Written By: Chao Fangning, Nicole (20-U5), Lim Junheng, Jovan (20-O5), Martha Henrietta Soetedjo (20-U2), Ng Teck Zhong (20-E5), Soh Iwin (20-E5), Young Wai Ming Nicholas (20-E5)
Hi there! It has certainly been a while since we last wrote about current affairs. For those who have been wrapped up in all news COVID-19, fret not! Here is a quick rundown of the global and local developments of the last three months, all packed into one super-summary for you! Enjoy!
Passing of Ruth Bader Ginsberg and replacement by Amy Coney Barrett
On 18 September 2020, the passing of accomplished Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg sent shock waves throughout the nation. The US mourned the loss of an extraordinary leader who left an impactful legacy for all – being a lifelong champion for equality made America more equitable than it would have been without her.
Yet, as the country grieved, plans for her replacement were emerging. President Trump sent a nomination for Amy Coney Barrett to fill her shoes, which went against the wishes of Ginsberg, who stated, “My most fervent wish is that I not be replaced until a new president is installed”. The ensuing political furore originated largely from the Democrats. This incident – one of many – represents the polarisation of US politics; to ensure a peaceable nation, it is a problem that needs addressing.
Unrest in Asia
As observers of international conflict, we often have to consider the motives behind decisions countries make. Case in point, the week-long Pangong Tso Lake dispute between India and China in September, where both sides accused each other of militarising the area, causing tensions between the two dominant spheres of influence to resurface yet again.
As thinkers with heart, we must ask ourselves: to what extent is the vying for power justifiable, and is war and conflict necessarily important anymore in the age of information? How should countries strive to enforce an international rule of law? As seen in many other scenarios, the conflict between India and China is also met with partial cooperation at times. How should countries, given their various backgrounds, navigate their way through the balance of power in our modern world today? Beneath every decision, we can notice a common trend – that identity and values heavily influence our goals and methods.
Similarly, countries not only have to deal with the stress of negotiating with other countries, but also with the internal pressure of their people. The Thai protests in September were the most noticeable of the month, with approximately 20,000 to 100,000 people showing up at rallies.
The dissent from locals regarding how the country is run cannot be ignored, following the COVID-19 economic crisis and the 1MDB corruption scandal. Thai youth are expressive in their political opinions, so much so that they are the driving force of the protests. Therefore, for social stability to be achieved, governments must acknowledge the worries of their people and revisit concepts that constitute good governance: accountability and transparency.
Russia and China Join the UN Human Rights Council
One of the biggest headlines this year was Russia and China successfully joining the UN Human Rights Council (HRC).
Firstly, what is the HRC? According to the United Nations (UN), it is responsible for strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights around the globe. However, these countries’ membership has been met with controversy, as both China and Russia have been accused of several human rights violations. China allegedly held 2 million Uighur Muslims in political “re-education” concentration camps, while Russia literally assassinated opposing voices. The implications of these entries are reflected in the resolutions passed by the UN. As of November, 7 resolutions condemning US-ally Israel were passed, effectively oppressing Palestinian and Syrian people.
Indonesia Omnibus Law
A regional headliner is the passing of the Indonesian Omnibus Law, on 5 October.
Designed for accelerated economic growth through numerous labour reforms and bill amendments, this law implicates decision-making on environmental issues and adversely leads to a deterioration in workers’ rights and welfare. This has led to multiple protests throughout the country, most notably in Jakarta. One such protest worthy of attention was ‘Action 1310’, held on 13 October, with thousands of protestors gathering at the Istana Negara to conduct the demonstration. The protest turned from peaceful to violent after confrontations between the police and protestors. The debacle also resulted in concerns over the police brutality showcased in the protests, such as spraying tear gas at an ambulance.
Ex-NUS Professor Accused of Sexual Harassment
Ex-NUS professor Jeremy Fernando was accused of sexual harassment of two female students.
The issue of sexual harassment has become a rising topic, especially in local universities. There were 25 cases of sexual harassment in NUS across the previous three years, yet only half of these culprits were expelled. A recent poll of university students in Singapore found that one in five respondents knew a friend who had been a victim of sexual misconduct, and a whopping 80% of students have become more concerned over recent news regarding this matter.
When one brings up the month of November, the first set of colours that everyone would vividly remember is red and blue – the US Presidential Elections. The most defining issue would be then-President Trump’s allegations of election fraud.
From a call for voters to cast their votes physically instead of via mail to his perpetual claims of victory, Trump’s pursuit for victory has continued with his filing of lawsuits for key states such as Pennsylvania and Georgia. A win in these states can potentially bring his presidency back. Sounds promising? The bigger question is: how has the election aggravated the COVID-19 situation in the US, and is that more pertinent than a fraud? The number of COVID-19 cases has surged in swing states, with new records of over 100,000 daily cases during the election. Stay safe, Americans!
Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership
The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) was signed on 15 November by the Economic Ministers from the 10 ASEAN Member States – Australia, China, Japan, the Republic of Korea, and New Zealand, establishing a modern, comprehensive, high-quality, and mutually beneficial economic partnership.
RCEP is the world’s largest Free Trade Agreement to date, covering about 30% of global Gross Domestic Product and one-third of the world population. With the RCEP Agreement, tariffs are eliminated for at least 92% of goods traded amongst signatory countries, among other measures, making trading easier between these countries. This can lead to economic growth in the long run, but in the context of COVID-19 in the short term, RCEP serves a dual purpose – besides economic recovery, it signals the signatories’ strong commitment to maintaining open and connected supply chains during difficult times.
Local Youth Climate Activists
Locally, a group of youths as young as 11 aren’t spending their November holidays socialising and studying away. Instead, they are organising an Asia Climate Rally online with their Asian counterparts – countries like Pakistan and South Korea!
This Rally aims to spur governments and multinational corporations to enact better environmental laws and to ensure a “green and just” management of the COVID-19 pandemic. For instance, Singaporean youths are advocating for further actions to be taken to lower Singapore’s carbon emissions from aviation.
Singaporeans are also encouraged to send in their visions for Singapore’s management of the climate crisis. Singapore Climate Rally’s spokesperson mentioned that adequate addressing of the problem ameliorates the climate crisis, given that small fractions of anti-environmental practices, such as sand mining, have degraded the livelihoods of certain communities in Southeast Asia.
With that, we have come to the end of our three-month summary. We hope that you enjoyed reading it as much as we did crafting it, and that it helps in some small way to broaden your horizons!
See you next time for the December 2020 edition!
References and Citations
- Tamkin, E. (2020, September). The legacy of Ruth Bader Ginsberg. https://www.newstatesman.com/world/2020/09/legacy-ruth-bader-ginsburg
- Tan, S. (2020, October 24). Ex-NUS professor accused of sexual misconduct apologises, files police report. Retrieved from https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/parenting-education/ex-nus-professor-accused-of-sexual-misconduct-apologises-files-police
- Ward, A. (2020, October 14). Russia and China will join the UN Human Rights Council. The US should too. Retrieved from https://www.vox.com/21515856/china-russia-un-human-rights-council-usa-trump
- Warganegara, A. (2020, October 30). Commentary: Indonesia’s new Omnibus Law could signal a ‘China turn’ in its economic policy. Retrieved from https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/commentary/indonesia-new-law-secret-deal-china-omnibus-politics-jokowi-13403698
- Trump’s challenge to the 2020 vote: A state-by-state guide to where things stand [Online] / auth. Bob Van Voris Mark Niquette // National Post . – November 13, 2020. – November 21, 2020. – https://nationalpost.com/news/world/trumps-challenge-to-the-2020-vote-a-state-by-state-guide-to-where-things-stand.
- Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement Signed [Online] // Ministry of Trade and Industry Singapore . – November 21, 2020. – https://www.mti.gov.sg/-/media/MTI/Newsroom/Press-Releases/2020/11/Press-Release-on-the-Regional-Comprehensive-Economic-Partnership-Signing.pdf.
- Singapore youth climate activists to host inaugural Asia Climate Rally online with regional counterparts [Online] / auth. Elangovan Navene // Today Online . – November 12, 2020. – November 21, 2020. – https://www.todayonline.com/singapore/singapore-youth-climate-activists-host-inaugural-asia-climate-rally-online-regional.