China investigates Tianjin vice mayor for corruption

BEIJING: China is investigating the vice mayor of the city of Tianjin, the anti-graft watchdog agency said on Monday (Aug 22), the latest senior official to be implicated in a crackdown on corruption.

Yin Hailin, 56, a long-time city planning official who became deputy mayor in 2012, is being investigated for “serious violations of discipline”, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection said in a statement on its website.

It did not elaborate.

President Xi Jinping has made rooting out corruption a cornerstone of his administration. He has warned that the problem was so severe it threatened the survival of the ruling Communist Party.

The party’s anti-graft body has brought to book dozens of senior officials in the crackdown, including many of Xi’s top political opponents.

Several other Tianjin officials have been taken down in the campaign, including Wu Changshun, a former public security boss there.

Yang Dongliang, the former work safety agency chief who was a vice mayor in Tianjin before Yin, was investigated for corruption days after big explosions at a chemicals warehouse in the northern port city killed about 170 people in August 2015.

(Reporting by Michael Martina; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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Earn and Learn Programme launched for energy and chemicals sector

SINGAPORE: To build a pipeline of skilled local manpower for the energy and chemicals sector, the Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA) and Singapore Polytechnic launched an 18-month Earn and Learn Programme (ELP) on Monday (Aug 22). 

Participants of the programme will undergo on-campus training at Singapore Polytechnic, along with structured on-the-job training and mentorship with their employers, which include leading firms in the industry such as Shell, Mitsui and Hyflux.

The minimum starting salary for the job component of the programme is between S$ 1,400 and S$ 2,000 with a shift allowance of S$ 800 to $ 1,100, and participants may also receive wage increments or promotions based on their performance.

WDA said it has placed 26 participants from different polytechnics in eight companies since May this year.

They will be trained in areas such as process principles, design, optimisation and safety, and assessed by industry practitioners from the sector.

Graduates who successfully complete the programme will receive an Advanced Diploma in Chemical Engineering from Singapore Polytechnic, and will have the opportunity to pursue a related degree in the National University of Singapore and the Singapore Institute of Technology-Newcastle University with exemptions in selected modules.  

Speaking to the media on the sidelines of the event, Acting Minister for Education (Higher Education) Ong Ye Kung said the industry lacked manpower, despite its importance to Singapore’s economy.

“This is a traditional sector, one of the backbone industries of Singapore – so it’s very important that we have SkillsFuture initiatives here,” he said.

With S$ 40 billion worth of investments from more than 100 companies, the output from the energy and chemicals sector accounted for nearly S$ 282 billion, or 29 per cent of Singapore’s total manufacturing output in 2015. The sector currently hires more than 40,000 employees.

WDA has rolled out 37 SkillsFuture ELPs across 22 sectors so far and said it aims to raise this number to 40 programmes by the end of the year.

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Heng Swee Keat resumes duties; Lawrence Wong appointed Second Minister for Finance

SINGAPORE: Mr Heng Swee Keat resumed his duties as Finance Minister on Monday (Aug 22), more than three months after he suffered a stroke. An announcement of Cabinet changes from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) on Monday also said Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam has relinquished his appointment as Covering Minister for Finance as well.

Mr Lawrence Wong will be appointed as the Second Minister for Finance, concurrently with his present appointment as Minister for National Development, the PMO added.

The changes were made after Mr Heng’s doctors gave him the go-ahead to resume office work – albeit with minimum interaction – to minimise the risk of infection. Mr Heng has been advised to avoid contact with crowds for at least a few more months, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in his National Day Rally speech on Sunday. 

Mr Lee added that Mr Heng will focus on next year’s Budget and the Committee on the Future Economy (CFE), while Mr Wong will help him out with the operational responsibilities at the Finance Ministry.

In another change to the Cabinet, Ms Sim Ann will be appointed Senior Minister of State in the Ministry of Trade and Industry and relinquish her appointment in the Ministry of Finance. She remains Senior Minister of State in the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth.

The changes take effect from Aug 22.

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Analysis – Justice elusive for slain aid workers on front lines of crises

NEW DELHI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – It was a massacre that shocked the world’s humanitarian community.

Seventeen aid workers were killed outside their office in Sri Lanka’s northeast – executed at point-blank range with automatic weapons in one of the worst attacks on humanitarians.

A decade on, justice remains elusive for families of the victims, all Sri Lankan nationals, says Action Contra La Faim (ACF), the charity where they worked.

“Our colleagues, four women and 13 men, were deliberately executed although they were clearly identified as humanitarian aid workers. It was an unprecedented massacre in the humanitarian sector, constitutive of a war crime,” said Pauline Chetcuti, ACF’s Head of Humanitarian Advocacy and Policy.

ACF has found evidence they were likely assassinated by Sri Lankan security forces and that their attackers must have been shielded by Sri Lankan top authorities, she said.

As aid workers across the globe gathered on Friday to mark World Humanitarian Day, paying tribute to those killed working on front lines of crises, experts say much more needs to be done to ensure perpetrators are held accountable.

In 2015 alone, 109 aid workers were killed, 110 injured and 68 kidnapped in attacks in countries such as Afghanistan, South Sudan, Yemen, Somalia and Syria, according to consulting group Humanitarian Outcomes.

Yet experts say few, if any, of the 148 attacks, which included physical and sexual assault, bombings, shootings and kidnappings, have been independently investigated and satisfactory justice served.

“An attack on an aid worker is an attack on humanity,” said Unni Krishnan, director of Save the Children’s Emergency Health Unit. “For people who are living in such extremely vulnerable and difficult circumstances, these aid workers are sometimes their own line of defence.”


The “Mutur Massacre,” named after the town where the killings took place, occurred on August 4, 2006 during Sri Lanka’s civil war between separatist Tamil Tiger rebels and forces belonging to the majority Sinhalese-ruled government.

The mostly ethnic Tamil aid workers were providing water and sanitation to survivors of the 2004 tsunami when Tiger fighters launched an offensive against government troops for control of Mutur.

Trapped in their office, the workers lost radio contact with their head office.

Two days later, the bloated bodies of 15 aid workers were discovered face-down in the ACF compound, with bullet wounds to their heads and necks. Two other bodies were found in a vehicle nearby. They were killed possibly trying to escape.

ACF, which has campaigned for justice, says the Sri Lankan government investigation was biased and that it has deliberately attempted to avoid prosecuting its own forces.

But last September, the United Nations published its findings, concluding “there are reasonable grounds to believe that members of the security forces committed the extrajudicial executions of the ACF staff.”

Yet the investigation remains at a standstill, ACF’s Chetcuti said.

“There has been no indictment or prosecution. The authors of the crime are still free,” she said.

“Families of the victims have made clear that justice is a key element to allow closure,” she said. “They are suffering twice – from the crime and from the injustice that followed.”


What happened in Mutur, however, is not exceptional. Across the world, many families of slain aid workers have had no form of redress.

This is especially true when victims are nationals of the country. Often violence is intensified where a government is incapable or unwilling to provide security for its population.

In recent years, hospitals and clinics run by aid agencies in countries such as Yemen, Syria and Afghanistan have been increasingly targeted by state forces as well as militants.

On Monday, a hospital run by Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) was hit in an air strike in northern Yemen, killing 19 people and injuring 24 others. It was the fourth and deadliest attack on MSF facilities there this year.

As a result, the medical charity said it was being forced to evacuate its staff from hospitals in Yemen, where civil war has raged for more than a year.

The charity said despite sharing GPS coordinates of its hospitals and clinics with the Saudi-led coalition government trying to quell Yemen’s insurgency, aerial bombings of its health facilities continue.

In October last year, 42 people, including 12 aid workers, were killed when MSF’s hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan was hit in a U.S. air strike. In response, the group demanded an independent humanitarian commission be activated.

Such a commission was never activated, and a U.S. military investigation concluded the bombing was not a war crime and was caused by human error, equipment failure and other factors.

Sixteen service members faced disciplinary action over the air strike. Pentagon officials said payments of US$ 6,000 were made to victims’ families and US$ 5.7 million would be given to rebuild the MSF hospital.

“The number of hospitals that have been destroyed over the past years is utterly shocking,” said Andre Heller Perache, MSF’s head of programmes and former head of mission in Yemen.

“It should warrant a unanimous outcry from world leaders, but this is not happening,” he said. “If news of hospitals being destroyed, patients killed in their beds and doctors torn apart in bomb blasts happens with such frequency that it somehow becomes normalized, what does it say about our humanity?”

Experts say there is often no real follow-up because organisations may not be certain who the perpetrators are and the region may be too remote and insecure for aid groups to investigate further and find witnesses.

Attacks also happen in countries where law and order is not transparent and judicial structures are weak and susceptible to corruption. Often charities do not have the power to push for independent inquiries.

Adele Harmer from Humanitarian Outcomes, which publishes an annual report on aid worker security, said the group seeks to identify both motive and perpetrator when compiling data on attacks but found information was not always easy to come by.(

Only about 60 percent of aid worker deaths can be attributed to a motive and perpetrator, said Harmer.

“The high profile cases like Mutur and Kunduz are clearer, but the vast majority are not high profile and are often utterly undocumented. As a result, it is incredibly difficult for organisations to do something about it.”

Humanitarians say to reduce such attacks, aid groups must demand accountability and better monitoring of compliance to International Humanitarian Law to keep perpetrators from acting with a sense of impunity.

Creation of an independent special rapporteur for protection of humanitarian aid workers is under discussion at the U.N. and could be a welcome solution, they said.

“There is currently no robust, coordinated system in place to deal with this,” said Krishnan. “It’s just individual agencies when their own colleagues are attacked.

“It is desperately needed today due to the occurrences of more and more of such incidents.”

(Reporting by Nita Bhalla, Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, land rights and climate change. Visit

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Former CEO of SingPost Wolfgang Baier joins cosmetic distributor Luxasia

SINGAPORE: Former Group Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Singapore Post (SingPost) Dr Wolfgang Baier has joined fragrance and cosmetic distributor Luxasia as its CEO.

The appointment of Dr Baier will be key to Luxasia’s overall growth strategy as it strengthens its capabilities to reinforce its position as Asia’s trusted beauty brand, a media release said on Wednesday (Aug 17). 

Dr Baier resigned from Singpost in Dec 2015. He had joined Singpost in Feb 2011 as CEO (International) to oversee the development of SingPost’s international wing and was appointed as Group CEO in October 2011.

The owner of Luxasia Mr Patrick Chong said: “Wolfgang has proven leadership capabilities, vast knowledge and skills in areas such as Customer Relationship Management and omni-channel retail experiences, which will strengthen Luxasia’s future offerings.”

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Pressure, not injuries, led to Rio defeat: Singapore paddler Feng Tianwei

SINGAPORE: It was the pressure of bringing home another medal for Singapore that dogged her performance at the 2016 Olympic Games and not injuries, revealed national table tennis player Feng Tianwei on her return from Rio de Janeiro.

Feng and the rest of the women’s table tennis team –  Yu Mengyu and Zhou Yihan – were greeted with a warm reception when they arrived at Changi Airport on Friday afternoon (Aug 19). A crowd of about 200 people was observed at the airport.

Speaking to the media, Feng said she was heartened by the support shown, despite not bringing home a medal from the Games. She is currently Singapore’s most bemedalled athlete at the Olympics.

The last time the team had returned home from the Olympics empty-handed was in 2004 Athens Olympics.

“In the bronze-medal match against Japan, I was too caught up in winning another medal for Singapore,” said Feng. “Because in 2008 and 2012, I took medals home, so I hoped even more to win yet another. Maybe it’s the pressure that’s gone up a notch, and I couldn’t properly handle it. So I conceded two matches and I feel quite guilty for it.”

Coach Chen Zhibin, who was brought in to helm the team just a few months before, said dealing with the immense pressure was something Feng had to overcome by herself.

“No one else can help you,” the coach said. “Whether at the Asian Games, Olympic Games or other major games, you’ll face great pressure. It’s difficult to imagine such levels of stress coming from the regular competitions. So it’s an experience (for her).”

Feng also said she is hoping to represent Singapore at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, where a more diverse team could be wearing Singapore’s colours.

President of the Singapore Table Tennis Association Ellen Lee said: “All the development plans we have in place are actually geared towards future Olympics, where we will send more local-born Singaporeans to the world stage.

“In fact, I was hoping that through this process we will be able to drop the difference between local-born or foreign-born. Because all we know is that you need a long time to train a good player for any sport for that matter, and we need to let that time elapse before you can see that after all the training, all the effort that they put in, (that) they’re able to measure up at the world stage.”

Ms Lee said these players will need more international exposure and the association will look to send them for more overseas stints.

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North Korea diplomat in UK defects to South with family – South Korea

SEOUL: South Korea said North Korea’s deputy ambassador in London, Thae Yong Ho, had arrived with his family in South Korea, making him the highest-ranking diplomat ever to defect to the South

Thae defected to the South due to discontent with the regime and for the future of his child, Jeong Joon-hee, a spokesman at the South’s Unification Ministry, told a news conference.

Jeong declined to give details on the timing of Thae’s arrival or his itinerary.

“They are currently under government protection and relevant institutions are going ahead with necessary procedures as usual,” Jeong said.

(Reporting by Ju-min Park; Editing by Tony Munroe)

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Brands’ fix for retail woes in Singapore: Flagship stores?

Amid a deteriorating retail outlook, flagship stores seem to have struck a chord with retailers looking for a revival plan. But will this be enough?

SINGAPORE: The weak sentiment which continues to dog Singapore’s retail scene has paved the way for several retailers, both domestic and international, to opt for a downsize or head for the exit door.

However, the industry is also seeing a slew of new flagship store openings or expansions, a trend that may come as a surprise given the challenging retail environment brought about by multiple challenges such as an economic slowdown, as well as lacklustre consumer and tourist spending.

Since the start of the year, the likes of French sporting goods retailer Decathlon, Italian fashion house Valentino and German luxury leather goods maker Braun Buffel have launched brand-new flagship stores in Singapore, while French high-fashion label Hermès and Swiss watch manufacturer Patek Philippe reopened theirs following multi-month renovation works. The latter’s refurbished store, managed by SGX-listed watch retailer Cortina Watch, is four times larger than its previous space, making it Patek Philippe’s biggest flagship store in Southeast Asia.

And the latest to join the party is multi-brand beauty retail giant Sephora, which relocated and opened its flagship store along Orchard Road nearly three weeks ago. Footfall has been heavy at the sprawling store of 10,000 square feet situated at a prime position at ION Orchard’s basement 2, as witnessed by this reporter who visited it on four separate occasions. And shoppers that Channel NewsAsia spoke to mostly gave the revamped layout and added experiential retail elements the thumbs up.

Clearly satisfied with the reception thus far, the French brand said in an email interview that despite the tough retail sector, Sephora remained “committed to growing its presence in Singapore and Southeast Asia”.

In fact, its 11 stores across the island still see “healthy sales”, with the original flagship store at ION Orchard ground level being among Sephora’s top 10 stores globally in terms of revenue, said managing director for Southeast Asia Mathieu Sidokpohou.


Cushman & Wakefield’s research director Christine Li attributed the trend of flagship store openings to softening rents and the freeing up of previously hard-to-come-by retail spaces in Singapore – both outcomes of the ongoing retail downturn.

As “options for strategic locations” increased, retailers are seizing the opportunity to secure longer leases for larger spaces at lower rents, while attempting to improve efficiency by consolidating operations, added Euromonitor International’s analyst Jocelyn Cheung.

Decathlon, for instance, signed a 15-year lease for its 35,000-square-foot store at Viva Business Park in Chai Chee. Chief executive Bastien Grandgeorge told Channel NewsAsia that the sports retailer is in Singapore for the long haul, and aims to use the local market as a launchpad for the region.

“Singapore is already quite a mature market in terms of sports offerings, and has a very active market in terms of sport practice. This is a huge potential for our company,” said Mr Grandgeorge. “Central to Southeast Asia, Singapore is ideally located for us in terms of logistics for all our new projects to come… We do believe that succeeding in Singapore will be a great start for our activity around the region.”

The sprawling flagship store in Chai Chee is Decathlon’s first outlet in Singapore. Prior to that, consumers could only purchase sporting products from its e-commerce site. (Photo: Decathlon)

Meanwhile, US lingerie brand Victoria’s Secret and fashion label Michael Kors have also signed longer-than-usual leases of 10 and seven years, respectively, according to earlier reports. Both are due to open their first flagship stores at Mandarin Gallery on Orchard Road by the end of the year.


But with the headwinds in the retail sector unlikely to go away anytime soon, is this the saving grace for retailers?

Experts say flagship stores – megashops with attention-grabbing interior designs, and usually opened to much fanfare – can be a booster for brand presence and awareness.

“The sheer size allows these global brands to scale up their physical presence with impressive and expensive flagship stores that showcase who they are and what they have to offer,” Mr Samuel Tan, course manager of retail management at Temasek Polytechnic’s business school, said.

“Instead of just appealing to the usual shopping crowd, such retailers are often more elaborate with visual displays using props, materials, lighting and aesthetics to enhance their brand presence and showcase how they want their brand to be seen,” he added.

Take Braun Buffel’s flagship boutique at Marina Bay Sands. The 1,500-square-foot store is a departure from the established label’s staid and conservative image. Evidently more colourful and vibrant, the boutique featured Braun Buffel’s trademark leather extensively in the form of an Italian fine-grain leather wall and bespoke leather armchairs in the lounge area, alongside Oak hardwood flooring with Herringbone designs.

The store design overhaul at the Singapore flagship store, which comes alongside the 129-year-old label’s venture into new segments, is part of the brand’s strategy to keep up with changing trends, owner and managing director Christiane Brunk told Channel NewsAsia in an interview in April.

The store at Marina Bay Sands is the first in the world to roll out Braun Buffel’s brand new design concept. (Photo: Tang See Kit)

Flagship stores, armed with a wider variety of products consolidated in one location and increasingly centered upon a “showroom” concept where shoppers enjoy unique in-store experiences, also serve as the latest strategy for brick-and-mortar retailers in their battle against e-commerce.

Euromonitor’s Ms Cheung said: ” Online marketplaces appeal to customers for their one-stop shopping experiences. Thus, retailers are trying to incorporate modern technologies in (an) attempt to win over customers… Flagship stores magnify their retail positioning through extensive showcases of products, fun and interactive in-store concepts under one roof.”

At Sephora, cosmetics brand Make Up For Ever’s “sushi bar” counter, which features a conveyor belt for shoppers to pick up makeup items in bento boxes, is an example of an “innovative physical store display” that e-commerce players would find it hard to replicate, Ms Cheung said.

Make Up For Ever’s “Sushi bar” counter complete with “bento boxes” of makeup. (Photo: Tang See Kit)

Also going big on experience is Decathlon which offers testing zones for its sports equipment and pick-up stations for customers to collect their online purchases.

“We believe that in order to create a very long-term confidence and loyalty, the sport experience must start directly in our stores. That is why we aim to rent and present to our customers the largest experience zone in stores… to allow everyone to test and enjoy our products, or just to discover a new sport before a purchase,” Mr Grandgeorge said. ” You do not come just for shopping, you come to enjoy a sports experience.”

Still, it is not entirely a foolproof strategy.

Mr Tan noted that costs could be a “long-term liability”, especially amid tricky retail conditions. “The store needs to meet the bottom-line and not just function as a museum. While the location attracts a higher flow of traffic, there must be a strong reason to entice shoppers to spend.”

Expectations and interests among customers for new and exciting concepts also mean that flagship stores may feel the heat to refresh their offerings frequently so as to remain attractive, he added. By doing so, more costs may be incurred over the long run.


Despite that, observers say the flurry of swanky new flagship store openings will likely be here to stay for the time being.

Apart from Victoria’s Secret and Michael Kors, Japanese casual wear brand Uniqlo is also due to unveil a massive store by the end of the year. Singapore could also be home to Apple’s first Southeast Asia flagship store at the Knightsbridge mall in Orchard Road, even though the US tech giant has thus far declined to confirm the store’s opening date.

According to Cushman & Wakefield’s Ms Li, retailers will likely be more generous “in terms of fitting out the new flagship stores and space taken” and continue to veer towards a “showroom-style” concept.

Uniqlo, for instance, has said it would offer a “new shopping experience” when its three-storey store spanning 2,700 square feet opens on Sep 2. Apart from boasting the most extensive product line-up in the region, the store will also be equipped with “innovative, high-tech displays”, according to a press release dated March.

Another Japanese lifestyle brand Muji, which recently opened its tenth outlet equipped with a cafe at Raffles City, also announced earlier this year that a flagship store is in the works.

In July, Muji launched its second Cafe&Meal Muji in Singapore. Besides offering new items on the menu, the new outlet is much bigger than its first cafe at Paragon. (Photo: Muji Singapore)

Responding to a query from Channel NewsAsia, general manager of Muji Singapore Jasmine Sng confirmed that the flagship store will likely open its doors by the third quarter of 2017. Prior to that, its Ion Orchard outlet will reopen on Sep 22 following a near two-month facelift.

Even as Muji recognises the “tough and competitive” retail climate in Singapore, it will continue its expansion plans in the city-state. In fact, the opening sales performance of its latest outlet at Raffles City was “relatively positive”, Ms Sng wrote in an email response.

“Muji will continue to expand in Singapore, and will focus on developing large size stores. We will likely have a large flagship store by the third quarter of 2017 (and) may bring in more categories of products such as Found Muji, Muji Books and Muji Infill.”

Follow See Kit on Twitter @SeeKitCNA

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Artist Zai Kuning chosen to represent Singapore at Venice Biennale 2017

SINGAPORE: Local multidisciplinary artist Zai Kuning, working together with curator and art historian June Yap, will be representing Singapore at Venice Biennale 2017.

The National Arts Council (NAC) made the announcement on Wednesday (Aug 17) at Gillman Barracks Block 9, the very space where Zai will be working on his art from September for the next six months till February 2017 in the lead up to the 57th Venice Biennale.

The prestigious international contemporary art event, which will start its run on May 13 and culminate on Nov 26 next year, remains an important platform to showcase Singapore’s visual artists on the international stage.

With Zai in the driver’s seat, Singapore’s contribution to the art event next year will highlight the Malay diaspora. Zai and Yap’s proposal, entitled Dapunta Hyang, is a culmination of more than 20 years of research by Zai on Malay culture and history in Southeast Asia – as part of a broader inquiry on identity. This includes him having spent more than a decade with and creating work on the Orang Laut (sea gypsies) — the pre-nation and pre-colonial inhabitants of both island and sea in the region. 

As the only Singaporean artist exploring our collective regional history through the pre-Islamic Srivijaya era, Zai explained how the project allows him to “delve deep into a history and heritage of Southeast Asia not commonly found in history books on the Malay peoples and culture”.

Besides the history of the Srivijaya empire, considered as the first large Southeast Asian state of “world economic stature” of its time, Dapunta Hyang also points to history of the Malay language and the establishment of Old Malay as the region’s lingua franca.

Zai Kuning, Dapunta Hyang – Transmission of Knowledge (2015) in collaboration with Mohamad Riduan. Commissioned and presented by Esplanade, Singapore at the Concourse on Jan 15 – April 19, 2015 as part of its Visual Arts programme. (Photo: Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay) 

He said: “As an aesthetic project, it is not a presentation of history in material and object, or as ideology and in politics. Rather it is about a sense of fellowship and solidarity that arises from knowing who we are.

“I am keen to have audiences spend time reflecting upon the elements the work combines: of craft in the sculpture of the ship, the subject of knowledge as embodied in the waxed books, the portraits of islanders and Mak Yong, and the voice of the Mak Yong master who speaks in a language rarely heard now in Singapore and Malaysia, even Indonesia.”

Zai explained that this is not merely about a passing of information, and that the receiver’s imagination is very essential to this process.

“Dapunta Hyang is thus a prompt and a means to attend to this history and the knowledge that go back in time,” he continued. “Not just from 50 or 200 years ago, but centuries, back to the 7th century, in order to understand what and who we are, and the actions and even accidents that brought us here.”

Zai Kuning, Dapunta Hyang – Transmission of Knowledge (2014–2015). (Photo: Ota Fine Arts)

Last year, the NAC signed a 20-year lease on the Singapore pavilion to mark its long-term commitment to this Biennale. Zai and Yap’s proposal, which was selected by a Commissioning Panel comprising representatives from NAC and the arts community, will show at the Singapore Pavilion in Venice’s historic Arsenale.

For Kathy Lai, CEO of NAC and Co-Chair of the Commissioning Panel, selecting the 20-year passion project was a discernible choice. “Dapunta Hyang invites us to reflect on the region we are in, its past and how its heritage has been transmitted through the trajectories of empire, language and culture,” she said.

“Zai’s proposal stood out strongly as it spotlights forgotten stories of a people whose culture influenced what we recognise as ‘Southeast Asian’ today. The uncovering of forgotten histories will, I believe, strike a chord with the international audience at the Venice Biennale.”

As for the artist himself who has previously presented at Ota Fine Arts (2014), the Institute of Contemporary Arts Singapore (2014), Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay (2015), Art Basel Hong Kong (2015) and Palais de Tokyo (Paris, 2015), Dapunta Hyang will be Zai Kuning’s most complex and intricate installation to date. Audiences in Singapore will have the opportunity to preview the work in progress and interact with Zai at the studio space in Gillman Barracks, before both artist and installation leave for the Venice Biennale. Dapunta Hyang is scheduled to be freighted from Singapore to Venice in February 2017, while Zai leaves for Venice in April/ May 2017. 

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Japan PM Abe sends ritual offering to Yasukuni shrine for war dead

TOKYO: Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sent a ritual offering to a shrine for war dead on Monday, the anniversary of Japan’s World War Two defeat, but did not visit the shrine seen in China and South Korea as a symbol of Tokyo’s wartime militarism, an aide said.

Visits to Yasukuni Shrine by top Japanese politicians outrage China and South Korea because it honours 14 Japanese leaders convicted as war criminals by an Allied tribunal, along with war dead.

Abe has not visited in person since December 2013, when he said he did so to show respect for those who died for their country.

(Reporting by Kento Sahara; Editing by Paul Tait)

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