The Straits Times' best read Opinion pieces of 2017

SINGAPORE - From humorous columns to serious analysis of foreign policy and warnings about the education system, these are some of the best-read Opinion commentaries of 2017.

1. Three key issues in the Lee v Lee saga by Han Fook Kwang

The family feud among the Lees is extremely damaging to Singapore. Everyone can see this even if they do not understand all the complex details that have emerged from this sorry saga.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong recognises this only too well and has apologised to the nation for the grief it has caused.

The many issues that have been raised can be confusing, from the different versions of the will to which lawyer was involved in which deed.


2. Is Singapore becoming an old young country? by Han Fook Kwang


When MRT trains first started breaking down in 2011, the initial reaction was surprise, even disbelief.

How could it happen in super-efficient Singapore where everything works?

And wasn't the MRT still a relatively young and new system?


3. 3 myths about Singapore-China ties by Chua Mui Hoong


Much chatter online and off has taken place on why Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong did not attend the inaugural Belt and Road Forum in Beijing, which took place from May 14-15 in 2017.

The event organised by China had heads of state and government from 29 countries attending, including seven out of 10 from Asean.

Singapore was represented by National Development Minister Lawrence Wong. Two schools of thought prevailed: China snubbed Singapore. No, it was Singapore that didn't want to take part.


4. The opposite of Retrenchment is Resilience by Chua Mui Hoong

Mr Anthony Tan (left), Deputy Chief Executive Officer, and Mr Ng Yat Chung, Chief Executive Officer, at SPH full-year results announcement media conference on Oct 11, 2017.

The week of Oct 13 was emotional for many of us in Singapore Press Holdings (SPH), especially in The Straits Times (ST) where I work.

The retrenchment of over 30 of our colleagues in the ST newsroom, part of the 130 retrenched from across the SPH company, has sent many into a tailspin of emotions.

This was the first retrenchment exercise I observed up close. Here are my takeaways.


5. The damage wrought by Lee family feud by Tom Plate

After my first trip to Singapore, as a Los Angeles Times columnist for my first interview with Mr Lee Kuan Yew, then titled Senior Minister, I returned home feeling I had seen something special and had met someone special.

This was in 1996. Back then, the average American thought of the place as no more than a "caning and chewing gum" circus.

How silly and uninformed that view was.


6. Qatar: Big lessons from a small country by Kishore Mahbubani


As a long-time student of geopolitics (for over 46 years), I am rarely surprised by geopolitical developments.

There is an almost inevitable logic to them. Let me cite an example.

Many Western observers reacted with shock and horror when Russia seized Crimea in violation of international law. Yet, this was an almost inevitable blowback from the reckless Western expansion of Nato onto Russia's doorstep. Geopolitical follies have serious consequences.


7. Don't study law by Simon Chesterman

Students across Singapore are currently considering university programmes in which they have been offered a place. They routinely seek advice from family and friends, as well as attend open houses and read material on official websites and social media.

But what if they could give themselves advice? Letters of the Law is a student-led initiative that asks law graduates to write to their younger selves.

In this letter, I write to my younger self at age 18, during the year I spent studying Chinese at the Beijing No. 2 Foreign Languages Institute before returning to start university in Australia.


8. Guys, please stop saying 'bro', 'dude', and 'mate' by John Lui

Men only use "bro" to add a layer of sugar over a hard nugget of compressed fertiliser.

Listen: You have to stop saying "bro". I'm your friend, and I have to tell you that you sound like an idiot when you use "bro", or "dude", and "mate".

You are not allowed to use "bro" the same way your parents cannot use "cool". It does not sound right in your mouth. I cringe for you.


9. Let's kill the drill approach in schools by Bobby Jayaraman

Singapore's primary school pupils are busier than a McKinsey consultant.

The kids disappear before 7am to toil in school till 2pm. Then most - an estimated 70 per cent, as per surveys - move on to continue their drilling at one of the constantly sprouting tuition centres across the island.

The reward for this gruelling regimen is - hopefully - a high test score in the PSLE.


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