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Singapore—There seemed to be quite a number of quotable quotes in 2020 that had us chuckling, shaking our heads, or making us want to chuck our phones out the window, staring wide-eyed and thinking, “I can’t believe he/she said that!”

Other sayings, however, made us want to stand up and shout three cheers.

Most of 2020’s eminent quotes came courtesy of the pandemic and the GE, quite naturally.

PS: We still can’t decide if Chan Chun Sing or Josephine Teo is the most quotable political leader for 2020, although Jamus Lim and his cockles are giving them a run for their money.

Either way, Happy New Year from The Independent Singapore!

1. Xia Suay

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Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing kicked off 2020’s quotables when he did not mince words concerning panic buyers in Singapore and Hong Kong in a speech in February.

Yes, we refer back to the famous leaked audio from a closed-door meeting with the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCCI).

Regarding the panic buying that had ensued after the DORSCON alert had been raised to orange, Mr Chan said, “Why did the run happen? You know, run on the supermarket, right? Actually ah, this one ah, I damn ashamed. You know why? Xia suay.

“Some of us, just a small group behaving like idiots will kill all of us… Every country can behave like idiots, Singaporeans must not behave like idiots.”

Some Singaporeans even said that xia suay should be the word of the year, courtesy of our very own Minister Ah Beng.

2. Errrr…

Our next entry is from Ho Ching, Temasek CEO and wife of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

In April, Mdm Ho, whose Facebook feed is a gift that keeps on giving,  shared a link to an article from Taiwan News entitled, ‘Taiwan to donate medical masks to Singapore,’ with the short and rather cryptic caption of “Errrr….”

Unfortunately, this was perceived as an ungracious response by many netizens, especially the Taiwanese, according to Taiwan News.

After she put her post up, different people started spamming Mdm Ho’s Facebook wall with the comment “Errr…” regardless of the topic of her post. Even when she posted a YouTube link to a song by Irish singer Enya, people wrote “Errr…”

She later amended her post to add, “To all our friends and friends of friends in Taiwan, a huge thank you to all that you have done, and please know that I’m forever grateful.”

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3. “The luxury of the benefit of hindsight…”

Minister Lawrence Wong has had a largely successful year, co-chairing the multi-ministry task force tasked to deal with all the issues related to the pandemic, which was a herculean feat indeed. Judging from the small number of deaths and new infections in the country, he did his job very well.

His low point in the year was likely during March and April when Covid-19 spread among migrant worker dormitories, which probably cost him some sleepless nights.

At a press conference in early April, he said that if he had known about the widespread cases in the dorms, he would have done things differently, and added, “Unfortunately, we do not have the luxury of the benefit of hindsight.”

Migrants workers advocates had drawn attention to the condition in the dormitories since January, saying that the cramped, and sometimes unhygienic conditions could lead to an unchecked spread of the virus.

4. “I have not come across one single migrant worker himself that has demanded an apology.”

Manpower Minister Josephine Teo has a history of being quotable, on topics ranging from how much space a couple needs to make babies to the price of milk.

In May, Ms Teo came under fire from critics again for a comment she made in Parliament about migrant workers. Former Nominated MP Anthea Ong asked if the Government would apologise for the “dismal conditions” in the dormitories,” particularly because they are in “complete lockdown for the sake and safety of Singaporeans.”

The minister answered, “I think what they are focused on is how they can handle this present situation, to not fall sick…that their wages are being paid, how to send money home. These are the things they have asked of us. I have not come across one single migrant worker himself that has demanded an apology.”

5. “Cotton – don’t have too many sheeps in Singapore”

Chan Chun Sing came up with another head-scratcher in late May, when he said during a virtual doorstop that cotton comes from sheep.

Speaking to the press about how Singapore is reliant on trade from other countries, he said that while the country can produce some items including masks, it still relies on the many natural resources from other countries.

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He said, “cotton – (we) don’t have too many sheeps in Singapore”.

A day later he clarified that a lack of sleep caused him to misspeak. “I had a good laugh too when I was told that I spoke too fast in a video interview yesterday about cotton and sheep.

To anyone (especially young children) watching the video – cotton definitely doesn’t come from sheep, it comes from cotton plants!”

6. The East Coast Plan

During July’s General Election, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat ran for a seat at East Coast GRC, which came as a surprise to many, since he had served as MP at Tampines GRC for nine years.

It seemed to have caught the DPM by surprise as well, judging from his much-memefied speech on Nomination Day.

“We also have a plan for the East Coast. We have a East Coast Singapore… We have a together at East Coast Plan. We care at East Coast.”

Until today, the East Coast Plan lives long in our hearts, with Mr Heng taking all the good-natured ribbing in stride.

7. “What we’re trying to deny them is a blank cheque”

Some people might say that 2020 was the year of Jamus Lim. The WP politician and economics professor won the hearts of many during the campaign period from the get-go.

During a live debate where he more than held his own against seasoned leaders such as Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, Dr Lim gave the quote of the night and pretty much set the winning tone for the Workers’ Party when he said, “What we are trying to deny the PAP is not a mandate. What we’re trying to deny them is a blank cheque.”

Of course, this was refuted the next day by PAP stalwarts Chan Chun Sing and Indranee Rajah, but by then Dr Lim had already caught everyone’s attention.

8. “Warms the cockles of our hearts”

During the same debate, Dr Lim also famously brought back a long-forgotten phrase into everyday use. He said that it “warms the cockles of our hearts to be able to work for the people of Singapore, and for all Singaporeans.”

The word has become inextricably linked to Dr Lim, to the point of him saying that he’s been banned from using it completely.

However, while he hasn’t said cockles in a while, he was seen sporting a “cockles” mask during a workout, which caught netizens’ eyes.

9. “I made improper remarks, and I have to be accountable for them”

Dr Lim’s fellow MP from Sengkang GRC, Ms Raeesah Khan, made headlines of her own for being an example of how to make a public apology and to take responsibility for her actions.

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Ms Khan, who contested for the first time last July, made the news during the election period when two police reports were filed against her for online remarks she had made in the past that “promoted enmity between different groups on grounds of religion or race.”

In her apology, she said, “My intention was never to cause any social division, but to raise awareness to minority concerns.

I apologise to any racial group or community who have been hurt by my comments. My remarks were insensitive, and I regret making them.

I feel passionate about minority issues, regardless of race, and in my passion, I made improper remarks, and I have to be accountable for them.”

Ms Khan, an activist from her teenage years, made history in 2020 when she became Singapore’s first female Malay opposition politician and at 27, the youngest Member of Parliament.

10. “Free rider”

In Parliament, last September, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong made his now-famous “free rider” remark that did not go over well with the opposition.

In his debate with Workers’ Party head and Leader of the Opposition Pritam Singh, PM Lee said, “But if you say, vote for me, somebody else will vote for the PAP, and therefore the PAP will be the Government, that the economists would call a free rider.”

Mr Singh responded to this by saying that WP MPs work hard to prove their worth to the residents, which could be seen in their victories at Aljunied, Hougang and the newly-formed Sengkang GRCs.

They are “not free riders,” he added.

Dr Jamus Lim later joined the fray on social media, writing that voters chose the WP to represent them, which means they are not “free riders,” as did People’s Voice leader Lim Tean, who wrote in a Facebook post, “How to get rid of free riders in Parliament? Abolish the GRC system.”


Read also: Year Ender 2020: The top local stories that made Singapore headlines

Year Ender 2020: The top local stories that made Singapore headlines

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