Over a cup of tea

Singapore's 2013 - annus horribilis or annus mirabilis?

This is a special issue of Newzzit, a look back at 2013, albeit with a twist.

The stories are not arranged chronologically. Rather, I have picked an important event in a particular month. Assigned the topic the event deals with to that month, and woven everything that happened in Singapore related to that particular topic in the story of that month.

For example, the story of January (month) deals with politics (topic) and narrates every important political event that made news in 2013. Be it the Punggol East by-election in January, empty ballot boxes found in August or the PAP's Convention in December.

Even though some stories might have been left out due to paucity of space, I sincerely hope that after reading our 11th issue, you will have a general idea about what happened in Singapore in the past one year.

Readers who want to share more stories, which they think mattered in 2013, are welcome to do so on Newzzit's website.

May 2014 be the best for all of us!

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February - Immigration: Population White Paper to “fair” treatment of Singaporeans

On February 16, a protest rally was held against the 6.9 million projected population of Singapore in 2030, as indicated in the Population White Paper put forward by the government. Another protest followed up in May. The government reacted by introducing the new Fair Consideration Framework, which requires employers to consider Singaporeans “fairly” before hiring overseas workers. 

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March - Crime: Todd and Kovan

The death of a young American engineer, Shane Todd, which occurred in 2012 came into spotlight again, when Institute of Microelectronics (IME), a Singapore government research agency, rebutted in March an article published in the Financial Times (FT) a month earlier. A coroner's inquest was held and the death was ruled a suicide. Later in the year, the police department was shaken when Iskandar Rahmat, one of their own, was accused of double-murders on July 10 in the Kovan area. 

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May - Corruption: Few aberrations, but system still works

Three cases hit the headlines this year. The trial against the six City Harvest Church (CHC) leaders accused of embezzling more than S$50 million began on May 15. On May 29, former National University of Singapore (NUS) law professor Tey Tsun Hang was found guilty of corruption in the “sex-for-grades” case. Two days later, on May 31, former Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) chief Peter Lim was also found guilty in “sex-for-contracts” corruption case. Earlier on February 14, former Central Narcotics Bureau chief Ng Boon Gay was acquitted of all corruption charges by the District Court.

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June - Environment: Looking forward to a hazy June again?

June 21, 2013, was immortalised in Singapore's environmental history as the date when Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) hit 401 – the highest in country's history, beating the previous highest PSI reading of 226 witnessed in 1997 by a comfortable margin. The reason was the fires caused by illegal slash-and-burn land clearance method adopted by poor farmers in Riau province, Sumatra Island, Indonesia. Palm Oil companies in the region came into controversy as a result.

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July - Sports: Some unexpected results

July brought the best sports news of the year. On July 2, Singapore's LionsXII won the Malaysian Super League (MSL) title at Jalan Besar with no less than the PM in attendance. Later, in September, Ng Ser Miang made an unsuccessful bid at the coveted presidency of the International Olympic Committee, followed by National Service (NS) deferment to Singapore's top swimmer Joseph Schooling in October. Schooling later shone for the city-state at SEA Games held in Myanmar in December. Singapore also remained in news throughout the year for allegedly being the base of an international football match-fixing syndicate. 

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September - Society: Poverty and race issues need to be addressed

This month drew attention to the fact that while Singapore has come a long way forward in terms of racial harmony, there is still some work that needs to be done in this regard. The Suara Musyawarah report and survey findings published by the Institute of Policy Studies in September were a testimony to that. Moreover, the issue of poverty and how the “bottom-fifth” low-income Singaporeans are struggling to survive amidst growing inflation was a persistent discourse all through out the year. Interestingly, a study by the National Institute of Education of over 3,000 students from 18 secondary schools across the Island revealed that they don't have a strong grasp of democracy and its principles.    

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