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Prince Harry heartbreak: The crushing tragedy which left the Sussex couple brokenhearted

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Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are currently quarantining together in Los Angeles after they stepped back from royal life in spring. The Duke of Sussex made a virtual appearance yesterday at the first Diana Award on what would have been his mother’s 59th birthday. But it is not only his grief he has struggled with this week after a truly devastating mystery at a spot where couple’s love was “rooted”.

Prince Harry surprised young people with a congratulatory video message on behalf of himself and Prince Wiliam for the first-ever Diana Award ceremony on Wednesday.

During his message, he spoke of his mother and how she would have been proud of the young people’s work.

Prince Harry said: “I know that my mother has been an inspiration to many of you and I can assure you she would have been fighting your corner.

“Like many of you, she never took the easy route, she never took the popular one, or the comfortable one.

“But she stood for something. And she stood up for people who needed it.”

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As he commemorated what would have been his mother’s 59th birthday, news broke of another charity in a country beloved by Prince Harry and Meghan: Botswana.

Harry and Meghan visited Botswana for Meghan’s 36th birthday in August 2017.

Speaking of the visits the couple took in the country during their engagement interview, Prince Harry said: “We met once and then twice back-to-back, two dates in London last July, at the beginning of July.

“Then it was, I think about three or maybe four weeks later that I managed to persuade her to come and join me in Botswana.

“We camped out with each other under the stars…Then we were really by ourselves, which was crucial to me to make sure that we had a chance to get to know each other.”

Sadly the country has been struck by tragedy after 169 elephants have been found dead over the last two months.

Director of conservation at UK-based charity National Park Rescue Dr Niall McCann said colleagues in the southern African country had spotted more than 350 elephant carcasses in the Okavango Delta since the start of May.

Harry and Meghan visited the Okavango Delta, known as the king of the African safari, during their visit in 2017.

Lab results on samples have been sent to be tested, but results could be weeks away according to the Government.

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Dr McCann told the Guardian: “This is a mass die-off on a level that hasn’t been seen in a very, very long time.

“Outside of drought, I don’t know of a die-off that has been this significant.”

According to the explorer biologist, the main possibilities are poisoning or an unknown pathogen.

Dr McCann added: “When we’ve got a mass die-off of elephants near human habitation at a time when wildlife disease is very much at the forefront of everyone’s minds, it seems extraordinary that the government has not sent the samples to a reputable lab.”

Botswana is home to a third of Africa’s elephants and 10 percent of these are located in the region impacted by this mysterious affliction which has killed hundreds of elephants.

Locals have said both male and female elephants of all ages have died.

Reportedly the elephants have been seen tumbling around in circles before they die, suggesting they may have been neurologically impaired.

People living nearby say they have seen several more elephants looking weak, which means the number of deaths could increase further.

This tragic event is heartbreaking for animal lovers around the world, but it is likely to be particularly devastating for Prince Harry and Meghan who visited this region and perhaps met some of the now-dead elephants.

The couple have often shared their passion for elephants over the years.

For World Elephant Day on August 12 last year, the couple posted unseen images from their trip in 2017 on the Sussex Royal Instagram account.

In addition, Meghan featured as the narrator in the Disneynature documentary Elephant released earlier this year.

Speaking of her love for elephants, she said: “I think they’re a lot more like us than they are different.”

She added: “I’ve been very lucky to have hands-on experience with elephants in their natural habitat.

“When you spend time connecting to them and other wildlife you really understand that we have a role to play in their preservation and their safety.”

Disney also announced they would be donating money from the film to the Elephants Without Borders charity in Botswana, which the couple visited in 2017.

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World News

Young woman kidnapped and robbed at London’s Waterloo station

CCTV images have been released after a young woman was robbed and kidnapped at Waterloo station in London.

British Transport Police (BTP) believe the man pictured may have information that could help the investigation.

The victim, in her late teens, was approached by a man at Waterloo station at about 2.30pm on Wednesday.

BTP say he initially asked for help before following her when she ignored him.

A spokesperson said he then grabbed her arm, forced her to a ticket machine and made her buy a top-up for his Oyster travel card.

“He then forced her to board a Jubilee line to Westminster Tube station where the victim was able to alert station staff at around 3.45pm,” the spokesperson said.

The suspect then walked away and exited the station, police say.

Anyone who recognises the man, or who has any information, is asked to contact BTP by texting 61016 or by calling 0800 4050 40 quoting reference number 301 of 01/007/20.

Alternatively, people can call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

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Economy

UPDATE 1-IMF urges Ukraine to keep central bank independent as governor's exit rattles market

(Adds details, background)

KYIV, July 2 (Reuters) – The International Monetary Fund urged Ukraine on Thursday to maintain the independence of the central bank after Governor Yakiv Smoliy unexpectedly resigned, citing “systematic political pressure”.

The negative fallout from Smoliy’s resignation prompted the finance ministry to say it was not going ahead with a planned offering of dollar-denominated Eurobonds.

Smoliy’s resignation, if accepted by President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, risks derailing a $5 billion deal agreed with the IMF last month to fight an economic slump caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite reassurances from Zelenskiy’s office on Wednesday, Smoliy’s resignation sent sovereign bonds down by more than two cents and the local hryvnia currency down to its lowest level since April against the dollar.

“Under his leadership, Ukraine has made important strides in achieving price stability, amply demonstrating that an independent central bank is a key element of modern macroeconomic policymaking,” an IMF spokesman said in a statement.

“That is why the independence of the NBU is at the centre of Ukraine’s Fund-supported programme, and why it must be maintained under his successor.” (Reporting by Matthias Williams and Natalia Zinets, Editing by Timothy Heritage)

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Actress Zoe Tay celebrates stepmother on her birthday

Actress Zoe Tay – local television’s “Big Sister” – wished her stepmother a happy birthday on Instagram on Tuesday.

The 52-year-old posted a photo of herself sharing a laugh with her stepmother, Madam Wong Pong Chin, whose face is obscured in the picture.

Tay, who has long referred to Madam Wong as her mother, wrote in Chinese: “Mummy, happy birthday. I hope you stay healthy and happy every day. Thank you for ensuring that I eat well, dress well and sleep well.”

She added in English: “You’re (an) amazing woman, thanks for raising me.”

Tay’s biological mother died in an accident when she was three. She was the youngest of six children. Her father later remarried and had a daughter with Madam Wong.

In a 2017 interview with The Straits Times, Tay said of Madam Wong: “She gave a lot of love to our family, so we all respect her a lot. So it’s no difference to me that she’s not my blood mum.”

She did not disclose the exact age of her stepmother, whom she calls the “most beautiful woman”, but said she is in her 80s.

Tay also jokingly chastised herself as a “lazy daughter” who has not inherited Madam Wong’s “first-class cooking skills”.

The star looks forward to the day she can travel again with her family, when border closures caused by the Covid-19 pandemic are lifted.

Tay’s fellow colleagues – including veteran actresses Aileen Tan and Hong Huifang, as well as younger stars like Bonnie Loo and Zhang Zhenhuan – have left comments wishing Madam Wong well on her birthday.

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Myanmar: At least 113 die in jade mine landslide

The miners were ‘smothered by a wave of mud’ caused by heavy rain, officials say.

A landslide at a jade mine in northern Myanmar has killed at least 113 people, officials say, warning the death toll is likely to rise further.

The incident took place early on Thursday in the jade-rich Hpakant area of Kachin state after a bout of heavy rainfall, the Myanmar Fire Services Department said on Facebook.

“The jade miners were smothered by a wave of mud,” the statement said. “A total of 113 bodies have been found so far,” it added, raising the death toll from at least 50.

Photos posted on the Facebook page showed a search and rescue team wading through a valley apparently flooded by the mudslide.

‘No one could help them’

Maung Khaing, a 38-year-old miner from the area, said he saw a towering pile of waste that looked on the verge of collapse and was about to take a picture when people began shouting “run, run!”

“Within a minute, all the people at the bottom [of the hill] just disappeared,” he told Reuters news agency by phone.

“I feel empty in my heart. I still have goosebumps … There were people stuck in the mud shouting for help, but no one could help them.”

Tar Lin Maung, a local official with the information ministry, said authorities had recovered more than 100 bodies.

“Other bodies are in the mud. The numbers are going to rise,” he told Reuters.

Fatal landslides are common in the poorly regulated mines of Hpakant, the victims often from impoverished communities who risk their lives hunting the translucent green gemstone.

The government of Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi pledged to clean up the industry when it took power in 2016, but activists say little has changed.

Official sales of jade in Myanmar were worth $750.4m in 2016-2017, according to data published by the government as part of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.

But experts believe the true value of the industry, which mainly exports to China, is much larger.

Northern Myanmar’s abundant natural resources – including jade, timber, gold and amber – have also helped finance both sides of a decades-long conflict between ethnic Kachin and the military.

The fight to control the mines and the revenues they bring frequently traps local civilians in the middle.


101 East

Myanmar’s Jade Curse

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Museum or mosque? Top Turkey court to rule on Hagia Sophia

ISTANBUL (AFP) – Turkey’s top court convened on Thursday (July 2) to consider whether Istanbul’s emblematic landmark and former church Hagia Sophia can be redesignated as a mosque, a ruling which could inflame tensions with the West.

The Council of State evaluated a case brought by several associations during a short hearing and will announce its decision on the fate of the Unesco World Heritage site within 15 days, state broadcaster TRT reported.

The sixth-century edifice – a magnet for tourists worldwide with its stunning architecture – has been a museum since 1935, open to believers of all faiths.

Despite occasional protests outside the site by Islamic groups, often shouting, “Let the chains break and open Hagia Sophia” for Muslim prayers, authorities have so far kept the building a museum.

Hagia Sophia was first constructed as a church in the Christian Byzantine Empire in the sixth century but was converted into a mosque after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453.

Transforming it into a museum was a key reform of the post-Ottoman authorities under the modern republic’s founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

But calls for it to serve again as a mosque have sparked anger among Christians and tensions between historic foes and uneasy Nato allies Turkey and Greece.

‘HIGH-PROFILE SYMBOL’

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said last month the decision was for the highest administrative court – known as the Danistay – adding: “The necessary steps will be taken following the verdict.”

But Mr Erdogan also said last year it was time for Hagia Sophia to become a mosque as it had been a “very big mistake” to convert it into a museum.

“The Danistay decision will likely be a political one. Whatever the outcome, it will be a result of the government’s deliberation,” said Ms Asli Aydintasbas, fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations.

But she said the government will weigh several issues, including relations with Greece, Europe and with the US, where “religion is an important matter”.

Mr Anthony Skinner of the risk assessment firm Verisk Maplecroft said converting Hagia Sophia into a mosque would “kill at least two birds with one stone” for Mr Erdogan: He could cater to his Islamic and nationalist base, and sustain if not exacerbate tensions with Greece, while seeking to cast Turkey as a formidable power.

“Erdogan could not find a more high-profile and potent symbol than Hagia Sophia to achieve all these goals at once,” he told AFP.

The Turkish leader has in recent years placed great emphasis on the battles which resulted in the defeat of Byzantium by the Ottomans, with lavish celebrations held every year to mark the conquest.

Muslim clerics have occasionally recited prayers in the museum on key anniversaries or religious holidays.

TURKS DIVIDED

Greece closely follows the future of Byzantine heritage in Turkey and is sensitive to the issue as it sees itself as the modern successor to Orthodox Christian Byzantium.

Greek Culture Minister Lina Mendoni, who sent a letter of protest to Unesco last week, said the move “rekindles national and religious fanaticism” and is an attempt to “diminish the monument’s global radiance”.

She accused Turkey of using the monument “to serve internal political interests”, arguing that only Unesco had the authority to change Hagia Sophia’s status.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday urged Turkey to keep Hagia Sophia as a museum, and to ensure it remains accessible to all.

“The United States views a change in the status of the Hagia Sophia as diminishing the legacy of this remarkable building and its unsurpassed ability… to serve humanity as a much-needed bridge between those of differing faith traditions and cultures.”

Turks are divided over its status.

Istanbul shoemaker Mahmut Karagoz, 55, said he dreams he can one day pray under the dome of Hagia Sophia.

“It is a legacy by our Ottoman ancestors. I hope our prayers will be heard. This nostalgia must come to an end,” he told AFP.

However, economics student Sena Yildiz said she believes Hagia Sophia should stay as a museum.

“It is an important place for Muslims, but also for Christians and for all those who love history,” she said.

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Coronavirus: Hungary rejects EU request to add non-members to safe travel list

BUDAPEST (REUTERS) – Hungary will not comply with a European Union request to add non-EU countries to a “safe” travel list, except for Serbia, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said.

The 27-member bloc gave majority approval on Tuesday (June 30) to leisure or business travel from 14 countries beyond its borders in a move aimed at supporting the EU travel industry and tourist destinations.

The countries are Algeria, Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, Montenegro, Morocco, New Zealand, Rwanda, Serbia, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia and Uruguay.

“For the time being, we cannot support the EU’s request… because this would go against the healthcare interests of the Hungarian people,” he said in a video posted on his Facebook page on Thursday.

Serbia, Hungary’s only southern neighbour which is outside the EU, is home to a large ethnic Hungarian minority.

Italy, which has one of the highest Covid-19 death tolls in the world, has also said it would opt out and keep quarantine restrictions in place for all nations that were not part of the free-travel Schengen area.

For people transiting through Hungary to other countries, Hungary would reinstate a “humanitarian corridor” that was in place at the peak of the first wave of the pandemic in Europe, Mr Orban said.

“Anyone travelling through Hungary will have to use this (corridor),” Mr Orban said. “They will not be allowed to leave this path and we will keep strict border controls in place.”

As of Wednesday, Hungary has reported 4,157 coronavirus cases with 586 deaths.

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The singer whose murder sparked Ethiopia protests

More than 80 people have been killed in two days of unrest in Ethiopia following the killing of prominent singer Hachalu Hundessa.

The 34-year-old had emerged as a powerful political voice of the Oromo ethnic group, and had made many enemies during his musical career.

Two suspects were arrested after he was shot dead while driving in the capital, Addis Ababa on Monday evening. However, police have not yet revealed a motive for the killing and no charges have been brought against the suspects.

Hachalu is due to be buried later on Thursday.

BBC Afaan Oromoo’s Bekele Atoma writes about the musician who was a thorn in the flesh of successive governments.

A former political prisoner who grew up looking after cattle, Hachalu rose to become one of Ethiopia’s biggest music stars, mesmerising fans with his songs about romance and political freedom – topics that he easily blended into his lyrics.

Hachalu’s father, who used to work in the electricity department in the city of Ambo, aspired for his son to become a doctor, but he showed little interest in medicine.

However, from an infant, Hachalu showed a passion for music and singing, with the encouragement of his mother, while he looked after cows on the family’s farmland on the outskirts of Ambo in the Oromia region, the heartland of Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group, the Oromo.

“I used to sing whatever came to my head,” he recalled in a BBC Afaan Oromoo interview in 2017.

Jailed for five years

One of eight children, Hachalu was born in 1986 in Ambo – a city about 100km (60 miles) west of the capital, Addis Ababa.

It was at the forefront of the campaign by Oromos for self-rule in a nation where they felt repressed under a government that had banned opposition groups and jailed critics.

Hachalu went to school in Ambo, and joined student groups campaigning for freedom.

At the age of 17 in 2003, Hachalu was imprisoned for five years for his political activities.

His father kept his morale high in prison, telling him during visits that “prison makes a man stronger”.

Hachalu became increasingly politicised in prison, as he increased his knowledge about Ethiopia’s history, including its rule by emperors and autocrats.


Whilst incarcerated in Ambo prison he also developed his music skills.

“I did not know how to write lyrics and melodies until I was put behind bars. It is there that I learned,” he said in the 2017 interview.

During his time in jail, he wrote nine songs and released his first album Sanyii Mootii (Race of the King) in 2009, a year after walking free.

Refused to go into exile

The album turned him into a music star, and a political symbol of the Oromo people’s aspirations.

However, he played down his political role, saying: “I am not a politician, I am an artist. Singing about what my people are going through doesn’t make me a politician.”

Many other musicians and activists fled into exile fearing persecution under the rule of then-Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and his successor Hailemariam Desalegn but Hachalu remained in Ethiopia and encouraged the youth to stand up for their rights.

One of his songs was about how he fell in love with a girl who was proud of her identity and was willing to die for it.

‘Gallant warriors and horsemen’

His second album Waa’ee Keenya (Our Plight) was released in 2013 while he was on a tour in the US. It became the best-selling African album on Amazon at the time.

Two years later, he released a powerful single, Maalan Jira? (What existence is mine?), referring to the eviction of Oromos from Addis Ababa and its surrounding areas, after the government decided to expand the boundaries of the city.

For Hachalu, the 2015 displacements showed that history was repeating itself.

He shared the view of Oromo historians that what is currently known as Addis Ababa was once the home of the Tulama clans of the Oromo, and they were forced out by Emperor Menelik II.

In June, Hachalu angered the emperor’s supporters after he accused Menelik II of stealing the horses of Oromos – who see themselves as gallant warriors and horsemen – when he established Addis Ababa as his seat of power, and Ethiopia’s capital in 1886.

Hachalu’s songs became the anthem of the protest movement which emerged in 2015 to demand an end to the displacement of Oromos.

At a time of heightened protests at the end of 2017, Hachalu released another song.

“Do not wait for help to come from outside, a dream that doesn’t come true. Rise, make your horse ready and fight, you are the one close to the palace,” he sang, often to cheers from his fans.

‘Singer was fearless’

The protests snowballed into a campaign for greater political freedom, culminating with Ahmed Abiy becoming the first Oromo to take the post of prime minister in 2018 with a promise to release all political prisoners, unban opposition groups and hold democratic elections.

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Two months after Mr Abiy took office, Hachalu was invited by the government to perform at a concert held in honour of Eritrea’s President Isaias Afeworki, who was visiting Ethiopia for the first time since the end of a border war between the two neighbouring states.

Hachalu proved to be as independent and fearless as ever, singing about the need to achieve justice for people who had been killed in conflict in eastern Ethiopia between the Oromo and Somali ethnic groups, and questioning how a concert could be held when families were grieving.

Government officials later criticised him for singing “inappropriate” songs for the occasion, but it increased his popularity.


Although he sang only in Afaan Oromoo, his songs – especially those which called for greater political freedom in Ethiopia – saw him build a fan base across all ethnic groups.

Hachalu lived in Addis Ababa, where he was shot dead on Monday evening.

While the motive for the killing is unclear, he often spoke of receiving death threats from people who disagreed with him politically.

“Music is my life. It got me friends and foes. But it remains a tool that I use to speak for my people, a tool that I use to express my deepest feelings,” he said three years ago.

Following his death, his supporters took to the streets in several cities and towns to pay tribute to him, resulting in clashes with the security forces that left at least 50 people dead and the arrest of more than 30, including the prominent Oromo politician, Jawar Mohammed.

Carrying Oromia flags, some of his supporters chanted: “One day we will be free. Hachalu, the blood you shed won’t be in vain.”

He is survived by his wife of 10 years, Fantu Demissie, and their two daughters.

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Coronavirus: In change of tone, Trump says he's 'all for masks'

After long opposing wearing a face mask, US president says he has no problem with it but federal mandate not needed.

After long resisting wearing a face mask in public during the coronavirus pandemic, US President Donald Trump has now struck a different tone, saying he is in favour of the protective covering. 

“I’m all for masks. I think masks are good,” Trump told Fox Business in an interview on Wednesday.

The Republican president’s comments came a day after politicians from his party suggested he wear a mask in public to set a good example as the number of daily coronavirus cases in the United States exceeded 50,000 for the first time on Wednesday

“If I were in a tight situation with people, I would absolutely,” Trump said in the interview, adding that people have seen him wearing a mask before.

Yet, Trump has faced criticism for refusing to wear a mask, whether at the White House where officials and aides are tested regularly, or in public settings. 

The president did not wear a mask when he visited a medical swab manufacturing plant in Maine on June 5 to tout increased production of testing supplies. In May, he was briefly required to wear a mask while visiting a Ford manufacturing plant in Michigan but took it off before he appeared in front of media cameras.

“I don’t want to give the press the pleasure of seeing it,” Trump said at the time.

In early April, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended people wear cloth face coverings in public settings where other physical distancing measures were difficult to maintain.

Trump immediately undercut the CDC guidance by flatly stating that he would not be following it, suggesting it would be unseemly for the commander-in-chief to wear a mask as he meets with heads of state.

But on Wednesday, he sounded a different tone, saying he liked the way he looked wearing it.

“It looked like the Lone Ranger,” he said, a reference to the fictional law-and-order character who wore a black eye mask. “I have no problem with that, and if people feel good about it, they should do it.”

Spikes in Texas, California

Cases have been spiking again in the US, which leads the world both in confirmed coronavirus cases and related deaths, at more than 2.6 million and 128,000, respectively.

In recent days, many Republicans and members of the White House coronavirus task force have been more outspoken in advocating for people in the US to wear face masks in public settings as infections have surged in the country’s south and west including in the states of Texas and California.

Last month, the World Health Organization updated its guidance on face masks, recommending they should be worn in public areas where there is a risk of transmission and physical distancing is not possible.

The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, former Vice President Joe Biden, said last week he would pursue a federal mask mandate if elected. In the Fox interview, Trump suggested a federal mandate was unnecessary and continued to frame mask-wearing as a matter of choice.

Even so, Trump criticised Biden for wearing a mask while being some distance away from his audience and for speaking through the covering at times.

“When there’s nobody around, I don’t see any reason to be wearing it,” Trump said in a separate interview on Wednesday on “America This Week”.


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Donald Trump calls COVID-19 ‘kung flu’ at rally

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Politics

Singapore GE2020: Ong Ye Kung takes down video showing young boy as it violates election rules

SINGAPORE – Education Minister Ong Ye Kung has removed a three-minute video from his Facebook page, featuring a young boy living in Sembawang, after he was informed the video violates election rules.

“I had a nice conversation with a boy Jony who lives in Sembawang about how it is a good place to grow up. Jony is a great sport, we had a good chat, and we put up a short (video),” said Mr Ong in a Facebook post on Thursday (July 2).

“However, we have been informed by authorities that this is not in line with electoral rules. We have therefore taken down the video. We are sorry for any inconvenience caused.”

The Parliamentary Elections Act prohibits primary and secondary school students from taking part in election activities between Nomination Day and Polling Day.

This means they are not allowed to appear in a video or take part in activities to promote a political party during this period.

“While this prohibition does not apply outside of this period, political parties should refrain from inappropriate use of young children who will not fully understand what they may be promoting or subjecting themselves to,” the Elections Department website says.

Mr Ong is running for re-election in Sembawang GRC, where he has been overseeing the Gambas ward.

The video shows Mr Ong in conversation with Jony, a boy in school uniform who lives in Sembawang Crescent.

“What are the places in Sembawang that you like?” Mr Ong asks him in the video.

He replies he likes Canberra Park, the beach and the hot springs park. And Mr Ong responds that “there was nothing” in that area before Sembawang GRC MP Lim Wee Kiak decided to “make this into a nice park”.

The minister also explains the concept of Build-to-Order (BTO) Housing Board flats to Jony.

“Sembawang is growing, with more and more people moving into Sembawang, because it is a happening place, it is a fun place,” Mr Ong says.

“I’m explaining all this to you so that you know, if you support us, these are all the things we will deliver and make life better for you.”

Jony then asks Mr Ong: “But what if you guys don’t get elected?”

This prompts Mr Ong to reply: “Good point.”

The video ends with the phrase “Sayang Sembawang” and “Make Sembawang Special” before the People’s Action Party (PAP) logo is shown.

Singapore GE2020: Get full election coverage on our dedicated site here.

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