Top 10 Singapore headlines of 2017

As 2017 comes to an end, here’s a look at the year’s top 10 local news headlines.

10. Jailed in Abu Dhabi

Muhammad Fadli Abdul Rahman opened up to Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore about his harrowing experience in Abu Dhabi. (Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore video screengrab)  

It was a holiday gone wrong for a Singaporean duo who were arrested in the United Arab Emirates’ capital of Abu Dhabi in August for allegedly wearing women’s clothes.

Freelance fashion photographer Muhammad Fadli Abdul Rahman, 26, and his friend Nur Qistina Fitriah, 37, were arrested in the Yas Mall a day after they arrived in the country.

Both were convicted of cross-dressing – a crime in the UAE – and “behaving indecently”, and were each sentenced to one year’s jail. After about 20 days in detention, however, the pair’s sentences were reduced to fines and deportation.

Fadli, who denied that they wore women’s clothes, later shared his harrowing account of the experience in a lengthy interview with Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore.

9. Buzz over Nasi Lemak burger

McDonald’s Nasi Lemak Burger features fried chicken, egg, sambal and cucumber – what’s not to love?

Take the classic nasi lemak elements – fried chicken, egg, sambal and cucumber – and jam them in to a burger bun. What’s not to love?

Despite some initial mixed reviews, McDonald’s struck a chord with many Singaporeans when it unleashed its Nasi Lemak Burger in July as part of a locally inspired menu. Other items included Bandung McFizz, Chendol McFlurry topped with Gula Melaka sauce and Chendol Melaka Cone.

The craze here was large enough that the Nasi Lemak Burger went out of stock two weeks after it went on sale and even inspired a “nasi lemak burger battle” in Malaysia. If you haven’t tried it yet, don’t worry as the burger made a return in August.

8.  Big win for local comic artist Sonny Liew

Singaporean comic artist Sonny Liew with his three Eisner Awards. (PHOTO: Chan Shiuan)

It was a good year for comic artist Sonny Liew, who bagged three Eisner Awards in July for his critically acclaimed graphic novel “The Art Of Charlie Chan Hock Chye”.

The win must have offered a sense of vindication for the 43-year-old, whose work had its National Arts Council publishing grant withdrawn in May 2015 over its “sensitive content”.

In an earlier interview with Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore, Liew said that he would love to have greater dialogue with the authorities on his work, which is an ambitious meditation on Singapore’s history and socio-political issues. It also examines key incidents such as the Hock Lee Bus riots and includes the late Lee Kuan Yew and Lim Chin Siong as characters.

7.  Staff shake-ups at local media giant SPH

Singapore Press Holdings CEO Ng Yat Chung addresses reporters at a results briefing on 11 October. (PHOTO: Dhany Osman / Yahoo News Singapore)

Amid its struggles with “digital disruption”, local media giant Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) said in October that it would cut about 230 jobs across the group by year-end.The cuts ­­– which affect nearly 200 newsroom and sales staff – are part of a 10 per cent reduction in SPH’s overall workforce, which had been announced the previous year.

Many SPH employees – from legacy publications such as The Straits Times, The New Paper and The Business Times – were naturally left on edge as to whether they would keep their jobs.

6. Brisk business at heartland brothels

A woman (left) spotted at the window of a suspected HDB brothel in Hougang and a suspected male customer (right) seen entering the unit. (PHOTOS: Dhany Osman / Yahoo News Singapore)

As Yahoo News Singapore uncovered, vice activities can be found much closer to home than most Singaporeans think.

Acting on a tip, our reporter found dozens of online listings of women offering sexual services out of HDB estates around the island. Over the course of a few weeks, extensive research was done as to how these businesses – involving mainly foreign women and local men – were conducted.

All this work culminated in a stakeout at a Hougang HDB block, where photographs and first-hand accounts of a heartland brothel’s operations were obtained.

5. Workers’ Party leader to step down

Workers’ Party secretary-general Low Thia Khiang signs a copy of a commemorative book on the party on 3 November. (PHOTO: Nicholas Yong / Yahoo News Singapore)

In a somewhat surprising announcement in November, Workers’ Party chief Low Thia Khiang said he would not be contesting the post of party secretary-general in the group’s 2018 leadership election.

The 61-year-old, who has been a Member of Parliament since 1991, said he would be stepping down to enable the party’s next generation of leaders to take over completely.

He added that he had accomplished his two goals as WP’s chief: leadership renewal and making electoral progress, with the party having won Aljunied GRC in the 2011 General Election (GE) and retained the constituency in GE 2015.

While Low’s future role in WP depends on “what needs the party has”, his decision comes amid two ongoing lawsuits filed against him and two other Aljunied GRC MPs on behalf of the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council and Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council.

4. AGC files contempt of court charges against Li Shengwu

Li Shengwu is challenging an order that let AGC serve papers on him in the US. (PHOTO: Reuters)

In an extension of the Lee family saga over the family home on Oxley Road, the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) filed an application in August to begin contempt of court proceedings against academic Li Shengwu.

The case stems from a Facebook post from July that Li made with regard to the Oxley Road feud in which he allegedly criticised Singapore’s judiciary.

Li, the nephew of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and son of Lee Hsien Yang, has since denied the allegations and has challenged the order that allowed the AGC to serve papers on him despite him being overseas. The junior fellow at Harvard University is currently based in the US.

3. A Presidential race that never was

(From left) Salleh Marican, Halimah Yacob and Farid Khan appeared to be headed into a three-horse race for the highest seat in the nation but it was Halimah who finally emerged as the only candidate qualified to run for the post. (PHOTOS: Yahoo News Singapore)

Since Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced in November last year that the 2017 Presidential Election (PE) would be reserved for Malay candidates, all eyes had fallen on the community to see who would throw their hat into the ring.

The very nature of the election had thrown open debates on how “Malayness” is defined in Singapore and whether such a race-based poll was even necessary. Former presidential candidate Tan Cheng Bock even filed a constitutional challenge over the election, although it ultimately failed.

Three candidates finally emerged: Second Chance Properties chief executive Salleh Marican, Bourbon Offshore Asia Pacific chairman Farid Khan and Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob.

After weeks of media buzz surrounding the trio, Salleh and Farid were declared as unqualified to stand in the PE, leaving Halimah to be named Singapore’s first female President on 13 September – which sparked a surge in the use of the #notmypresident hashtag and even a Hong Lim Park protest.

2. Bumpy year for SMRT and commuters

SMRT staff seen on the platform of Joo Koon station following a collision between two trains on 15 November. (PHOTO: Hannah Teoh / Yahoo News Singapore)

It’s been a frustrating year for commuters as well as rail operators, particularly SMRT, which runs the heavily-used North-South and East-West Lines. Service disruptions – along with photos of overcrowded station platforms and angry social media posts – have been a regular feature in the news.

While many delays were attributed to signalling or train faults, especially along the North-South Line, two major incidents stood out: the October flooding of the MRT tunnel at Bishan MRT station and a train collision at Joo Koon station in November that left 38 people injured.

Investigations into the Bishan incident found that maintenance staff had falsified inspection records for the pump system meant to clear rain water out of the tunnel. Eight SMRT staff were dismissed and a joint PUB-LTA Standing Committee on flood prevention in tunnels was formed earlier this month.

A software glitch was found to be behind the Joo Koon collision along the East-West Line, which is moving to a new signalling system. In the meantime, this month will also see shorter weekend operating hours for 19 stations along the East-West and North-South Lines, including two full-day closures.

1. The Lee family dispute over Oxley Road home

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was embroiled in a public dispute with his siblings over the fate of their late father’s Oxley Road home (right). (PHOTOS: YouTube screengrab / Yahoo News Singapore)

In June, Singaporeans were caught up in the very public dispute between Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his siblings ­– brother Lee Hsien Yang and sister Lee Wei Ling ­– over the fate of their father’s Oxley Road home.

The spat led to PM Lee issuing a video apology for allowing the family feud to affect Singaporeans’ confidence in the government. He also delivered a Ministerial Statement in Parliament the following month, in which he denied his siblings’ “baseless” accusations – adding that he did not wish to sue them as it would only “further besmirch” their parents’ names.

Since early July, an apparent truce between the parties has held, although the Attorney-General’s Chambers began contempt of court proceedings against Hsien Yang’s son, Li Shengwu, over a Facebook post made by Li in relation to the Oxley Road feud.

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