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Halimah Yacob is Singapore’s First Woman President, Elected Without a Vote

"I am a President for everyone," said the newly elected Halimah Yacob, whose post is more representative than executive

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Halimah Yacob
Halimah Yacob who was the only candidate to get eligibility certificate, is now set to be Singapore's next President Wikimedia

Singapore, September 13, 2017 : Halimah Yacob became on Wednesday the first woman President of Singapore, being the only candidate who met the requirements for the presidential elections.

However, Yacob’s selection was overshadowed by criticism that it was undemocratic to give her the top post without a vote. Halimah Yacob, a 63-year-old Muslim of Malay descent, will take her oath of office on Thursday in a ceremony due to be held in Istana, the presidential residence and office, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s office said.

Yacob was the only presidential hopeful among three potential candidates to qualify for the post. This year’s election was reserved for Malay candidates. Two other contenders, businessmen Mohamed Salleh Marican and Farid Khan, did not meet one of the minimum requirements to run, Channel NewsAsia reported.

Yacob, accompanied by her husband and greeted by about 750 supporters, spoke outside the People’s Association building and called for unity in a speech delivered in English and Malay.

“We need every Singaporean to stand together shoulder to shoulder … we have not reached the peak yet and the best is yet to come,” Yacob said, urging citizens to “focus on the similarities that we have and not on the differences.”

In 2016, Singapore’s Parliament approved a constitutional reform which stipulated that the presidential elections would be reserved for one of the ethnicities of the multicultural city-state if no candidate from this group has occupied the post in the previous 30 years.

“I am a President for everyone,” said Halimah Yacob, whose post is more representative than executive.

Yacob was born in 1954 to a Muslim Indian-origin father and a Malay mother.

The mother of five started her political career with the People’s Action Party (PAP), which has been governing the country since 1959, and entered the Parliament in 2001.

She secured her first portfolio in 2011, as State Minister of Community Development, Youth and Sports, and became the Speaker of Parliament in 2013.

In August 2017, Halimah Yacob stepped down as Speaker and resigned from the PAP to be able to run for President. (IANS)

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JY Pillay: Indian Origin Civil Servant Appointed as the Acting President of Singapore

As CPA Chairman since 2005, Pillay has been acting President each time the President goes on an overseas trip

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Acting President of Singapore
JY Pillay. Youtube
  • JY Pillay has been appointed as the acting President of Singapore
  • Pillay, also the Chairman of the Council of Presidential Advisers, is a veteran civil servant of Indian Origin
  • The Singapore polls take place on 23rd September

September 2, 2017: Indian-origin veteran civil servant JY Pillay on Friday took over as Singapore’s acting President until a new head of the state is elected later this month.

The temporary appointment of Pillay, Chairman of the Council of Presidential Advisers (CPA), follows the completion of President Tony Tan Keng Yam’s six-year term on Thursday, the Strait Times reported.

The nomination day for the Presidential election is September 13, followed by polling day on September 23.

According to the report, when the office of President is vacant, the first in line to exercise its powers is the CPA Chairman, followed by the Speaker of Parliament. This is the first time the office has fallen vacant since the elected presidency was introduced in 1991.

Pillay is no stranger to exercising the powers of the President. As CPA Chairman since 2005, he has been acting President each time the President goes on an overseas trip. He acted as President in May, when Tan made state visits to Europe.

He has served more than 60 such “stints”– the longest of which was 16 days in April and May of 2007 when then President SR Nathan visited Africa. (IANS)


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Ant-hunting We Will Go! A Social media Group aims to connect Ant Lovers

Ants Singapore, a Facebook group that has grown to 380 members since last December, aims to connect "ant lovers and even those who are interested in keeping ants."

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An ant collector holds up a queen ant
Chris Chan, an ant collector, holds up a queen ant at a house he rented to keep his ants in Johor Bahru, Malaysia. Wikimedia
  • Ants Singapore, a Facebook group, aims to connect “ant lovers and even those who are interested in keeping ants”
  • Followers share tips on catching and breeding ants, do-it-yourself ant farms and links to videos
  • The group hopes to change the idea of ants as a nuisance even though these insects are mostly harmless

Singapore, June 10, 2017: Shining their flashlights into the darkest corners of Singapore, a small group of ant hunters searches for an elusive winged insect.

With luck, they will find a queen ant to lay eggs and start a colony under the watchful eye of a collector.

“You can search for a few hours without finding anything at all. So, it’s really luck,” Leland Tan, 14, said after he hit the jackpot, and found two queen ants in one night.

Singapore, a tropical city-state home to more than 40 ant species, has a small but growing community of ant collectors.

Ants Singapore, a Facebook group that has grown to 380 members since last December, aims to connect “ant lovers and even those who are interested in keeping ants.”

Followers share tips on catching and breeding ants, do-it-yourself ant farms and links to videos such as the giant killer ants in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

While most ants in Singapore are harmless, the insects are often regarded as a nuisance. That is something Chris Chan is hoping to change.

“I want people to look at ants differently,” said Chan, a 29-year-old Uber driver and member of Ants Singapore.

“Now, a lot of people still think that ants are pests, but with enough education, I can educate them that keeping ants can be safe,” he told Reuters Television.

Chan lives across the border in the southern Malaysian city of Johor Bahru with his girlfriend, her family and up to 30 ant colonies living in 10 formicariums, or ant farms.

Helen Teh, the mother of Chan’s girlfriend, said she was curious why the couple needed so much sand and wood in their home.

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“He said, ‘Oh Auntie, I’m keeping ants,'” Teh said, recalling her initial surprise.

“Later, when I knew it is something that he loves … I said, ‘It’s no harm done,'” she said.

Chan has turned to social media to promote his hobby.

He has started a YouTube channel for new collectors and answers questions about ant care on the group’s Facebook page.

Chan also organizes ant-hunting trips to teach people how to find and catch the tiny insects that he says can hold his attention for hours.

“Some people can stare at an aquarium for hours. Same, just like my ants,” Chan said. (VOA)

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Sri Mariamman Temple: All about the oldest Hindu temple in Singapore

The 190-year-old national monument is in South Bridge Road, at the end of rows of shops peddling souvenirs to tourists

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Sri Mariamman temple, singapore, Wikimedia

Singapore, May 1: The ornate Sri Mariamman temple, a yarn woven into the rich tapestry of Singapore’s history was the only place with priests who could solemnise Hindu weddings in Singapore in the early days. The national monument in South Bridge Road is at the end of rows of shops peddling souvenirs to tourists, is nearly 190 years old.

Government clerk Naraina Pillai who accompanied the founder of modern Singapore, Sir Stamford Raffles, on his second visit to the island in May 1819 established the temple in Chinatown. He had been working with the East India Company and sought to get its current site at South Bridge Road from the colonial authorities in 1823 with the purpose of serving early Indian settlers.

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The Hindu temple, founded in 1827 is the oldest in Singapore. Its mere presence in the area adds an additional layer of history and heritage to the cultural precinct.

According to Mr S. Nallathamby, 58, Sri Mariamman is one of three religious institutions in the area; the others being the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Jama Mosque.

The chairman of the Sri Mariamman management committee said tourists are very much more interested in the temple for the full cultural experience. On a good day, at least 500 tourists can be found inside the sacred premises of the temple. He said, “This is where the most tourists will come by because they get to see all the three religious institutions along the same stretch of road. Our temple is unique in our design and set-up”.

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Spanish tourist Tania Folgueza, a 29-year-old engineer, agreed and admitted to having wandered into the temple after listening to its drums sounding evening prayers on Tuesday. “It was nice. It’s a whole different world and very different from Europe, which is mostly dotted with churches and cathedrals,” she added.

Mr Nallathamby pointed out that the temple is venerated by the local Hindu community. The statistical report of visitors presented by him states that “between 100 and 200 devotees visit the temple on weekdays, while between 500 and 700 are there on Fridays and weekends”. “The temple is the focus for all aspects of everyday life in the Hindu community – religious, cultural, educational and social,” he stated.

“The temple is the focus for all aspects of everyday life in the Hindu community – religious, cultural, educational and social,” he stated.

According to the report by The Straits Times, it is largely believed by the Hindus that the deity goddess Mariamman can cure illnesses and epidemics. One-month-old babies are brought to the temple for prayers and blessings. Early migrants, who moved here to work during colonial times set up a temple dedicated to the merciful and powerful deity, said Mr Nallathamby.

According to the archives, mostly Indian convict labourers were involved in the construction of the oldest sections of the existing brick structure of the temple constructed in 1843. It is believed that a large part of the present monument was built around the early 1860s. But the ground plan of the temple has not changed since 1843.

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The structure was gazetted by the National Heritage Board (NHB) gazetted in 1973. NHB noted that its original three-tiered gopuram, the tower at the entrance of the temple was replaced by its existing ornate five-tiered structure featuring Indian sepoys from the British Raj standing guard with their rifles at hand in 1925.

When Theemithi, the famous fire-walking festival, comes around in October or November every year, the temple becomes the hub of activities and festivities. This tradition has been going on for more than 170 years. Devotees start their 4km procession from Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple in Serangoon Road to Sri Mariamman Temple as part of the celebrations.

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NHB did not forget to mention the highlight of the celebrations; the fire-walking ceremony during which thousands of male devotees walk barefoot across a bed of burning charcoal before stepping into a pit of milk.

The temple has gone through a number of modernization processes in some of its services such as live streaming of webcasts of its major events for the past four years. The temple management mentioned that prayer requests come in from people all over the world.

Mr Nallathamby was appointed as the chairman of the temple management committee in 2014. He talked about how his ties to the temple go back a long way. As a child, he used to drop by the temple every Friday. He also remembers the early days, when the place did not have paved stones and used to be full of sand where he would play.

Mr Nallathmaby cited, “I grew up in this neighbourhood and have been visiting the temple for the last 40 years. Never did it come to my mind that (one day) I would lead the temple. I find joy and meaning in life when I help the community run the oldest Hindu temple in Singapore.”

– prepared by Durba Mandal of NewsGram. Twitter: @dubumerang