Singapore's most influential people

Singapore’s most influential people

Any list of people claiming to be this or that is bound to be fairly subjective. This is particularly the case when considering those people who have been most influential on the development of Singapore. After all, this tally is potentially very long and open to a great deal of personal bias. However, it is safe to say there are certain names that would be fairly universal.

One name that should feature is Dr Kanwaljit Soin, who became a much-needed female member of parliament when she was nominated in 1992. After holding her political position for four years, she has since continued to work tirelessly to raise awareness of female issues. While serving as president of the Association of Women for Action and Research in the 1990s she became one of Singapore's most widely-respected commentators on women's issues.

Two individuals who have certainly left a permanent mark on Singapore's landscape are Wong Mun Summ and Richard Hassell. These Singapore-based architects are known for a variety of eye-catching designs, ranging from tall, ultra-contemporary condominium buildings, to a grandiose churches. Equally at home when designing properties for railway stations or for holiday resorts, this dynamic duo's work features in Singapore, Bali, Bangkok and China.

The arts have flourished in this particular corner of South East Asia for a considerable time. Foremost amongst the influential Singaporeans who have focused on local tastes is Philip Cheah. In the 1980s, Singapore was regarded as something of a cultural backwater, with little to inspire the creatively-minded. Together with his brother Michael, Philip embarked on creating the ‘BigO', a magazine that championed local talent amongst musicians and artists of all shades. While he was director of the Singapore International film Festival in the 1990s, Cheah placed the spotlight on dynamic young Singaporean filmmakers, single-handedly rejuvenating the local movie industry.

Prior to his death in 2008 at the grand old age of 82, J B Jeyaretnam (or JBJ as he was affectionately nicknamed) was a tireless campaigner for Singapore democracy. His son Kenneth said: “My father demonstrated that democracy means the right to change government if you are not satisfied with it”. His dignified approach to the city state's politics won him the respect of colleagues and political opponents in equal measures.

Changi airport's first-rate customer service

Changi airport’s first-rate customer service

According to statistics, Singapore's main airport, Changi, welcomed over 51 million passengers through its doors last year. As the hub for a variety of major airlines, including Jetstar Asia Airways, SilkAir, Singapore Airlines, Tigerair, Valuair and Scoot, Changi is currently the second busiest airport in the Asian continent; indeed, it ranks as seventh most-visited airport anywhere on the globe.

Changi's three passenger terminals have a total handling capacity of 66 million, which is welcome news for the airport's management teams since last year's passenger figures were 10% up on the previous year. In addition to the phenomenal amounts of air travelers using Changi, it is also one of the world's busiest cargo hubs, handling 1.8 million tonnes last year.

For such a bustling airport, attention to customer service has always been paramount. Changi has won an incredible 430+ awards since opening in 1981, including no fewer than 30 ‘Best Airport' awards in 2012. But the good news for the vast numbers of passengers who continue to use this airport is that complacency is never on the agenda. Despite all the accolades, the management at Changi remain determined to out-do previous achievements. Upgrades to the airport are an ongoing task, whether to improve existing facilities or to build new ones which are even more customer-friendly.

To this end, the airport launched a feedback system three years ago. This was aimed at allowing customers to gauge the airport's performance in a number of key areas. Visitors completing the feedback forms were asked to rate staff and facilities. In addition, a real-time inspection system was launched, with a view to monitoring any potential faults in the airport.

Since the system was launched in 2010, it has been regarded as an unparalleled success. In fact, maintenance costs at the airport have been cut by more than $ 2 million, with response time to repairs slashed by 30%.

The revolutionary E-inspection system allows maintenance workers to report any issues to contractors using smart phones that have been installed with highly-specialized software. In this way they can keep tabs on the progress of any repair simply by referring to a hand-held device. As well as monitoring repairs, the feedback system also allows visitors to rate a diverse cross-section of the airport staff. From immigration officers to counter staff to cleaners, customers can now give constructive feedback on every aspect of Changi's widespread operations.

Committee of investigation formed in wake of riot

Committee of investigation formed in wake of riot

The riots that convulsed Little India late in 2013 are still leaving an indelible mark. While the chaotic disturbances were brought under control by a controlled police response, the repercussions of the ugly scenes are lasting considerably longer.

Singapore is certainly not used to such civil disobedience. The whole situation was prompted when an Indian migrant worker was struck and killed by a bus. Crowds of his fellow construction workers, many of whom had been drinking for some time, appear to have used the tragic accident as an excuse to cause wanton mayhem on the streets of Singapore. Some of them began throwing missiles at the police who had gathered to try and defuse the situation. In the ensuing riots, several police cars and an ambulance were set alight.

Order was restored, with many Singaporeans left baffled by the unexpected outbreak of violence that had occurred in the heart of their normally peace-loving city. It is testament to the resolve of Singapore's citizens that the streets were cleared of debris very swiftly and the shops which had been affected by the rioting opened for business the following day.

All the media reporting on the events were unanimous in their verdict that this was, in all likelihood, a unique incident. However, the authorities have let it be known that they are determined to get to the root of what prompted a section of Singapore society to act in this way. After all, the Indian migrant community are not exactly strangers to the city; many of these workers have been living in Singapore for a long time, having been made more than welcome for the skills they continue bringing to the city. The degree of their integration has, until now, been taken for granted.

The Singapore government have decided to appoint a special committee to investigate the riots that occurred in Little India. This committee of inquiry has been instigated due to the levels of violence experienced on Singapore streets – estimated to be the worst case of rioting since 1969.

Teo Chee Hean, Home Affairs Minister, set up the four-man committee, with orders to report their findings within six months. It has also been announced that the chairman of the investigatory committee will be a former judge of Singapore's Supreme Court, G Pannir Selvam. The members acting alongside him will be an ex-police commissioner, Tee Tu Bia, a former trade union president, John De Pavya, and a citizens committee consultant, Andrew Chua Thiam Chwee.

Samurai-wielding MRT passenger causes a scene

Many movie-goers delight in the escapism of martial arts. Watching athletic antagonists wielding swords while undertaking death-defying acrobatics, is a popular slice of cinema escapism. However, it is somewhat more intimidating to come across a samurai warrior in real life.

But this is the situation that occurred on Singapore's bustling Mass Rapid Transport (MRT) rail network in Dec last year. As commuters boarded their usual train, expecting an unremarkable commute, they were somewhat taken aback when a man clambered aboard wielding a samurai sword. Having jumped the ‘fare gate' at Paya Lebar station, he joined the westbound train, leaving a trail of bemused onlookers in his wake.

According to an official MRT spokesman: “the male passenger was apprehended at 12:45 PM around Bugis MRT station and the incident is now under police investigation”.

As with any dramatic incident in the modern age, the unfolding events were captured on mobile phones. A bank executive who happened to witness the incident recorded a brief video of the samurai warrior exiting, perhaps to do battle with evil forces at some pre-arranged destination?

Naturally, the sight of someone in possession of a large fearsome-looking blade in somewhere as densely-populated as Singapore never goes unnoticed for very long. Thankfully the culprit was soon being tailed by three transit security officers, hanging onto his every suspicious movement. Witnesses described the strange man calmly chatting to his pursuers; although what was being discussed, or in what language, was less apparent. Apparently this sense of calm was strained to say the least, with bystanders describing the blade carrying individual as becoming increasingly agitated. Eventually he drew his weapon and began pointing it towards the uniformed men.

He was described as being middle-aged, and slightly overweight. His hair was dyed and permed, and he was sporting the traditional Japanese ‘hakama' garment.

During their fraught experience, none of the 30 or so passengers sharing his train compartment said anything to him. The mysterious case came to its conclusion when the weird swordsman was finally apprehended by the police. When he clambered off the train at Dhoby Grant station, it appeared that the officers, who had perhaps been adopting a ‘softly softly' approach for fear of unsettling the antagonist beside so many passers-by, decided to take action.

Again, in similar fashion to the recent disturbances in Little India, the reason this particular incident has caused waves in social media is because of its unique, isolated nature. Singaporeans are used to seeing many colourful and good natured people during their daily life, so a lone idiot brandishing an offensive weapon naturally sticks out like a sore thumb.