And on Saturday: Top 10 malu moments of 2016 (Part 1)

Dec 17, 2016 12.00PM |

by Felix Cheong

IT’S a given that no year is complete without its share of boo-boos and gaffes. Sometimes, it’s just bad luck or bad timing; other times, poor foresight or even poor eyesight.

Whatever it is, 2016 was certainly rich in face-palm moments. Kicking off our roundup of the year, here’s my selection of the 10 most malu episodes in Singapore:


1. The Bermuda Triangle field

Beware, ye who liveth in Kim Keat Avenue. Beware the evil field that doth taketh a liking to anything with wheels.

An SMRT driver obviously didn’t heed this warning. While trying to take an off-service bendy bus on off-the-beaten-track shortcut in September, he found himself stuck in the field behind Block 195.

The obligatory tow truck came, but the field wasn’t obliging – it held the bus captive for some 10 hours.

You would’ve thought other drivers would do well to stay away. But no.

Two months later, an ambulance found itself mired in the same Bermuda Triangle – again, while trying to take a shortcut.

The rescue vehicle was itself “rescued” a few hours later.

Singapore Pools is currently taking bets that a third incident will take place anytime soon.


2. Self-driving into an accident

In the brave new world of artificial intelligence, machines are all about timing and precision. In October, that impeccable timing was put to the test.

Just a day before the Land Transport Authority (LTA) announced a trial run of driverless buses plying the Nanyang Technological University campus in 2018, a self-driving car unceremoniously hit a lorry at Biopolis.

Talk about bad timing. And the accident happened despite two engineers being onboard the nuTonomy vehicle travelling at a low speed. Why they didn’t hit the brakes is a mystery only a computer can figure out.

No injuries were reported, since a bruised ego isn’t technically reportable.

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3. Can’t get own house in order

Not to be outdone, SMRT – the butt of most of my jokes in my column this year – experienced a similar synchronicity in September.

First, it reported to the Singapore Exchange it was bidding for a public rail project in Bandung, Indonesia.

Fate, however, didn’t take kindly to SMRT biting off more than it can chew. The very next day, the Bukit Panjang LRT broke down for six hours – not the first, and certainly wouldn’t be the last.

It got so bad that a high-level SMRT executive opined that scrapping the entire line was one of the options being considered.

This was later dismissed as “not feasible” by Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan.

Which makes you wonder: If SMRT can’t even get its own house in order, why is it setting up house in someone else’s backyard, all the way in Indonesia? Payback time for the haze?


4. Putting your foot where your mouth is

Just when you thought we’ve evolved millennia away from the “Me Tarzan, You Jane” mentality, out pops lawyer Edmund Wong.

In August, while defending a student from China charged with molest, Mr Wong brought up two big reasons – or more politically incorrectly, the victim’s breasts.

He asked her to stand up so the court could see how attractive she is and said (this is so cringe-worthy it’s worth quoting verbatim): “I want to show that if she is wearing a very low cut (top) with a very voluptuous breast protruding out, (of a) half cut (top), then of course…the higher the tendency that people might commit such an offence.”

Maybe the district judge took offence at his bad English. Or the fact that anatomically speaking, breasts usually come in a pair, not one. Whatever the reason, he was not amused. Sentencing Mr Wong’s client to five months’ jail, he hauled Mr Wong over the coals for his unacceptable behavior.

That’s not the end of his comeuppance. The Attorney-General’s Office has already filed a complaint against him to the Law Society.

Little wonder Mr Wong was the unrivalled winner of this year’s Alamak! Award, a tongue-in-cheek prize given by women’s rights group AWARE for the most blatant and annoying instance of sexism.


5. Foot-in-mouth disease

Celebrities, of course, are not immune to the foot-in-mouth disease. In fact, by their very public presence, every Freudian slip or slip of the tongue becomes a big deal in a social media cup. Two outstanding examples this year: Mediacorp actresses Rebecca Lim and Rui En.

In February, Ms Lim had supposedly called time on her acting career in an Instagram post: “I’m retiring. I know you may have questions for me and I will answer them real soon. Meanwhile, be happy for me.”

Fans were shocked. The media was intrigued. But before you can say gostan, she clarified it was just a publicity stunt for NTUC Income.

Fans were more shocked. The media was more intrigued.

It didn’t help that NTUC Income’s head of strategic communications came up with a gobbledegook explanation: “We wanted to introduce the concept of retiring as a journey. Therefore that word was used. If you notice, we didn’t say ‘retiring’ to what. It was very generic.”

Needless to say, the whole campaign was “retired” – to thy kingdom (in)come.

Two months later, fellow actress Rui En also found herself in the centre of a social-media maelstrom.

She had knocked over a motorcycle while trying to park her car in a carpark in Clementi Avenue 2. The owner of the damaged bike confronted her but she said: “Do you know who I am?”

I’m sure that’s how they settle disputes in China. But not in Singapore. If there’s any quote this year pithy enough for a T-shirt, this would be it.

Rui En had since apologised for her choice of words and in July, was charged in court and fined $700 on one count of careless driving.


Part 2 of Top 10 malu moments of 2016 will be published next week.


Featured image by Sean Chong.

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