With 2019 being the polarizing year that it was, Singapore saw many new big changes.
Without further ado, here are the stories we felt were the biggest of the year, in terms of reaction, backlash and effect on the nation.
1. Monica Baey: Ms. Baey made a series of Instagram stories in which she expressed outrage that a fellow student, Mr. Nicholas Lim, had been issued only a conditional warning from the police and a one-semester suspension from the university after filming her in the shower at the Eusoff Hall student residence in the National University of Singapore (NUS) last November. She was frustrated that he had only gotten off with a small penalty, whereas her nude photos and videos would stay on the Internet forever. She caused local universities to strengthen their disciplinary frameworks against those who commit sexual offenses on campus and shore up support for victims of such offenses.
2. Tan Cheng Bock and the entrance of PSP – Progress Singapore Party’s (PSP) launch was on August 3, 2019, with an estimated 1,000 people in full-house attendance over two sessions. Dr. Tan Cheng Bock re-joining politics after a hiatus meant a lot for the local opposition scene as the 79-year-old brought with him a fresh Singaporeans-first perspective that appealed to many. Also, Lee Hsien Yang, the younger brother of current Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong spoke up showing his support for PSP. He said: “I wholeheartedly support the principles and values of the Progress Singapore Party,” wrote Mr. Lee. “Today’s PAP is no longer the PAP of my father. It has lost its way,” he said, referring to Singapore’s founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew.
3. Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) Trial – Workers’ Party (WP) leaders have been found liable for the misuse of tens of millions in town council funds, the High Court ruled on Friday (Oct 11). High Court judge Kannan Ramesh said that WP-Members of Parliament Mr. Low Thia Khiang and Ms. Sylvia Lim were not only derelict in appointing a managing agent for Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) without calling for a tender, they had also painted a narrative that was “misleading and not honest” in order to do so.
4. Preetipls and the Brownface issue – Following an ad campaign for cashless payments that featured a Chinese actor, Dennis Chew Chong Kheng, portraying four characters. Preeti Nair a.k.a. Preetipls and her brother, Subhas Nair, took issue with his portrayal of an Indian by darkening his skin, and their rap response mocked “Chinese people” for “f****** it up”. On social media, however, fans of siblings Preeti and Subhas Nair expressed support for the duo and disagreed strongly with the government’s claim that their spoof video – which attacked “Chinese people” for the controversial ad – could potentially fan ethnic tensions in the multiracial state. The video was polarizing with some like Pritam Singh, who offered sympathetic words for the rappers, but others like K. Shanmugam, the law and home affairs minister, who described the video as an attempt to rile up minority groups against the country’s majority Chinese population.
5. Pofma and its first use – The Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (Pofma) was implemented to prevent the spread of fake news. It was first used when Opposition party member Brad Bowyer was directed to correct a Facebook post he made that among other things questioned the independence of Temasek and GIC.
6. CECA and the growing anti-foreigner sentiment – India-Singapore Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) came into question after a Whampoa condominium resident got into an argument with a security guard. The man, Ramesh Erramalli, was originally an Indian national. His behaviour and entitlement when dealing with the security guard have opened the doors to discontent about immigration and job security in Singapore, with some putting the blame on CECA. A rally was even held where Singaporeans showed up to voice their anger at CECA.
7. Orchard Towers Murder – 23-year-old Siow, the only female involved in the incident, was initially charged with the murder of Ms. Satheesh, along with Tan Hong Sheng, 22; Loo Boon Chong, 25; Tan Sen Yang, 28; and Joel Tan Yun Sheng, Chan Jia Xing, and Ang Da Yuan, all of whom are 26 years old. They allegedly killed 31-year old Satheesh Noel Gobidass. On the day of the incident, the victim collapsed near an escalator in the building and was found lying motionless in a pool of blood. Members of the public attended to his injuries. More so than the rest, Siow was viewed preferentially by netizens.
8. PMD ban – Singaporeans have been divided on the e-scooter ban, which the government put into effect in the interest of public safety, after the rising number of accidents involving PMD riders, including the fatality of a 65-year-old woman riding a bike, who had collided with a PMD rider. While many greeted the news with thankfulness, others have not been so happy with the ban, particularly those whose livelihoods have been affected by it.
9. TOC’s case against LHL- Lee Siblings have the option of testifying in court – The Online Citizen (TOC) editor, Terry Xu, has applied to bring Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s siblings Lee Wei Ling and Lee Hsien Yang in as third parties in the defamation suit that PM Lee filed against him last month. Mr. Xu, who is representing himself in the case, said that he wants the Prime Minister’s siblings to bear the damages if he is found to have defamed PM Lee. He added that he “reserves the right” to cross-examine Dr. Lee Wei Ling and Mr. Lee Hsien Yang in court.
10. Aloysius Pang death – It will soon be one year since local actor Aloysius Pang died from injuries sustained during a military exercise in New Zealand. His was the fourth SAF training fatality in 18 months at the time. /TISG