Voting open for Singaporean of the Year 2021 till Jan 7

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Who will be named The Straits Times Singaporean of the Year 2021? The ST award, presented by Swiss bank UBS, is an annual award given to a Singaporean individual or group that has made a positive and sustainable impact in society.

SINGAPORE - Inspiring athletes, courageous community heroes and advocates championing their chosen causes are among the nominees for this year's The Straits Times Singaporean of the Year award, presented by global wealth manager UBS Singapore.

Public voting for the award, now in its seventh year, begins on Saturday (Dec 25) and will close in two weeks, on Jan 7 at 7pm.

Ten nominees have been revealed over the past few months.

The award recognises Singaporeans whose extraordinary actions improved someone's life or the larger community.

It also pays tribute to Singaporeans who have put the country on the world map or persevered to overcome great adversity.

A panel of judges comprising Straits Times editors, UBS representatives and individuals who have made their mark in various fields will make a final decision on the winner in January, while also taking into account the results of the public vote.

The winner will be announced at an award ceremony on Feb 9 at UBS Singapore's office at 9 Penang Road.

Mr Warren Fernandez, editor-in-chief of SPH Media's English, Malay and Tamil Media Group and editor of The Straits Times, said: "We have another impressive slate of finalists. From a world champion sportsman to a champion of mental wellness causes, to a successful hawker entrepreneur, as well as a selfless person who gave part of his liver to a stranger and a kind couple who offered free groceries to anyone who needed it in their community.

"They are all amazing. They reflect the kind of society we want to be, and the kind of Singapore we are proud to belong to."

He added: "As always, my colleagues and all our judges are going to have a very hard time picking one winner, as they are all worthy winners and an inspiration to us all, especially in these challenging times."

Over the years, the award has been given to outstanding Singaporeans in various fields.

Last year, it went to the Covid-19 front-liners, who had poured their blood, sweat and tears into the nation's fight against the virus.

Representatives of the nation's front-liners, including National Centre for Infectious Diseases executive director Leo Yee Sin and Professor Ooi Eng Eong, a co-developer of the Covid-19 vaccine, Lunar-Cov19, received the award.

Prof Ooi said he had been "blown away" by the citations of the other nominees last year as they had contributed so much to society - hence winning was a surprise.

He added that this year's nominees have also been "truly inspirational".

He said: "This may come across as cliche but the award was truly humbling. I pursued a career in infectious disease research as I wanted to contribute new knowledge and solutions to medicine.

"To me, getting this award is an affirmation that what my lab and colleagues have done is valued but at the same time, tells me that much is expected of us to be even better and faster in coming up with solutions to tackle future pandemics."

The 2019 award recipient, Associate Professor Angie Chew, who started Brahm Centre in 2012 to provide free health education among other services, said each of this year's candidates is deserving in view of the commitment to the cause he or she believes in.

"They serve with passion and are inspiring to others," she added.

Prof Chew added that winning the award is a "recognition to be lived up to every day".

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Mr Edmund Koh, president of UBS Asia Pacific, said the award recognises the many role models in Singapore society who have shown outstanding acts of kindness, bravery and creativity.

"This is in tandem with our purpose at UBS, where we reimagine the power of people and investments to create a better and more sustainable world.

"By highlighting the extraordinary feats that fellow Singaporeans have achieved, this accolade reinforces the values that we collectively hold dear as a society; values such as empathy, resilience and tenacity that will stand us in good stead through the good and bad times," he noted.

"We see this award as having an enduring value. This year's nominees feature a stellar line-up of individuals from diverse backgrounds. Their inspiring stories show us the good in people and the best of the human condition - that we can rise above adversity to accomplish great things for our community."

The Singaporean of the Year will get a trophy and $20,000, presented by UBS, which has supported the award since its inauguration. Other individuals or groups chosen as finalists by the panel of judges will receive $5,000 each.

The top award recipient will also receive a five-night stay at any of Millennium & Copthorne Hotels' global properties, while the other finalists will get a three-night stay.

Singapore Airlines is sponsoring a pair of business class tickets for the Singaporean of the Year, and a pair of economy class tickets for the other finalists.

John Cheng: Helping local food start-ups grow and reach wider markets

Mr John Cheng is stepping up to the plate. As chairman of open innovation platform Feed 9 Billion, he hopes to find a sustainable solution to feed the global population, which is expected to hit nine billion in 2050.

The 39-year-old founder of Innovate 360, an accelerator for food start-ups, is nurturing local businesses and helping them to grow.

Mr Cheng, who is also director at his family's sugar manufacturing business Cheng Yew Heng, is passionate about food innovation and sustainability, and emphasises that collaboration is key.


Sakthibalan Balathandautham: He donated part of his liver to a baby he had never met

<p>Mr Sakthibalan Balathandautham (second from left) entertaining Rheya, two, with a toy dinosaur while her parents, Mr Sunil Jayakumar and Ms Ruthra Saravanan, look on. Mr Sakthibalan donated 23 per cent of his liver to Rheya on Sept 30, 2020. He was dis

He called the couple at about 1am, after he had spent several hours reading up on transplant procedures.

Sales executive Sakthibalan Balathandautham, 28, had come across their plea on Instagram for someone to donate part of his or her liver to their one-year-old daughter Rheya.

A few weeks after her birth in July 2019, Rheya was diagnosed with biliary atresia - a rare disease in infants where the bile ducts in the liver are inflamed, blocking bile flow to the gall bladder. It eventually leads to liver failure.


Lynn Wong: Defender of Chinese heritage and culture

Being young as well as female makes Ms Lynn Wong, 32, somewhat of a rarity in Chinese clan circles.

But that does not daunt her in her aim to rejuvenate interest in Chinese culture through new ways of winning over the young.

Ms Wong, a heritage consultant and researcher, made the highly unorthodox step of giving up her PhD in business studies in 2016 to chase this goal.


Asanul Fariq Sani and Norhasyimah Awaludin: Giving free groceries with no questions asked

The livelihood of Mr Asanul Fariq Sani and his wife Norhasyimah Awaludin was affected when the canteen stall they were operating at a school had to close during the circuit breaker last year.

But when they saw how other families were struggling to put food on the table during the Covid-19 pandemic, they felt they had to help. One family had nothing but a pack of instant noodles.

Starting with taking food to a few households in need, they eventually turned the space outside their unit at Block 268 Tampines St 21 into a place for free groceries.


Yip Pin Xiu: Inspirational para-swimmer and disability advocate

Backstroke specialist Yip Pin Xiu, 29, won two gold medals at the Tokyo Paralympic Games earlier this year to add to her haul of two medals each at Beijing 2008 and Rio 2016. It is a record that would make any athlete green with envy.

Her inspirational feats year after year were the result of hard work, tenacity and personal sacrifice - Tokyo was her fourth Paralympics, and capped 13 years of pushing herself at an elite level.

Ms Yip, who has Charcot-Marie Tooth disease, a progressive nerve condition, also holds the world records for the S2 50m backstroke and S2 100m backstroke, both of which she achieved at the 2016 Games.


Joan Poh: She pursued her Olympic rowing dream while working as a nurse

Rower Joan Poh did not let her Olympic dream sink without a trace.

The staff nurse, 30, who was kept busy during the pandemic, debuted at the Tokyo Games earlier this year, having qualified at the last opportunity.

Despite a modest finish of 28th out of 32 athletes, her journey to Tokyo has made waves among many.


Abdul Malik Hassan: Crave founder wants to help other food business operators

It is easier to satisfy your craving for nasi lemak, thanks to Mr Abdul Malik Hassan.

The 49-year-old has successfully taken his father's nasi lemak business into shopping malls. There are now 45 Crave - The Original Adam Road Nasi Lemak By Selera Rasa outlets in places such as Bugis Junction, AMK Hub and Paya Lebar Square.

Mr Malik, who took over his father's Selera Rasa stall in Adam Road Food Centre 17 years ago, now wants to make use of his experiences to help other food and beverage owners.


Porsche Poh and Silver Ribbon: Advocates for mental health

When Ms Porsche Poh, 50, started Silver Ribbon (Singapore) in 2006 to dispel the stigma linked to mental illness, she was told she was crazy.

Ms Poh, the charity's executive director, said: "Some people looked at me like I was an alien. I had to beg for attention to focus on mental health issues and the stigma against it. I had to beg for funding. It was really tough."

The situation has taken a big turn for the better. Mental health has been in the spotlight amid the Covid-19 pandemic and many initiatives have been rolled out - by the Government, agencies and ground-up groups - to address the issues.


Johnson Chia Yong Lee and Azlee Abdul Shukor: Duo got driver out of harm's way in Seletar Expressway crash

After a car skidded on the Seletar Expressway and crashed into a wall, the female driver lost consciousness and smoke spewed out from the vehicle.

But that did not deter Mr Johnson Chia Yong Lee, 28, from stopping his car to offer help in the Nov 2 incident. "I was just worried something worse was going to happen to her," he said.

Mr Chia, who works in event production, managed to unlock the car door through a shattered window. The woman, who had regained consciousness, had contusions and bruises after the airbag was activated.


Loh Kean Yew: Rising badminton star makes national history

Badminton fans here made a racket last Sunday (Dec 19).

Powerful smashes, quick lunges and deceptive strokes - Singaporeans watched in awe as rising badminton star Loh Kean Yew showcased his skills against his more experienced opponent - India's world No. 14 Srikanth Kidambi - in the final of the World Championships.

Loh, 24, who was unseeded, won in two sets, sealing his fairy-tale run that began by claiming the scalp of Denmark's world No. 1 and Olympic champion Viktor Axelsen in the opening round.


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