1. 1MDB scandal
A controversy that erupted in Malaysia in 2015, and remains ongoing to this day, with those accused of money laundering and corruption still being brought to justice. Malaysia’s former Prime Minister Najib Razak has been accused of siphoning almost S$ 660 million (RM 2.67 billion) from development fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), into his personal accounts. The 1MDB scandal is widely believed to be critical in the ruling UMNO’s defeat in the Malaysian elections in May.
2. The return to power Mahathir and Anwar
In the wake of the explosive 1MDB scandal, many Malaysian officials called for Najib to resign, including Dr. Tun Mahathir Mohammad, who eventually succeeded Najib. For Mahathir, it was a return to power, since he had served as Prime Minister from 1981-2003. As for Anwar, who had been Malaysia’s Deputy Prime Minister from 1993 to 1998, he assumed office as a Member of Malaysia’s Parliament in October of this year and is the PM-in-waiting.
3. Trump-Kim summit
The first-ever, historic meeting between the heads of state of the United States and North Korea, Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un, was also a triumph for Singapore, as it was held at the Capella Hotel in Sentosa on June 12, 2018, to much fanfare, including commemorative coins, special burgers and Kim Jong-un impersonations walking around the city. A joint agreement was signed for denuclearisation and other forward steps for both countries, but pundits called the summit more of a win for North Korea than the US. The rest of the world isn’t holding its breath to wait and see.
4. US-China Trade war
2018 may just be the year that people will remember when US President Trump not so low-key declared a trade war on China, imposing billions of dollars of tariffs on China’s imports. Of course, China fought back with retaliatory tariffs on American products. Officials from both countries have been meeting for months, and when the two biggest economies in the world lock horns, everyone else feels the tension. However, by December 1, Presidents Xi Jinping and Donald Trump sat down to a steak dinner at the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, and a 90-day truce was called. Let’s hope it holds. (By the way, that must have been some steak dinner.)
5. US Midterm Elections
The hotly contested midterm elections in the United States in early November was not quite the “blue wave” Democrats were hoping for, but the Dems did take back the House, with a net gain of at least 40 seats in Congress. The elections also proved to be one with the most diverse candidates winning—from women, minorities and LGBT candidates winning elected positions. Most importantly, it perhaps signalled that more people in America were becoming more dissatisfied with President Donald Trump.
6. Jamal Khashoggi’s murder
Jamal Khashoggi, well-known Saudi Arabian dissident and journalist, entered the Saudi consul’s office in Istanbul, Turkey on October 2, and never came out. While Khashoggi’s body was never recovered, his disappearance has been deemed a murder. Saudi officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, confirmed that Khashoggi was killed by government agents. Turkey, later on, released an audio recording of the murder. In November, CIA agents investigating the murder came to the conclusion that Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince, masterminded Khashoggi’s death. This conclusion was, however, disputed by US President Donald Trump.
The #MeToo movement hit its stride in 2018, with more and more women speaking up about their experience of sexual harassment and against assault. The hashtag, originated by African-American activist Tarana Burke, and adopted by Hollywood star Alyssa Milano, who asked victims of sexual harassment to share their stories on social media, highlighting how big and commonplace the problem is.
8. Fake news
The practice of deliberately spreading disinformation has been around for many years but has seemed to become amplified lately, especially in 2018, when social media is more popular, as well as more accessible, than ever. Trolls and bots have abounded more than ever, helping to spread disinformation or misleading information faster than ever, with a greater reach than ever before, and sometimes, to disastrous results.
9. Sulawesi earthquake and tsunami
A deadly earthquake struck Sulawesi, Indonesia on September 28, 2018, with a magnitude of 7.5 near Palu, the provincial capital. The quake was so strong it was felt in parts of Malaysia. It was unfortunately followed by a tsunami and then mudslides, with more than 2000 people dead, and another 1000 still missing. Ten thousand people were injured in the combined calamities, and over 200,000 became refugees in the area.
10. Thai football team cave rescue
Capping off this year’s top stories is a heartwarming one, to be sure. A group of twelve boys from the ages of 11 to 17, along with the assistant coach of their football club, got stuck in Tham Luang Nang Non cave in Chiang Rai Province, Thailand, on June 23. Due to heavy rains, the cave began to get flooded, forcing the group to go deeper inside the cave system, where they remained until they were rescued on July 10. Through a rescue effort of more than ten thousand people from different parts of the world, water was pumped out of the cave and Thai Navy SEAL managed to bring the boys to safety. Sadly enough, a former SEAL perished in the effort, due to asphyxiation.
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