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)
Designed by: Leow Jia Wen, Jolene (20-E1)
Hi there! The Periscope team is back with a summary of the key happenings in the month of December! From vaccine issues to ASEAN geopolitics, we here at The Origin* believe that a consistent knowledge of current affairs can go a long way. We hope that you will enjoy reading this mini-summary as we did writing it!
The Problem with COVID-19 Vaccines
COVID-19 vaccines are certainly a reflection of how technologically advanced the world around us is – a process that usually takes years has been compressed into a time frame of less than a year, while at the same time still maintaining high levels of safety and efficacy (based on data from trials, that is).
However, after the development of an effective vaccine, efficient distribution of the vaccines is now the crucial next stage to end the pandemic. After all, vaccines will not work unless they are actually administered to the population. Unfortunately, the vaccines that are currently available are in short supply, and so is the infrastructure to collectively ship vaccines in the quantities required. Not to mention, procuring enough raw materials is also a possible bottleneck- this has already led to a downward revision of the amount of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines that can be produced this year, as according to Pfizer inc.
Some vaccines, like the one produced by Pfizer, require ultra-cold storage; areas without facilities for ultra-cold storage will not be covered for quite some time, further slowing down the distribution of the vaccines. As storage facilities, freight-forwarding companies and airlines work to ramp up their capacity to store, transport, and distribute the vaccines, we must continue to comply with restrictions in place to limit the spread of COVID-19. Hopefully, such a time comes when enough people are vaccinated to finally end the pandemic once and for all.
Nigeria School Attack by Boko Haram
Traditionally a safe bastion for children to learn and grow, schools have however become a target of violence in countries worldwide including Nigeria. On the 11th of December, hundreds of students were met with gunshots while they were schooling in the local town of Kankara. Witnesses reported that many boys were subsequently raided by armed men who appeared as security guards to trick the students. Allegedly, these armed men were local bandits from the Nigerian extremist group Boko Haram.
While 334 boys were eventually released on the 18th of December, this abhorring event certainly brought them a significant degree of trauma. A young boy mentioned that during the course of the captivity, they were only given bread and cassava (a type of root) for sustenance in a frigid environment. Sadly, other boys are still missing with no news of them.
How were the boys rescued, then? The Nigerian government perpetually stressed that the bandits were not given any ransom. On the contrary, the boys were set free after federal intervention and negotiations. In the course of the negotiations, the bandits also brought up concerns such as members of the populace killing their cattles.
14th ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM)
On the 9th of December, ASEAN defence ministers met up at the 14th ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM), reaffirming the importance of their close ties as they work together amidst this global crisis. The ministers expressed their support for the continued defence cooperation against disease outbreaks, with enhanced anti-COVID partnership by sharing information, providing medical supplies, controlling cross-border movement, and developing test kits as well as vaccines.
In addition, General Wei Fenghe, the Chinese Defence Minister, also attended the meeting. He reaffirmed the commitment of the Chinese military to enhance pragmatic cooperation with the armies of ASEAN nations in order to face security challenges. Starting off, ASEAN ministers congratulated China on its success in controlling the pandemic and restoring economic growth. They were also willing to work with China to ensure peace in the South China Sea, safeguarding regional peace and stability.
This signifies the work towards stronger cooperation and peace amongst nations in the region, especially when US-China tensions remain rife. For these ASEAN countries, the quandary of who to choose in times of crises may prove to be perplexing, with the two global superpowers constantly setting themselves forth as the better option in a fight against the other. Certainly, many hope these tough times never arise, as they make common cause with each other and attain strong regional support through such meetings.
Philippine Police Shoots Mother and Son on Camera
On the 20th of December, Sonya Gregorio and her son Frank Gregorio were abruptly shot dead by a police officer after an argument. The whole incident was captured on camera, showing a heated argument between the victims and the officer, later identified to be Jonel Nuezca. Nuezca’s daughter was also present at the time of the incident, boasting her father’s authority as a policeman. The argument was abruptly cut once Mr. Nuezca shot Ms. Sonya at point blank range, before doing the same to her son. Witnesses then saw Mr. Nuezca and his daughter simply walking away from the scene.
The graphic video showcasing the brutal killing of mother and son went viral, sparking concerns and outcry over the persistent issue of police brutality in the Philippines. Since 2016, roughly 8000 police killings have occured in the country, as reported by the United Nations (UN). This incident caused further outrage, with many taking to social media, calling out flaws in the country’s system, and many demanding justice be brought upon Mr. Nuezca.
Mr. Nuezca has since turned himself in after the incident. He had previously been changed for 2 accounts of homicide, but were dropped due to a lack of evidence. This time however, “That policeman will be punished — no ifs, no buts”, mentioned Presidential spokesman Harry Roque. It is certain Mr Nuezca will be brought to justice this time around.
Hawker Culture in Singapore Added to UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage List
Reminiscent of the time when a number of Singlish terms were recognised in the Oxford English dictionary way back in March 2016, Singapore’s hawker culture has become the latest among the ranks to be recognised on an international platform. In its fifteenth session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, held online, UNESCO had deemed the local culture to be integral to community bonding, where hawker centres are considered “a social space that embraces people from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds”.
Unlike Taijiquan from China and camel racing from the United Arab Emirates – Oman, both of which are well-known practices heard from across the world, the addition of hawker culture to Singapore’s name is the first successful entry for the small nation. However, this common theme of vibrant urban living and appreciating shared diversity is far from a strange occurrence in cosmopolitan cities everywhere else. As popular opinions become increasingly directed towards equality of the masses, multicultural societies have slowly gravitated towards reconstructing themselves to treat others more fairly. Therefore, although hawker culture may be unique to Singapore, it is universal in proof that eating and living together can be desirable in bringing different people closer to each other.
Initiative Launched to Support People with Disabilities and Build Inclusivity
On the 18th of December, SG Enable and Tote Board launched a $25 million initiative known as the Enabling Lives Initiative (ELI) to support people with disabilities. This initiative includes a S$20 million social innovation grant and S$5 million for public education.
In Singapore, people with disabilities often experience greater difficulty finding stable jobs and hence, find it difficult to be financially independent. According to the Ministry of Manpower, only 28.6 percent of resident persons with disabilities aged 15 to 24 are employed. This can be attributed to the lack of anti-discrimination laws that deter employers from hiring while disabled jobseekers may avoid lodging complaints for reasons such as their unawareness of being victims of discrimination. Furthermore, even with a job, many of these workers face issues such as lower pay, limited variety of jobs and colleagues who are not understanding of their conditions.
Therefore, in order to help and support people with disabilities, the ELI targets projects in the following three areas: living independently, realising potentials and connecting communities. These projects aim to enable people with disabilities to achieve self-sufficiency and engage communities to create more accessible services to promote inclusivity in the community. In addition, the initiative also encourages engagement with key stakeholders such as schools, employers and community groups to allow for better interaction and integration of people with disabilities into these important settings.
We have come to the end of yet another installment of the monthly summary of the happenings around the world, both globally as well as locally. See you next month!
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- Nigeria school attack: Hundreds of boys return home after kidnap ordeal [Online] / auth. BBC // BBC. – December 18, 2020. – December 19, 2020. – https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-55364394.
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- Phua, R. (2020, December 23). They have the skills and qualifications. So why can’t these disabled people find good jobs? Retrieved December 26, 2020, from https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/persons-with-disabilities-jobs-unemployment-discrimination-12542338
- S$25 million initiative launched to support people with disabilities and build inclusivity. (2020, December 18). Retrieved December 26, 2020, from https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/25-million-enabling-lives-intiative-disabilities-tote-board-13800338
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