Singapore elections: PAP wins 83 out of 93 seats in historic election amid pandemic; Indian-origin Pritam Singh is leader of opposition

Singapore elections: PAP wins 83 out of 93 seats in historic election amid pandemic; Indian-origin Pritam Singh is leader of opposition

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has secured a "clear mandate" with his ruling People's Action Party (PAP) winning 83 of the 93 contested parliamentary seats in the general election held amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, with the Opposition gaining ground by winning a record 10 seats.

The ruling party, in power since independence in 1965, secured 61.24 per cent of the total votes cast in the election, down from 69.9 per cent in 2015. About 2.6 million Singaporeans voted on Friday.

"We have a clear mandate, but the percentage of the popular vote is not as high as I had hoped for," 68-year old Lee told a PAP's post-results press conference on Saturday morning.

The opposition Workers' Party secured 10 seats and defeated a team in the Group Representation Constituency of Sengkang led by former Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Ng Chee Meng who is also the Secretary-General of the power National Trades Union Congress (NTUC).

The Prime Minister assured it is "only right" that Workers' Party's Indian-origin secretary-general Pritam Singh be "formally designated" as the Leader of the Opposition, and that he will be provided with "appropriate staff support and resources to perform his duties".

Lee took the results in "these circumstances" as an "endorsement" of the party's policies and plans as he had called the elections amidst COVID-19 pandemic.

"We'll take this forward and work with Singapore to realise those plans and solve the problems which we have," Channel News Asia quoted the premier as saying.

Lee, who leads the PAP as secretary-general, said, "Singaporeans understand what's at stake and why we must come together to uphold our national interests." He pledged to use this mandate "responsibly" to deal with the COVID-19 situation and economic downturn, to take Singapore "safely through the crisis and beyond".

"The results reflect the pain and uncertainty that Singaporeans feel in this crisis, the loss of income, the anxiety about jobs, the disruption caused by the circuit breaker and the safe distancing restrictions," he said.

This was not a "feel-good" election, said Lee, Singapore's third prime minister who faces the city state's worst recession with economy projected to shrink between 7 and 4 per cent.

Lee acknowledged that the result also showed a "clear desire" for a diversity of voices in Parliament.

"Singaporeans want the PAP to form the government, but they, and especially the younger voters, also want to see more opposition presence in parliament," he noted.

Lee added that he looks forward to the participation and contribution of the Opposition in parliament.

Singh, whose Workers' Party team retained Aljunied Group Representation Constituency (GRC), will have 10 elected MPs now, up from six previously. His fellow member also retained the Hougang single member constituency seat.

"Whether it works out. and whether it's seen as a strengthening of Singapore will depend not only on what the PAP does, but also on what the Opposition does because the Opposition now has 10 MPs elected from constituencies," said Lee.

He assured that the ruling party will listen to Singaporeans and do its best to address their concerns, and "try to win" their support, whether or not they voted for the PAP.

When asked by the media if the party had lost the youth vote, he noted that different generations have different life experiences, and the young have significantly different life aspirations and priorities compared to the older generations.

"That'll have to be reflected in our political process and in the government's policies, because in the end, the government's policies must be to achieve the aspirations of every generation of Singaporeans," Lee said, assuring Singaporeans.

He hoped that the new generations of Singaporeans "look critically, but with an open mind" at what previous generations have done, "examine what's relevant and what continues to make sense to them in a new environment" and "learn from these experiences hard won by their parents and grandparents".

This is so that they do not have to "learn them all over again and pay a high price which has already been paid".

Lee added that he was, naturally, disappointed at the loss of the newly formed Sengkang GRC, which the Workers' Party won with 52.13 per cent of the valid votes.

"Ng Chee Meng and his team -- Lam Pin Min, Amrin Amin and Raymond Lye -- always knew it was going to be a tough fight," he said.

"They gave it their all, but Sengkang voters have spoken, and we respect their decision." Lee described it as a "major loss to my team" and to the fourth-generation leaders, especially as Ng is the secretary-general of the Labour Movement, the NTUC.

Singh, 43, told a press conference following the results that his team would "continue to endeavor for good outcomes on the ground" and to represent voters "faithfully in parliament".

"Today's results are positive, but we have to hit the ground running. We should not get over our head with the results. There's much work to do. And I can assure you this Workers' Party team is committed to serve Singapore," he stressed.

The PAP contested all 93 seat and the Workers' Party 21 seats. Nine other political parties also contested the elections.

A total of 192 candidates contested for seats through 17 Group Representation Constituencies (GRCs).


China stresses flood control, advancing water conservancy projects

China stresses flood control, advancing water conservancy projects

BEIJING: China will make all-out efforts in flood control and disaster relief work while advancing the construction of major water conservancy projects, according to an executive meeting of the State Council Wednesday.

The meeting, presided over by Premier Li Keqiang, stressed that people's lives are the top priority, and decided to increase material and funding support to help local authorities relocate disaster-hit residents. The meeting also decided to repair damaged projects, and restore production to the parts of the country most severely affected by floods.

Since the beginning of this year, accumulated precipitation in China has been higher and more intensive than the same period in normal years, causing severe damage to parts of the country, according to the meeting.

The meeting urged readying needed flood-prevention materials, strengthening patrolling of reservoirs and dikes, as well as rolling out personnel evacuation plans.

It also studied the arrangements for 150 major water conservancy projects, calling for advancing construction and enhancing the capabilities of preventing floods, droughts, and other disasters.

Efforts should be made to deepen reforms on investment and financing mechanisms, expand equity and bond financing, and quicken the construction of water conservancy projects by leveraging market-oriented reforms.

To secure hundreds of millions of market entities, supportive fiscal, financial, and social insurance policies which have already been unveiled, should be well implemented. Efforts should also be made to establish a market-oriented, law-based, and internationalized business environment.

The meeting underlined strengthening services for market entities, providing more convenience for employment and entrepreneurship, and optimizing the environment for foreign investment and foreign trade.

Chinese FM makes suggestions on bringing China-U.S. relations back to right track

Chinese FM makes suggestions on bringing China-U.S. relations back to right track

BEIJING: Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Thursday made three suggestions on bringing China-U.S. relations back to the right track when addressing the China-U.S. Think Tanks Media Forum.

"First, activate and open all the channels of dialogue," Wang said.

Only communication can dispel falsehoods, and only dialogue can prevent miscalculation, Wang said, reaffirming that China's door to dialogue remains open.

As long as the U.S. side is ready, China can restore and restart the dialogue mechanisms at all levels and in all areas. All issues can be put on the table. All differences can be addressed properly through dialogue, Wang said.

In the meantime, as long as the United States does not set restrictions, China is also ready to promote exchanges and interactions between government departments, localities and social sectors, so as to enable the two peoples to know and understand more of each other, Wang said.

"Second, review and agree on the lists of interactions," Wang said.

Given the inter-connectedness and complexity of issues, it is useful for the two sides to sit down together, run over them and draw up lists of cooperation areas, dialogues, and issues that need proper management, Wang said.

"Third, focus and cooperate on COVID-19 response," Wang said.

Photo taken on April 27, 2020 shows boxes containing face masks donated by China's Fujian Province in Oregon, the United States. Governor of the U.S. state of Oregon Kate Brown on Tuesday expressed her heartfelt thanks to China for its donation of 50,000 medical face masks from Oregon's sister province Fujian. 
Photo taken on April 27, 2020 shows boxes containing face masks donated by China's Fujian Province in Oregon, the United States. Governor of the U.S. state of Oregon Kate Brown on Tuesday expressed her heartfelt thanks to China for its donation of 50,000 medical face masks from Oregon's sister province Fujian. Photo: Xinhua
Noting that in the face of the virus, cooperation should be the first-order priority, Wang said China is ready to share with the United States information about COVID-19 prevention and containment as well as response experience.

"We are also ready to have closer exchanges with the U.S. on diagnostics and therapeutics, vaccines, and economic recovery," Wang said.

The United States, for its part, should immediately stop its acts of politicization and stigmatization, Wang said, adding that it should work with China to promote a global response to save more lives and live up to the international responsibility as two major countries.

China-U.S. relations is faced with the most severe challenge since the establishment of diplomatic ties, Wang said, adding that some in the United States with ideological biases are resorting to all possible means to portray China as an adversary, and even an enemy.

China and the United States should not seek to remodel each other. Instead, they must work together to find ways to peaceful coexistence of different systems and civilizations, he said.

"China does not replicate any model of other countries, nor does it export its own to others," Wang said.

Wang stressed that China never intends to challenge or replace the United States, or have full confrontation with it.

China has maintained a highly stable and consistent policy toward the United States, and is willing to grow the bilateral relations with goodwill and sincerity. However, to achieve that goal, the two sides must work in the same direction, respect international law and international rules, and engage in equal dialogue and consultation, he said.

"China has every right to uphold its sovereignty, security and development interests, safeguard the achievements that the Chinese people have made through hard work, and reject any bullying and injustice imposed on it," he said.

Recalling past decades since the establishment of diplomatic relations, Wang said China and the United States have made the best use of their complementarity, and their interests have become highly integrated.

The two sides should build on past achievements, keep pace with the times, and stay committed to dialogue and cooperation, Wang said.

Market update: Sensex jumps; Infosys, HCL Tech, UltraTech Cement, Maruti were among the laggards

Market update: Sensex jumps; Infosys, HCL Tech, UltraTech Cement, Maruti were among the laggards

Equity benchmark Sensex advanced over 100 points in early trade on Wednesday led by gains in HDFC twins, Reliance Industries and ITC amid sustained foreign fund inflow.

The 30-share index was trading 101.08 points, or 0.28 per cent, higher at 36,775.60. The NSE Nifty was up 34.60 points, or 0.32 per cent, at 10,834.25.

IndusInd Bank was the top gainer in the Sensex pack, rallying around 4 per cent, followed by SBI, Tata Steel, Bajaj Auto, ITC, HDFC duo and Reliance Industries. On the other hand, Infosys, HCL Tech, UltraTech Cement, Maruti and Axis Bank were among the laggards.

In the previous session, the BSE barometer ended 187.24 points or 0.51 per cent higher at 36,674.52; while the NSE Nifty settled with 36 points or 0.33 per cent gains at 10,799.65.

Foreign institutional investors were net buyers in the capital market on Tuesday, purchasing equities worth Rs 829.90 crore, provisional exchange data showed.

According to traders, stock-specific gains and sustained foreign fund inflow buoyed domestic investor sentiment. However, weakness in global equities amid rising number of COVID-19 cases capped the gains, they said.

The number of cases around the world linked to the disease has crossed 1.17 crore and the death toll has topped 5.43 lakh.

In India, the number of infections spiked to 7.42 lakh and the death toll rose to 20,642.

Bourses in Shanghai and Hong Kong were trading with gains, while those in Tokyo and Seoul were in the red.

Stock exchanges on Wall Street ended on a negative note in overnight session. Meanwhile, international oil benchmark Brent crude futures fell 0.16 per cent to USD 43.01 per barrel.

Donald 'Munna Bhai' Trump: Niece claims POTUS paid proxy to take an exam

Donald 'Munna Bhai' Trump: Niece claims POTUS paid proxy to take an exam

In a hilarious scene in Rajkumar Hirani's 2003 film Munna Bhai M.B.B.S., Sanjay Dutt (Munna) forces a doctor to take the medical entrance exam for him while he enjoys playing carrom with the doctor's father. In the movie, Munna does so to fulfil his father's dream of him to become a doctor.

Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump did a 'Munna Bhai' even before the film released. Reportedly, Trump paid a proxy to take a standardized college entrance exam for him in high school.

Mary Trump, Donald Trump's niece in a tell-all book scheduled to be published next week, revealed that the President paid someone to take the SAT, an entrance exam used by most U.S. universities, in his place.

In the book titled 'Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World's Most Dangerous Man', Mary wrote, "The high score the proxy earned for him helped the young Mr. Trump to later gain admittance as an undergraduate to the University of Pennsylvania's prestigious Wharton business school," reported the The New York Times, citing a manuscript of the book.

Meanwhile, responding to the allegations, White House senior adviser Kellyanne Conway on Tuesday, told reporters at the White House that it was a family matter, reported Reuters. "It's a book of falsehoods and that's about it," she added.

Meet Indian-born UK billionaire Mahmud Kamani who is now accused of human-trafficking

Meet Indian-born UK billionaire Mahmud Kamani who is now accused of human-trafficking

After India ban, TikTok now to leave Hong Kong

After India ban, TikTok now to leave Hong Kong

After being banned from India and talks that it would be banned in the US, TikTok said it would be exiting the Hong Kong market.

A TIkTok spokesman told Reuters that it would quit the Hong Kong market within days. The news comes at a time when Facebook and other tech companies have suspended processing government requests for user data in the region.

Hong Kong is a loss-making market but shows how TikTok and other Chinese-based companies are under-fire across the globe. In the past, Kevin Mayer, the company CEO has claimed that app’s user data is not stored in China, a claim which has been contested.

TikTok has previously claimed it doesn’t comply with China to censor the government but Indian Tiktokers like Saloni Gaur have contested that claim.

How world is uniting against China’s bullying?

Chinese President Xi Jinping has apparently decided that this is the right time to assert dominance and territorial expansionism when the global economies are reeling with the side-effects of a deadly pandemic outbreak, but instead of just rolling over, a growing number of nations are fighting back, the New York Post reported.

New Delhi raising of tariffs on Chinese goods, restricting Chinese investments and banning TikTok as well as 58 other Chinese apps from Indian phones is one of the latest in the bid to demonstrate that India, for one, is clearly not intimidated by China's growing hawk policies.

Not only this, but many Indians are also now boycotting "Made in China" products, a task made easier because online retailers like Amazon have been ordered by New Delhi to tell buyers where products are made.

The respective developments from the Indian side came in response to China's unprovoked attack against Indian border personnel at Galwan Valley in Eastern Ladakh on June 15, as a result of which the world's largest democracy had moved some 30,000 troops to the Himalayan border to counter any further provocative actions by the Communist Party regime, according to the New York Post.

Meanwhile, the people of the Philippines are up in arms over China's expansionism into areas of the South China Sea claimed by Manilla after a Philippine fishing boat sunk in its own territorial waters by increasingly predatory Chinese ships.

When anti-US President Rodrigo Duterte was elected in 2016, he initially ignored popular sentiment and announced a "pivot to Beijing" on the promise of USD 24 billion in Chinese investments.

Four years later, all that has changed. With the Chinese Navy sailing ever closer to Philippine shores and few Chinese projects in progress, Duterte has reversed his earlier decision to terminate his country's Visiting Forces Agreement with the US. Given a choice between having American or Chinese naval vessels anchored in Subic Bay, the decision was pretty obvious.

In addition to this, the world has been a witness to how the peaceful pro-democracy demonstrators in Hong Kong were beaten by the city's riot police on Beijing's orders after the Asian giant passed the national security law, further restricting the privileged freedom of the semi-autonomous region, the New York Post reported.

The sight of the 7.3 million free people of Hong Kong being crushed under the heel of the Chinese Communist Party regime is one the world will not easily forget. It has already prompted UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson to offer British citizenship to three million Hong Kongers, not to mention take a tougher line toward China itself. Huawei, for example, can kiss its 5G business in the UK goodbye.

Now the interesting twist in the tale comes after knowing that China has also taken a toll on Australia, an island continent in the far south and also a part of the Asia Pacific.

Australia's farmers and miners are hit with trade sanctions after Canberra which suggests that the virus, which came out of China, may have come from there.

Also, to counter the recent surge in cyberattacks, Canberra has promised to recruit at least 500 cyberwarriors, bolstering the country's online defences. Meanwhile, an astonishing 94 per cent of Australians say they want to begin decoupling their economy from China's.

The same story is being repeated around the globe. From Sweden to Japan to Czechia, more and more nations are coming to understand China's mortal threat to the postwar democratic and capitalist world order.

"Xi Jinping and the Communist Party that he leads have so badly overplayed their hand that they have, in a mere six months, accomplished what Donald Trump could not in almost four years: They have unified the world against China. And communist leader Xi has only himself to blame for the brazen move," the report said.

On Wednesday, the US Congress unanimously voted to sanction China for its new security law that would effectively nullify Hong Kong's legal system and put Beijing in charge.

Trump admin says foreign students must leave US if classes go fully online

Trump admin says foreign students must leave US if classes go fully online

New York: International students in the US are panicking and universities are scrambling to make sense of a new policy announcement by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that says foreign students in the US will be forced to leave the country or transfer to another college if their universities offer only online classes this Fall.

"Nonimmigrant F-1 and M-1 students attending schools operating entirely online may not take a full online course load and remain in the United States", the first line of the July 6 statement says. Officials in the International Students Office at the University of Southern California told IANS they are still "analysing the new information" and swamped by a flood of enquiries from worried students.

According to immigration attorney Cyrus Mehta, the latest one pager policy announcement means three things: Students enrolled in US universities that are moving to an online-only education model will be barred from getting F-1 visas, they will be stopped from entering the US on F-1 visas and not allowed to maintain F-1 status in the Fall semester. ICE is now turning the screws on universities to re-open despite the coronavirus roaring back across 40 of 50 states.

"So Trump is forcing foreign students to study in unsafe conditions during Covid-19", Mehta tweeted. Fall 2020 semester begins early September in the US, immediately after Labor Day weekend. By that time, America's death toll is projected to have crossed the grim milestone of 170,000, according to at least a couple of predictive models.

The new policy incentivises in-person classes during the ongoing pandemic which has already killed 130,000 Americans. The ICE announcement comes amidst heated debate across the country on what the coming Fall school session is going to look like. A vaccine against the coronavirus will not be available until at least year end or later.

The announcement leaves the door open for "hybrid" models of online plus in-person classes as a way for students to remain in the US. It says, "Nonimmigrant F-1 students attending schools adopting a hybrid model, that is, a mixture of online and in person classes, will be allowed to take more than one class or three credit hours online."

Andrew Ng, co-founder of Coursera and a Stanford computer science faculty member described this latest development as a "lose-lose" situation for both students and universities. In a tweet, Ng termed the policy as a "horrible" one which will hurt the US, students and universities. "Pushes universities to offer in-person classes even if unsafe or no pedagogical benefit, or students to leave US amidst pandemic and risk inability to return," Ng tweeted.

"Most of my current PhD students are international. This is an unnecessary crisis" tweeted Paula Kagan, Professor at DePaul College of Science and Health. The language of the ICE statement terms the new rules as "modifications to temporary exemptions for nonimmigrant students taking online classes due to the pandemic for the fall 2020 semester."

"The US Department of State will not issue visas to students enrolled in schools and/or programs that are fully online for the fall semester nor will US Customs and Border Protection permit these students to enter the United States. Active students currently in the United States enrolled in such programs must depart the country or take other measures, such as transferring to a school with in-person instruction to remain in lawful status. If not, they may face immigration consequences including, but not limited to, the initiation of removal proceedings."

The Trump administration says it had allowed only a "temporary exemption" for online courses limited to the spring and summer semesters. The ICE announcement comes at a time when the US leads the world in coronavirus caseload. Covid-19 has sickened more than 2.9 million Americans and killed more than 130,000 till date. According to US Department of Commerce 2018 data, the student population contributed $45 billion to the US economy.

Nearly 390,000 foreigners received student visas in Fiscal Year 2019, according to publicly available US government data. F-1 students pursue academic coursework and M-1 nonimmigrant students attend vocational courses in the United States.

US Army is with India in a conflict

US Army is with India in a conflict

The US military "will continue to stand strong" in relationship to a conflict between India and China or anywhere else, a top White House official said on Monday, after the US Navy deployed two aircraft carriers in the South China Sea to boost its presence in the region.

"The message is clear. We're not going to stand by and let China or anyone else take the reins in terms of being the most powerful, dominant force, whether it's in that region or over here," White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows told Fox News.

"And the message is clear. Our military might stands strong and will continue to stand strong, whether it's in relationship to a conflict between India and China or anywhere else," Meadows said in response to a question.

He was told that India had banned Chinese apps because Indian soldiers were killed by Chinese troops last month that asked what is the mission of the two aircraft carriers that have set sail -- the ‘Ronald Reagan’ and the ‘Nimitz’ -- and what's the America's mission.

"Our mission is to make sure that the world knows that we still have the preeminent fighting force on the face of the globe," Meadows said.

President Donald Trump has invested more in the US military, more in not only the hardware, but the men and women who serve so sacrificially each and every day, he said. "He (Trump) continues to do so," he added.

China is engaged in hotly contested territorial disputes in both the South China Sea and the East China Sea. Beijing has built up and militarised many of the islands and reefs it controls in the region. Both areas are stated to be rich in minerals, oil and other natural resources and are vital to global trade.

China claims almost all of the South China Sea. Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have counter claims over the area.

Appearing on the same Fox News on Monday talk show with host Brian Kilmeade, influential Republican Senator Tom Cotton said that the US aircraft carriers are headed to the South China Sea to thwart off any Chinese misadventure against Taiwan or other countries in the region.

Rapper Kanye West running for White House

Rapper Kanye West running for White House

Rapper Kanye West, who once said that slavery for many centuries may have been a matter of 'choice,' in an Independence Day tweet, announced that he is running for the president of the United States.

One person who will be sore with West for throwing his hat in the ring is Donald Trump who was counting on the former as a prominent black supporter who could help wean away the well-entrenched African-American voter.

West famously visited the Oval Office in October 2018, sporting a red "Make America Great Again" hat and saying, "I love this guy right here," while posing with Trump. His wife and reality TV star Kim Kardashian also visited the White House as an activist pushing for criminal justice reform.

West even wrote, “You don’t have to agree with Trump but the mob can’t make me not love him. We are both dragon energy. He is my brother. I love everyone. I don’t agree with everything anyone does. That’s what makes us individuals. And we have the right to independent thought”.

The most controversial of Wayne’s statements was about slavery when he declared: “Of course, I know that slaves did not get shackled and put on a boat by free will. My point is for us to have stayed in that position even though the numbers were on our side means that we were mentally enslaved.”

If West is to launch a serious bid, it would have come late in the day, as the Republican and Democratic National Conventions, where each party will formally announce its respective candidates, are set for next month.

It is unclear whether any official paperwork for an election bid has been filed on behalf of West.

The rapper has neither identified himself as a Democrat or a Republican, adding that he was “not political”.