Voting in inaugural ST award pays off

Ms Kwek (left) and Mr Tan (right) each won a $100 shopping voucher for taking part in a public vote for the winner of the inaugural Straits Times Singaporean of the Year award.
Ms Kwek (left) and Mr Tan (right) each won a $100 shopping voucher for taking part in a public vote for the winner of the inaugural Straits Times Singaporean of the Year award. PHOTO: DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

For taking part in a public vote for the winner of the inaugural Straits Times Singaporean of the Year award, retiree Johnny Lim, 65, received a $100 shopping voucher.

But he has decided, instead, to give his prize to Madam Noriza A. Mansor, who was announced as the winner last week.

Madam Noriza had first made the news for helping an elderly stranger, Mr Tan Soy Yong, who had soiled himself in a Toa Payoh supermarket in 2014.

Since then, she has befriended Mr Tan and his wife, Madam Lee Bee Yian, spending nearly all of her days off visiting the couple at their three-room flat in Potong Pasir and, later, in various hospitals and nursing homes.

"I was very touched by Madam Noriza's actions. She looks small in size, but I think that she stands tall in our society.

"When I took part in this voting exercise, I did not realise that there was a prize. But I think she deserves it more," said Mr Lim, who declined to be photographed.

The Singaporean of the Year award, supported by the bank UBS Singapore, seeks to recognise Singaporeans whose extraordinary acts of goodwill, ingenuity or perseverance improved their community and the lives of others. There were 10 finalists, including Paralympian swimmer Yip Pin Xiu, 24, and former businessman Ben Cheong, 56, who founded a charity to support the poor and displaced in Thailand and other Asian countries.

A total of 2,793 votes were cast on the ST website between Jan 12 and Jan 28. The results from the public vote were taken into consideration by a panel of 15 judges, comprising editors and senior writers from the ST newsroom, as well as celebrities and community leaders, like singer Kit Chan, youth leader David Hoe and chef Willin Low.

Two others who had taken part in the vote also walked away with $100 shopping vouchers. Senior operations manager Kwek Puay Sang, 42, and financial analyst Joren Tan, 25, had both voted for Mr Cheong.

"It was hard to compare all the winners... But Mr Cheong created a sustainable system that provided education for children for many years, which was something that was difficult to accomplish," said Mr Tan.

Added Ms Kwek: "It must have been quite emotionally taxing for Ben to be on the ground, working with so many children who needed help. It is not something that I could have handled myself."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 12, 2016, with the headline 'Voting in inaugural ST award pays off'. Print Edition | Subscribe