking trip sparks outcry” and Malaysian newspaper, The Star: “Not the time to flaunt your riches”.

Gathering from various blog and forum sources, most Singaporeans are peeved with the timing of the article which is seen as showy and rubbing salt into their wounds during the current economic downtown. Mr Tan has not publicly comment on the incident as yet. Netizens on the other hand, have come up with a slew of snide nicknames for him, such as “Le Cordon Bleu Tan” and “Chef Tan Yong Soon”.

To be honest, I kind of pity the guy – imagine all the snide remarks that goes on behind his back now from his colleagues and others who know him. An imaginary dialogue can be go something like this:

Colleague A: “Wah lau, everyday eat the same canteen food… sibei sian lei!”
Colleague B: “Aiyo, go ask that Le Cordon Bleu Tan lah! Maybe he can cook some good food for us!”
Collegue C: “Cannot lah, he needs to take five weeks leave to do that!”

Quite cham right?

Anyway, here’s the article on Mr Tan getting rapped by his boss via Straits Times.com:

Rapped for insensitivity
By Li Xueying, Political Correspondent
Jan 19, 2009

THE minister in charge of the civil service, Mr Teo Chee Hean, has criticised an article written by a senior civil servant as ‘ill-judged’ and showing a ‘lack of sensitivity’.

Mr Tan Yong Soon, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources, wrote an article in The Straits Times’ Life! section on Jan 6.

Statement from Civil Service head Peter Ho
‘It is part of the duty of civil servants to be sensitive to challenges faced by Singaporeans, especially in difficult times like these. The leadership of the Civil Service – the Permanent Secretaries – must exemplify this sensitivity.

‘This is vital for Government to be able to formulate and implement policies effectively. So Mr Tan’s comments were clearly ill-judged, and were quite inappropriate, particularly because of his leadership position.

Headlined Cooking up the holiday spirit, his article described a five-week holiday he and his family spent in Paris, learning how to cook at the Le Cordon Bleu cookery school in Paris.

The cooking courses cost around $42,000.

The article attracted a storm of criticisms from Singaporeans who felt that it showed a lack of empathy for the working man.

Tackling the issue in Parliament, Mr Teo said that what Mr Tan does during his vacation leave is ‘his private decision’.

‘However, I was disappointed with what he wrote in The Straits Times,’ said Mr Teo in Parliament on Monday. ‘The article showed a lack of sensitivity and was ill-judged.’

The minister was replying to a question by Nominated MP Siew Kum Hong, who asked whether the public service has guidelines to ensure that civil servants conduct themselves ‘appropriately and sensitively’.

Mr Siew noted that Mr Tan has the prerogative to spend his money as he sees fit. ‘But in these times writing about it in the national newspaper was unnecessarily provocative and unimaginably insensitive,’ he said.

Mr Teo agreed.

He said that the article ‘struck a discordant note during the current difficult economic circumstances when it is especially important to show solidarity and empathy for Singaporeans who are facing uncertainties and hardship’.

He added that Mr Peter Ho, the head of the civil service, had spoken to Mr Tan ‘to make these points and asked Mr Tan to take note of the feedback and learn from this episode’.

Mr Ho has also followed up to write to Mr Tan to ‘put the matter on the record’, added Mr Teo.

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