Singapore Breaking News
SINGAPORE - A Singapore Management University (SMU) student, who was sentenced to 10 months' jail and ordered to be given three strokes of the cane for molesting a woman on campus, lost his appeal against conviction and sentence on Friday (May 20).
Lee Yan Ru, 25, was convicted last year by a district court for molesting the victim by rubbing himself against her in a study room, after the two met for a study session at about 1am on Jan 8, 2019.
On Friday, High Court judge Chua Lee Ming dismissed Lee's appeal and upheld the lower court's decision on conviction, saying that Lee was "clearly thinking with his private parts" at the time.
Justice Chua rejected defence arguments that Lee believed that the victim had consented to him rubbing against her because there was "growing intimacy" between them as the night progressed.
The judge also dismissed defence arguments that a sentence of six months' jail, without caning, was sufficient to teach Lee a lesson.
Justice Chua granted a request by Lee, who is on bail, to start serving his sentence in a week's time so that he can settle his personal matters.
Lee's lawyer, Mr Thong Chee Kun, told the court that Lee has been suspended from school.
The victim, who was then studying at another university, cannot be named due to a gag order to protect her identity. She was 20 years old when Lee molested her.
SINGAPORE - Fuel pump prices have reached another new high, with posted rates breaching previous records in early March - even though oil prices are around 15 per cent lower than in March.
According to Fuel Kaki, a fuel price tracker initiated by the Consumers Association of Singapore, a litre of diesel is between $3 (SPC, Sinopec) and $3.05 (Caltex, Shell) - up to 15 per cent higher than the previous peak back in March.
A litre of 92-octane petrol now ranges from $3.13 (SPC) to $3.20 (Caltex), or 7 per cent higher than in March.
A litre of 95-octane petrol is between $3.16 (SPC) and $3.25 (Shell, Caltex), while 98-octane petrol is between $3.64 (SPC, Sinopec) and $3.74 (Shell). This is around 0.5 per cent higher than their March highs.
The so-called premium 98-grade now ranges between $3.77 (Sinopec) and $3.96 a litre - also 0.5 per cent higher than their March highs.
The benchmark Brent crude last closed at around US$109 (S$150) a barrel on Thursday (May 19), down from nearly US$128 a barrel on March 8.
RBOB gasoline, however, had gone from nearly US$3.70 a gallon in March to US$4 early this week, before settling at US$3.80 on Thursday. RBOB gasoline is an approximate proxy for wholesale petrol.
After discounts, pump prices are still at their highest ever in Singapore.
For 92-octane petrol, Caltex has reclaimed its lead as the cheapest retailer, with a price of $2.59 a litre (with OCBC Voyage card). But its rate of $2.75 (with Unlimited Cashback card) is also the highest here after discount.
For 95-octane, Sinopec is still the cheapest at $2.48 (OCBC cards) although it has only three stations here. Among retailers with sizeable networks, Caltex offers the lowest rate of $2.63 (with OCBC Voyage card), while Shell has the highest rate of $2.93 (with UOB One card).
For 98-octane, which is necessary for only a minority of cars here, Sinopec again leads with $2.86 a litre. Among retailers with sizeable station networks, Esso's $3.03 is the lowest (with DBS Esso card), and Shell's $3.37 is the highest (with UOB One card).
With the latest increase, motorists are paying around 22 per cent more than in January for a litre of the popular 95-octane fuel after discounts.
Meanwhile, oil majors have been reporting a surge in profits. According to reports compiled by USAToday, Shell trebled its first-quarter earnings to US$9.1 billion, while BP posted a first-quarter profit of US$6.2 billion – its highest in over a decade.
Exxon (marketing the Esso brand of fuels) more than doubled its earnings in the first three months of the year to US$5.48 billion, and Chevron (marketing the Caltex brand of fuels) posted first-quarter earnings of US$6.26 billion – more than four times what it made at the same time last year.
SINGAPORE: All COVID-19 cases sequenced in Singapore in April were found to have been infected with the Omicron variant, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said in its daily update on Thursday (May 19).
Of the local infections, 99 per cent were of the BA.2 variant and its lineages, which include BA.2.12.1. The remaining 1 per cent was infected with the BA.1 strain and its lineages.
Among the imported cases, 98 per cent were of the BA.2 strain and its lineages which include BA.2.12.1.
One per cent was of BA.1 and its lineages and the other 1 per cent involved recombinant lineages which include the XJ and XE variant.
A total of 101,480 local and imported infections were reported in April. They include two imported cases of the BA.4 variant, said MOH on Thursday.
The Health Ministry had on Sunday reported Singapore's first two community cases of BA.4, along with a local BA.5 infection. Both these Omicron subvariants were first reported by South Africa in early 2022 and have since become the dominant variants there.
Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said on Wednesday that the discovery of new Omicron subvariants is “not a surprise at all”, as it is known that the virus that causes COVID-19 will continue to mutate.
“What we learnt from the data and findings of scientists is that BA.4 and BA.5 have a transmission advantage over BA.1 and BA.2, he said, noting that this is why the two subvariants have been classified as variants of concern by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.
“But more importantly, so far, there has been no evidence that the BA.4 and BA.5 will cause more severe illness,” he added.
According to scientists in South Africa, the variants can dodge antibodies from earlier infection but are far less able to thrive in the blood of people vaccinated against COVID-19.
Knowledge of the variants remains limited, with the World Health Organization adding them to its list for monitoring earlier last month.
SINGAPORE - Since the start of this year, at least 384 people have fallen prey to Internet love scams, losing at least $15 million to the crooks.
The scammers and victims typically befriend one another on social media and develop a relationship, the police said in a statement on Thursday (May 19).
In most cases, the scammers would claim to have sent valuable gifts to the victims. Thereafter, the victims would receive calls purportedly from delivery couriers, informing them that the parcels were detained by the authorities.
To secure the release of the items, the scammers would ask the victims to make online payments to third party bank accounts.
In another variant, the scammers would request the victims to provide financial assistance. Victims would be asked to purchase gift cards and share the activation codes with the scammers or transfer money to third party bank accounts.
The victims would usually realise they have been scammed when they contact Singapore Customs to ask about the delivery charges or when they feel suspicious about the encounter and contact the police to check on it.
In 2020, there were 822 Internet love scam cases, a more than 13-fold increase from the 62 cases reported in 2011.
The police advise the public to adopt precautionary measures, such as exercising caution when befriending strangers online, and to never send money to people whom they do not know or have not met in person before.
Those with information on such scams may call the police hotline on 1800-255-0000 or submit it online at their website.
For more information on scams, people can visit the Scam Alert website, or call the anti-scam hotline on 1800-722-6688.
SINGAPORE - Getting food businesses to find new revenue streams and grooming home-grown brands that can go regional will be among the targets that a refreshed road map for the food services scene aims to achieve in the coming years.
The Food Services Industry Transformation Map 2025 was announced by Trade and Industry Minister Gan Kim Yong on Thursday (May 19) morning at Restaurant Asia 2022, a three-day food and beverage symposium and trade show.
"As we emerge from the pandemic, it is critical for the food services sector to reposition itself to seize new opportunities, and adopt solutions to future-proof operations," said Mr Gan at the event.
Put together in partnership with the industry, unions and other government agencies, the ITM, first launched in 2016, had focused largely on digitalisation and the adoption of manpower-lean business formats and technology to improve productivity and reduce reliance on manpower.
The 2025 refreshed roadmap focuses on helping businesses in the sector innovate, expand and reposition themselves to tap emerging consumer trends, as well as build a local talent pool for new job roles in the sector.
Over the last two years, the food services sector has battled waves of disruptions due to Covid-19, and despite that, many have continued to press on, and transform their operations, noted Mr Gan. Many have also joined food delivery platforms, adopted digital and automation solutions, and diversified into new revenue streams.
The food services industry contributed $4 billion to Singapore's economy and employed about 220,300 workers in 2021, according to data shared by Enterprise Singapore (Enterprise SG).
Now, the refreshed industry transformation map (ITM) has plans to foster an innovative and resilient food services sector with a bedrock of home-grown regional brands.
Mr Gan said: "The Food Services ITM 2025 will focus on catalysing innovation among enterprises to create new revenue streams, and empower ready and able food services companies to internationalise and capture new growth."
"We will also press on with efforts on the productivity, jobs and skills front," he added, outlining four major strategies the roadmap will adopt.
The first thrust involves helping companies adopt bite-sized and cost-effective digital and automation solutions to drive growth.
"With increasing competitive pressures and shifting consumer preferences, food services companies must continually transform and explore new operating models," he noted.
As companies grow in scale, they will be encouraged to leverage data to improve operations and customer engagement, said Enterprise SG.
The refreshed roadmap has an updated Food Services Industry Digital Plan, which will be launched later this year, to guide companies in using advanced technologies. It will also help small and medium-sized enterprises in the industry use tools like those for data protection and cyber security to safeguard their businesses.
The second thrust involves catalysing innovation to drive new revenue streams and to tap consumer trends which are moving towards convenience, health and wellness, and sustainability.
Mr Gan cited companies that produced and commercialised ready-to-eat meals. "These efforts paid off and helped them remain resilient to demand shocks, especially during the circuit breaker when dining in was restricted," he said.
With sustainability emerging as a rising global trend, he added that it is pertinent for businesses to incorporate sustainability practices into their operating models. Companies can hence tap Enterprise SG's Enterprise Sustainability Programme to develop capabilities in this area.
Enterprise SG said the ITM will guide food services companies to improve their green branding to address the environmentally conscious consumer. It will support them in adopting sustainable solutions or incorporating sustainability practices in their operations, such as in food waste management.
The third thrust involves helping home-grown firms seize opportunities to expand globally as borders gradually reopen.
A curated market accelerator programme will be rolled out in the third quarter of this year to support companies in the sector making forays into new markets.
The programme will create a network for sharing of knowledge and connect companies to potential partners, said Enterprise SG.
"For companies with existing overseas footprints, we will help them to strengthen their in-market networks and insights," said Mr Gan.
Support will also be given to companies that are looking into complementary operating models, such as cloud kitchens, so businesses can leverage on the shift in consumer acceptance of food delivery during the pandemic.
Enterprise SG will help companies with retail food products increase exports through partnerships with regional e-commerce platforms. These can serve as a market test bed before physical outlets are set up.
The fourth thrust under the ITM will map out strategies to lift wages, particularly among lower wage roles; reduce reliance on foreign workers; and create more quality jobs for locals.
Mr Gan acknowledged the increasing competition for manpower across all sectors.
He said: "It is therefore important for companies, as part of business transformation, to also invest in human capital and create quality jobs for locals. This will ensure that there is a pipeline of talent to support the sector's growth."
With new operating models and new ways of doing business in the sector, he said there will be exciting job opportunities, such as new roles, including digital marketing specialists and data analysts.
"To support the growing demand for these emerging job roles and skills, the Government will work with food services companies to develop and implement talent development programmes to groom locals to take on these jobs," he said.
Enterprise SG added that it will boost the local training ecosystem by nurturing partnerships between firms and training institutions, as well as via new career conversion programmes to support the training and placement of local workers.
"It is timely to refresh the Food Services ITM, since its launch in 2016, to better align to the needs of the industry amid these changes, so that Singapore can continue to develop a lively and innovative food services industry and provide good careers for locals," said Mr Andrew Kwan, president of the Restaurant Association of Singapore.
Assistant chief executive of Enterprise SG (lifestyle & consumer, food and agritech), Ms Dilys Boey, said: "We want to help food services companies capture the strong consumer demand locally and in the region, brought on by changing consumption patterns and trends in areas such as wellness and sustainability.
"To succeed in this highly competitive industry, we encourage companies to be bold and innovative in exploring new concepts and business formats."
SINGAPORE - Two insurance agents from Prudential Assurance Company Singapore who were allegedly involved in forging coaching forms were charged in court on Thursday (May 19).
Grace Tan Zhen Zhi, 38, faces two charges under the Financial Advisers Act, and Eunice Yuen Pui Leng, 44, faces a total of six charges, five under the same Act and one for intentionally obstructing justice.
According to a Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) statement, Yuen was notified on Sept 14, 2018 to attend an interview with MAS to record a statement in connection with an investigation.
Court documents reveal that between Sept 14 and Sept 16, 2018, Yuen had allegedly asked Tan to fill in coaching forms despite knowing that Tan did not have the knowledge of the particulars of the sessions.
The forms were related to two Prudential employees, both supervised by Yuen: Mr Mon Chao and Mr Benny Lim Hee Loon.
Tan then purportedly filled in the forms, making false entries, before they were handed to the MAS officer.
On Sept 17, 2018, following an order issued by MAS, Yuen had allegedly given the forms containing false or misleading information to an MAS officer.
The seven forms for each man allegedly contained false or misleading information as to the dates of coaching sessions held with the two employees, the details of matters discussed during the sessions and the dates the documents were prepared.
Ahead of her interview with MAS, Yuen also allegedly deleted WhatsApp messages that were likely to be required for the MAS investigation.
If Tan and Yuen are found guilty of making false entries in documents or causing them to be made, they can be fined up to $100,000 or jailed for up to two years for each charge.
If Yuen is found guilty of furnishing the falsified documents to MAS or of providing false or misleading information to an MAS investigating officer during an interview, she can be fined up to $50,000, jailed for up to two years, or both for each charge.
If she is found guilty of intentionally obstructing justice, she can be jailed for up to seven years, fined, or both.
Tan and Yuen's next court date is on June 16.
GOOD Meat Launches Chicken Satay with Popular Singapore Hawker Chef Francis Mallmann to attend, eventually put cultivated meat on his menu
GOOD Meat, the cultivated meat division of Eat Just, Inc., a company that applies cutting-edge science and technology on a mission to create healthier, more sustainable foods, is proud to debut its chicken satay at Michelin-plate hawker Keng Eng Kee (KEK) beginning Friday, May 20. This will be the first time the new product will be served to the public, and the company is thrilled to welcome Francis Mallmann, the famed chef who introduced open-fire cooking to millions, to the launch.
Mallmann, known as the “Carnivore King,” is famous for his primal style of cooking, focusing on smoke, fire, salt and meat, and has been featured on Netflix’s “Chef’s Table” and countless other food programs. He is the author of several acclaimed cookbooks including Seven Fires: Grilling the Argentine Way (2009), Mallmann on Fire (2014) and the new release Green Fire (2022), which explores the flavorful potential of cooking vegetables. Mallmann also surprised fans in an interview by sharing his views on the future of food, saying, “I think that in thirty more years, we won’t be eating any more animals.”
It’s only fitting that the chef who became famous for his method of cooking whole animals on a fire pit is now supporting GOOD Meat in its entirely new approach to making meat from animal cells rather than slaughtered livestock. Mallmann, who runs nine restaurants, seven of which are in South America, joins fellow GOOD Meat supporter and board member José Andrés as one of the culinary world’s highest profile proponents of cultivated meat.
In addition to being a special guest at GOOD Meat’s three-day KEK pop-up, Mallmann intends to launch GOOD Meat at one of his restaurants in South America at some point in the future. In the meantime, KEK, a popular family-run hawker founded over 50 years ago, will be serving their loyal customers GOOD Meat cultivated chicken satay served with cucumber slaw, peanut sauce, Singapore bee hoon (stir fried rice vermicelli) and KEK signature tofu for a price of $13.80 SGD.
“We all know where the Earth is at, and if we close our eyes to dream on better days, we know that changes must be done. GOOD Meat has embraced innovation for business and health. I’m proud to eat their chicken and am excited to launch with them when ready in one of my restaurants in South America. We need romance in cooking and the hope of new seeds, and they are one of them,” Mallmann said.
GOOD Meat’s collaboration with KEK and Mallmann is part of a series of pop-ups the company has organized in 2022 to shine a light on some of Singapore’s beloved hawker stalls whose livelihoods were jeopardized by a downturn in business during the pandemic. The first pop-up was with Loo’s Hainanese Curry Rice, a family-run business for 74 years, earlier this year.
SINGAPORE - A fire broke out at a Jalan Bukit Merah flat on Tuesday morning (May 17), causing some 35 residents to be evacuated for their safety.
The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) said in a Facebook post it was alerted to the fire at 11.35am that day.
Thick black smoke could be seen coming out from a ninth-floor unit as the SCDF arrived at Block 117 Jalan Bukit Merah.
"SCDF firefighters wearing breathing apparatus sets had to conduct forcible entry to gain access into the unit. No one was in the unit, " SCDF said in the post.
The fire, which involved the contents of a bedroom, was extinguished with one water jet.
About 35 people were evacuated from neighbouring units as a precaution, said SCDF.
It added that preliminary investigations indicate that the fire had an "electrical origin".
No one was hurt in the incident.
A photo attached to SCDF's post showed a bed frame, charred debris on the floor, and soot lining the walls and ceiling of a room in the unit.
In a separate Facebook post on Tuesday night, Ms Indranee Rajah, an MP for Tanjong Pagar GRC, said no one was injured as those living in the flat - a woman and her two children - were out at the time.
Block 117 is part of the Tanjong Pagar-Tiong Bahru ward of the GRC.
Ms Indranee said she visited the woman and her son that evening, adding that the woman's daughter is currently away.
"They are both bearing up well despite the events of the day," said Ms Indranee.
She added that the HDB branch office for the area made a rental flat in the next block available for the family to stay in.
Residents' Committee members also chipped in with a new mattress and bedding, food and various other items, said Ms Indranee, who met the members just after they brought the items to the new unit.
The members will also help to get additional items that the family may need, she said.
NTUC vouchers were provided by a donor as well, for the family to buy food and other necessaries lost in the fire.
Said Ms Indranee: "We are currently working with relevant agencies for financial and other assistance for the family."
She added that she visited the units next to and above the affected unit, which were relatively unscathed, except for "slight sootiness on the walls and ceiling from the smoke".
She also said the town council has cleaned up the common area and checked all the electrical fittings of the relevant units, and that the external facade will be repainted and washed on Wednesday.
"But much more importantly, all the occupants of the neighbouring units are safe and well.
"(I am) glad that my residents are okay, and very grateful to everyone who has pitched in to help."
SINGAPORE - The Republic will get its largest district cooling system at an industrial development in Ang Mo Kio by 2025, as uptake of the energy-saving technology speeds up here.
The latest project comes after announcements were made in the past month to install or expand district cooling networks around Singapore, namely Kent Ridge, Jurong Lake District, Tampines and Marina Bay.
Singapore is looking to cut electricity usage and carbon emissions with district cooling networks, which allow clusters of buildings to share and optimise the load of cooling through centralised chiller plants.
On Wednesday (May 18), utilities company SP Group and global semiconductor manufacturer STMicroelectronics said the project at STMicroelectronics' TechnoPark in Ang Mo Kio will be operational in 2025, with the manufacturer investing US$370 million (S$514 million) over 20 years.
The system is expected to achieve 20 per cent savings in electricity consumption annually by improving chiller system efficiency, with the potential to reduce carbon emissions of up to 120,000 tonnes per year, the equivalent to taking 109,090 cars off the road, they added.
Along with lower energy consumption, the estimated decarbonisation stems from repurposing more than 4,000 sq m set aside for chiller plants, which will be free once the district cooling system becomes operational.
This will provide space for solar energy and perfluorocarbon (PFC) abatement equipment - systems that reduce PFC emissions produced from manufacturing semiconductors that are harmful for the environment.
Under an agreement signed between the companies on Wednesday, SP will design, build and operate the system, pumping chilled water to meet both the manufacturing and spatial cooling needs of the industrial development in Ang Mo Kio.
Hailing district cooling as key to empowering a low-carbon future for cities, townships and industrial parks, Mr Stanley Huang, group chief executive of SP, said the solution was customised to help energy-intensive manufacturing developments such as STMicroelectronics' TechnoPark reduce their energy consumption and carbon footprint in line with sustainability strategies.
Ms Rajita D'Souza, president of human resources and corporate social responsibility at STMicroelectronics, said: "The cooling system in Singapore will be STMicroelectronics' first deployment of district cooling at a manufacturing facility globally and is a strong statement of our commitment to our target to become carbon-neutral globally by 2027."
The adoption of district cooling at the company's single largest wafer fabrication site in Ang Mo Kio in terms of volume will eliminate the equivalent to 30 per cent of carbon emissions in Singapore in 2021, making it a key enabler for the facility and the company to achieve its sustainability goals, she added.
SINGAPORE - Travel agencies are seeing a surge in inquiries even as some await more details, such as the number of people allowed in each tour group, after the Japan Tourism Agency announced Singapore is one of four countries from which travellers can enter the country on package tours on a trial basis.
Since the announcement on Tuesday (May 17), CTC Travel has received over 20 inquiries about travel to Japan. Most were about year-end travel.
Japan has always ranked among the top three travel destinations for Singaporeans, said Ms Kelly Toh, marketing manager of CTC Travel. She said: "We have been telling our customers to wait a while and we will update them once we have more details."
Under the trial, predetermined itineraries for package tours must be approved by the government, with visitors accompanied by a tour guide at all times.
Mr Jeremiah Wong, senior marketing communications manager of Chan Brothers Travel, said that inquiries and interest on Japan tours have been streaming in exponentially with the announcement.
The travel agency will be launching a small group tour series with fixed itineraries by this week. The group size will be capped at nine travellers and is expected to depart from end June or early July.
Mr Hor Xinrong, a 38-year-old private tutor, said it was prudent of the Japanese government to open up to tourism in a measured manner.
Mr Lee Kwok Onn, 36, however, is not rushing to book a trip as he feels that the Japanese government is not ready to fully reopen its borders. The designer, who would rather not go on a package tour, said: "I enjoy having that freedom of movement, without having to follow a strictly planned travel itinerary."
In response to media queries, a spokesman for Japan Airlines said it welcomed this initiative as leading to the revitalisation of the local economy.
JUSTCLICK & CONNECT