The man who drew flak for calling MRT users “common people” on his Facebook page has apologised for his “thoughtless remark”.
In an interview with Yahoo! Singapore, Nicholas-Seth Leong, 30, expressed his regret over the incident, which sparked a public outcry amid growing concerns of elitist behaviour in Singapore.
“I would like to apologise to everyone for the comment made and any offense it may have caused,” said Leong, who declined to reveal his occupation.
“It was a private comment made in reference to an inside joke among friends. We, like many people, occasionally make jokes caricaturing politics and politicians,” he added and stressed that “no insult was ever intended”.
In his Facebook status update posted last Thursday, Leong had talked about his experience of connecting with “the peasantry” after he had taken the train earlier that day, only his second time this year.
“I had a meeting this morning out of office. My boss told me we’d take the train down,” he wrote. “I told him it’s the second time I’m taking MRT this year, it’s my first time in Clarke Quay MRT, it’ll be my first time to Dhoby Ghaut MRT in 2 years, and whenever I take the MRT, my friends cheer and say they’ll need to buy the lottery.”
Leong continued in a comment on his own status, “I feel my own angst riding with common people. But I suppose it’s good to get the feel from the ground every now and then to connect with the peasantry."
His comments quickly drew a flurry of reaction online.
Among the many offended by Leong’s “elitism” was Yahoo! reader Andrew Tay, a sales manager who takes public transport on a daily basis.
Tay said, “What makes (Leong’s post) so bad is that this is probably the worst time in Singapore history to make such an offensive comment, not only because of the sky-rocketing COE prices but also because of the recent spate of breakdowns, which fuels resentment when the public-transport system is already strained.”
The 32-year-old added it would be “best if he (Leong) could come out and make a public apology”.
When contacted, one of Leong’s former colleagues, who declined to be named, revealed that Leong often appeared “amicable and friendly on the surface, but had a rather low sense of self-awareness in that he would try to appear and behave the richest and most successful amongst his peers”.
“This has sometimes caused strong but subtle sense of resentment between him and those who were around him,” he continued, before adding that he “wasn't at all surprised” to see Leong’s post.
According to this ex-co worker, Leong drives an old Honda Civic and lives in a HDB flat.
Earlier media reports that referred to Leong’s Linkedin account said that he graduated from Temasek Polytechnic and is currently working as a “Customer Service Professional” at The Law Society of Singapore.
The account and his Facebook page have since been deleted.
While Leong declined to provide more details, he told Yahoo! Singapore that he understood why people were offended by his “misconstrued” comment.
“I do regret that thoughtless remark, and I realise that one should not even joke about such things as it is insensitive, and it is so easy for it to be taken out of context and misunderstood,” he said.
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