Capturing the year that 2019 was

Malaysians@Work Initiative

Getting a job after leaving university is a scary thought for all fresh graduates as the pressure of employment is hard. With the new incentives under Budget 2020, it is good news for all graduates.

The Malaysians@Work initiative announced on Oct 11 saw numerous incentives being given to unemployed graduates. Under this initiative, graduates who secure a job after being unemployed for more than a year will receive an incentive of RM500 a month from the government for two years while employers will receive a hiring incentive of up to RM300 a month for each new hire over two years.

The Malaysians@Work initiative will also create 350,000 jobs under Budget 2020.

Greener Earth

A report by the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration shows that the Earth is greener than it was 20 years ago, thanks to the two most populous countries. China and India have widespread vegetation covering their land.

China is active in tree planting while in India, over 80,000 people planted 50 million trees in 24 hours. Not only that, both apply innovative technology in agriculture. This led to the increase in greening Earth. A greener Earth means reduced pollution and better wildlife conservation.

The future of our planet does indeed rest in our hands.

Ban On Plastic Straws

Many are aware of the effects of plastics on our environment. Single-use plastic such as plastic bags, polystyrene and disposable plastic materials is reported to pollute the sea and endanger marine life. A study published earlier this year estimated that over 8.3 billion plastic straws were polluting beaches all over the world.

The ban on plastic straws has been in effect since January in Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya and Labuan while Selangor started on July 1. The policy is aimed at bringing awareness and encourage reusing, recycling and reducing plastic to curb environmental pollution.

Public Transport Incentive

Local commuters can now benefit from the Government’s initiative in the monthly Unlimited Travel Pass available since January.

There are two types of passes offering different services. The package My50 is for use on Rapid KL buses and MRT feeder buses while My100 is for use on all MRT, LRT, Monorail, BRT, Rapid KL buses and MRT feeder buses. It is aimed at spurring the use of public transport and ease the cost of living. As of March, 87,348 people have subscribed to the My100 package. Not only does it save money, it also saves the environment from more petrol emissions!

Amazon Rainforest Fires

On Aug 21, fires broke out in the Amazon rainforest. The fires destroyed the homes of many indigenous tribes and threatened the lives of animals. Man-made wildfires darkened the skies in major cities.

The burning of the Amazon rainforest, also known as the lungs of the planet, is a global disaster for people everywhere. The Amazon is home to millions of animals and a source of life for humans too.

People voiced their concerns on social media with hopes that immediate action would be taken to stop the fire.

This tragedy has opened the eyes of many on how important it is to take care of our forests for we rely greatly on them.

Notre-Dame Burning

For more than 850 years, the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris has been standing tall, its beauty for all to see. However, a fire broke out on April 15, shocking the whole world.

An electrical short-circuit was said to have caused the fire and it took about nine hours to fully put it out. No deaths were reported but one firefighter was injured while trying to save the historical church. It is not only an important religious site but is also a famous tourist attraction.

More than a billion dollars were donated towards its recovery and Notre-Dame Cathedral is currently in a rebuilding process.

1MDB trial

The world’s attention on former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak does not appear to have abated. The SRC International defence trial, where he is accused of misappropriating RM42mil, is the first of Najib’s six criminal cases. The Pekan MP was recently on the stand to read his 243-page witness statement where he denied any wrongdoing.

His downfall has been closely linked to the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) scandal. The scandal’s mammoth scale spanned across countries and was investigated by the US Department of Justice apart from local authorities. SRC International Sdn Bhd is a unit of 1MDB.

Najib is the first former prime minister of Malaysia to be charged with a criminal offence. He has claimed trial to a charge of abuse of power and three counts of criminal breach of trust. He is also being charged with three counts of money laundering involving the same RM42mil. In the second case, dubbed the 1MDB trial, he is accused of four counts of using his position in the misappropriation of RM2.28bil in 1MDB funds as well as 21 counts of money laundering involving the same monies. In his third case, Najib is accused of using his position to gain protection from a civil disciplinary action related to tampering of the 1MDB audit report.

Australian Bushfires

Australia was hit with bushfires and Ellenborough Lewis or widely known as Lewis the Koala gained media attention when it was rescued from the devastating bushfire. The record-breaking drought and bushfires threatened the population of koalas.

People from all over the world knitted little mittens for koalas which suffered burned paws. Animal rehabilitation centre, Port Macquarie Koala Hospital in Sydney created the “Help Thirsty Koalas Devastated by Recent Fires” on GoFundMe, which raised over RM4mil. The excess funds would be used to establish a wild koala breeding programme.

Hong Kong Protests

This year, the entire world observed the long and tenacious protests in Hong Kong. Its government had proposed The Fugitive Offenders and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Legislation (Amendment) Bill 2019. The Bill was for a law to allow transfers of fugitives to countries with which Hong Kong lacked an extradition deal. More than one million marched in demonstrations against it.

Eventually, Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam withdrew the Bill which could mean that the government was finally ready to listen to at least one of the five demands from the protestors.

M for Malaysia

It was made as a tribute following the country’s historical moment when Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was re-elected as Prime Minister in the 14th General Election (GE14). He was the fourth prime minister from 1981 to 2003 and is referred to as the Father of Modernisation.

M for Malaysia is a 90-minute documentary featuring the Government’s efforts in setting up New Malaysia following Pakatan Harapan’s triumph in GE14. The documentary was directed and produced by Dian Lee and Ineza Roussille. It contains special post-GE14 footage that caught a glimpse of all races unifying in the country. It took viewers back to the stories of hope, solidarity and peace for Malaysians. The Dr Mahathir-led coalition won the elections and took over Federal Government from Barisan Nasional which had been the country’s administration since Independence.

The documentary film was screened exclusively at 37 selected theatres across Malaysia over four days beginning Sept 12. Dr Mahathir and his wife Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali attended the premiere and watched the film at GSC in Pavilion Kuala Lumpur.

Upin & Ipin: Keris Siamang Tunggal Up For Oscar Nomination

The Malaysian animated film industry has really stepped up its game. Proof of that is in Upin & Ipin: Keris Siamang Tunggal (Lone Gibbon Dagger) has been nominated for Best Animated Feature category at the 2020 Academy Awards. The news was announced by its local production company Les Copaque Production on their official Instagram and Twitter accounts. They wrote “Upin & Ipin: Keris Siamang Tunggal film was listed together with 32 international animation films for the 2020 Oscar nomination. Thank you Malaysians, for the extraordinary support for this film.”

The film will compete with Toy Story 4, Angry Birds 2, Frozen 2, Addams Family, Weathering With You and How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World in the same category.

Released on March 21, Upin & Ipin starring the nation’s favourite animated twins had collected RM25mil at the local box office in three weeks with over two million viewers in Malaysia. Les Copaque Production also held a one-week screening for the film in California, US in November.

The film also won the Best Film Story award at the 2019 International Animation Film Festival (Animaze) in Montreal, Canada. The 92nd Academy Awards will be held on Feb 24,2020.

Homegirl Yuna

Malaysia’s sweetheart, singer and songwriter Yunalis Mat Zara’ai, famously known as Yuna, received the MTV Europe Music Awards (EMA) nomination for Best Southeast Asian Act. Yuna gained worldwide recognition after her collaboration with Usher on the breakout single Crush which ranked No.3 on the US Billboard Adult R&B chart. She continues to make waves around the globe and placing our country on the world map.

She made Malaysians proud when she was spotted on a billboard in New York’s Times Square, featured on the Apple Watch Series 5’s Apple Music display and signed up with a top modelling agency in the United States. She became friends with other top international artistes such as Cardi B and Jennie from Blackpink.

Yuna was previously nominated for the same award back in 2014 and 2016 as well as Best Asian Act in 2012. This time, she will showcase her latest Rouge album at the MTV EMA. Other nominees in the category are Suboi from Vietnam, Rich Brian from Indonesia, Jannine Weigel from Thailand, Jasmine Sokko from Singapore and Moira Dela Torre from the Philippines.

Alif Satar Is Malaysia’s Undisputed Ironman

A local singer famous for his chivalry, Alif Satar has succeeded in the 2019 Ironman Malaysia challenge held at Cenang Beach, Langkawi in October. Muhammad Alif Mohd Satar, 29, had considered the challenge as the most impossible thing for him to do.

The local celebrity completed the challenge consisting of a 3.8km swim, 180km bicycle ride and 42km run in 15 hours, five minutes and 19 seconds. The ocean swim started at Kok Beach followed by a one-loop bike course headed towards the rolling hills of Datai and the fringes of Kuah town. The running course stretched from the Langkawi International Airport to the finish line at Cenang Beach.

The challenge had gathered 2,500 athletes from 70 countries. It was Alif’s second year in the challenge as he had joined similar events last year with a record of six hours and 42 minutes to complete the 112.7km race that involved a 1.6km swim, 90km cycling and 21.1km running. He thanked all his followers on his official Instagram account for their support and motivational speeches throughout his journey in the Ironman challenge.

Korean Wins Malaysian Singing Contest

For the first time ever, a South Korean singer, Han-Byul, achieved victory as the champion of Big Stage, a Malaysian singing contest. It was screened live at Shah Alam City Council Auditorium on Oct 6.

Jang Han-Byul, 29, sang Eminem’s Lose Yourself and a new single from Haqiem Rusli titled Luka dan Bahagia. He defeated four other finalists in the show’s second season --- Neeta, Adzrin, Irfan Harris and Dinda Permata. Han-Byul received a cash prize of RM100,000, a Perodua Axia Style car, a Vivo V17 Pro smartphone and the Big Stage trophy.

He earned points of up to 70.33%, leaving Neeta behind in second place with 68.66% in points. Neeta won a cash prize of RM50,000 and a trophy. In third spot, Adzrin received a RM25,000 cash prize and a trophy. Irfan and Dinda RM10,000 and RM5,000 respectively for placing fourth and fifth besides trophies.

Final Game for Avengers: Endgame Marvel Fans

“I love you 3000” and “say green” have become catchphrases for Marvel fans after the final chapter of the Infinity saga, Avengers: Endgame film was released in April. In the film, the surviving members of the Avengers and their allies struggled to reverse the damage caused by Thanos in the Infinity War for using the Infinity Gauntlet to disintegrate half of life in the universe. The American superhero film was based on the Marvel Comics produced by Marvel Studios and distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. It was directed by Anthony Russo and Joe Russo as well as produced by Kevin Feige. The film is part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe revolving around the powerful Infinity Stones. Iron Man was the first film released by Marvel Studios in 2008. In a statement, Marvel Malaysia reported Avengers: Endgame garnered RM10mil at the local box office before its premiere, making it the film with the highest advance ticket sales to-date in Malaysia. Marvel Malaysia had lighted up Kuala Lumpur Tower with the iconic Avengers symbols in April at 8pm and 10pm to thank Malaysian fans for their tremendous support.

No more Grumpy Cat Updated Memes

The Internet legend, Tardar Sauce, which gained the nickname Grumpy Cat because of its facial expression, died due to complications from a urinary tract infection in March. Her owner announced the death of the seven-year-old cat from Arizona. A social media account for cartoon cat Garfield had also paid tribute to Tardar Sauce after her death. Grumpy Cat went viral in 2012 after photographs of her sour expression emerged online. Her image quickly spread as a meme worldwide. Her owner, Tabitha Bundesen, explained that Tardar’s facial expression was caused by feline dwarfism and an underbite. Grumpy Cat travelled the world, making television appearances and even starred in her own Christmas movie in 2014.

In 2018, the cat’s owners won a US$710,000 (RM2.93mil) payout in a copyright lawsuit. Grumpy Cat Limited sued the owners of the United States coffee company Grenade for breaching an agreement over the cat’s image. The company only had rights to use the cat to sell its “Grumppuccino” drink, but was found selling other Grumpy Cat products illegally. Tabitha previously worked as a waitress before her beloved pet gained Internet fame. She said she had quit her job within days of Grumpy Cat’s first appearance on social media.

Toy Story 4

Randy Newman’s You’ve Got a Friend in Me will always take us back in time, specifically to 1995. Toy Story was the first computer-animated feature film produced by Pixar Animation Studios and released by Walt Disney Pictures. Toys, action figures, costumes and merchandise were everywhere anytime a Toy Story instalment hits movie theatres. Buzz, Woody, Bo Peep and Jessie taught us the importance of friendship. The screening of Toy Story 4 brought the curtain down on the series, marking the last sequel of the film that was a trailblazer when it was first released almost 25 years ago. We will always cherish them in our hearts, to infinity and beyond.

Jaden Smith

Just Water founder Jaden Smith is an actor and musician who wanted to make a difference. The deployment of a mobile water-filtration system has provided clean drinking water to the residents in Flint, Michigan. All thanks to revenue from Just initiated by Smith. The “Water Box” has cleaned 32,176 litres of water as reported in March. Earlier in July, Smith celebrated his birthday by launching “I Love You Restaurant”, a mobile restaurant in a food truck to feed the homeless in Downtown, Los Angeles. Smith, 21 also made a documentary titled Brave Blue World that had its global premiere on Dec 16. The documentary addressed the problem of lack of access to affordable clean water and how innovation could ensure the securing of access to water. Smith, the son of Hollywood actor and rapper Will Smith, is leading a new generation of youth to care and do more for society.

Game of Thrones

Fondly known as GOT among its legions of fans, Game of Thrones is an American fantasy drama television series aired on HBO. It came to an end this year after eight seasons but the way it concluded left many fans disappointed. The series drew over 10 million viewers on HBO and it is one of the most popular television shows of all time. To say GOT left an impact is an understatement. Beyond GOT fans getting their hands on merchandise, there is even a new university course – “The Real Game of Thrones: From Modern Myths to Medieval Models” under Folklore and Mythology and it is offered by none other than Harvard University. Studios are pumping in money for shows in this genre hoping to be the next GOT.

Regina King

American actress and television director Regina King is one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2019 according to Time magazine. King is highly praised for using her voice to address social issues in her speech at the Golden Globes this year. Winning the best supporting actress award for her role in If Beale Street Could Talk, King vowed to improve gender equality by promising to employ more women on her projects. She also encouraged others to do the same, throwing out a challenge to stand in solidarity. King is also a supporter of the Beckstrand Cancer Foundation and Coalition of Skin Diseases.

Frozen 2

The one thing we will not let it go is another sequel of Frozen! The first Frozen movie was released in 2013 and it left every child singing and dancing to the song Let It Go to their heart’s content. Frozen 2 garnered over RM3bil at the box office after two weeks of global release. Frozen showed many the real meaning of sisterhood when Anna sacrificed herself for the snow queen, Elsa. In Frozen 2, the two sisters went into "the unknown" venturing through enchanted forests and dark seas in a journey of self-discovery.


Latheefa Koya

From being a city councillor in Petaling Jaya between June 2008 and July 2012, Latheefa made history as the first woman to be appointed as chief commissioner of Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC). The lawyer and human rights activist faced backlash over the appointment which was perceived to be political. While politicians and the public gave mixed reactions, she received praise for being strict, practical and stern while facing criticism due to her past designation in a political party that is now part of the ruling coalition. After she took over MACC’s helm, investigations were launched and Latheefa announced in her first press conference that the commission had filed more than 41 civil forfeiture suits related to 1MDB.

Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah

Al-Sultan Abdullah was chosen as the 16th Yang di-Pertuan Agong of Malaysia by the Council of Rulers in January, and the installation ceremony was held seven months later. His caring nature quickly endeared him to the people. He had shown on many occasions that he would not hesitate to help someone in need. For example, on one particular day, Al-Sultan Abdullah instructed his driver to pull over twice to check on victims of two separate car accidents. The first accident occured in Cyberjaya and the second near the Putrajaya toll plaza on Maju Expressway. He also gave a quick reminder for motorists to be careful when it rained in order to avoid accidents.

SM Mohamed Idris

Malaysia lost this legendary man in May. Noted for his unceasing dedication to addressing consumer, environmental and social issues, Mohamed Idris was an activist who championed the people’s rights. He was president of two organisations --- Consumer Association of Penang (CAP) and Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM). In 1975, he was part of the pressure group that led to the creation of the Environment Department. In addition, he successfully fought for the use of expiry labels for food and the banning of cigarette advertisements and select toxic drugs. He was also known for his efforts in increasing workers’ benefits.

Greta Thunberg

This teenage environmental activist made headlines when she held her first protest addressing climate change at the age of 15 outside the Swedish parliament. Her actions inspired thousands of children from all over the world to hold protests during their classes. They demanded global and political action on the issue. Not only that, the activist also urges Nordic countries to do more in combating climate change in her statement after declining the Nordic Council’s 2019 Environment Prize. Her latest environmental campaign in Vancouver, Canada focuses on rising carbon emissions. Greta proves that youths can step up to be heard for the sake of a better future.

Boris Johnson

From a journalist to becoming London’s mayor and now Britain’s prime minister --- that is the abbreviated version of Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson’s career path. He studied classical literature, history, and philosophy at Oxford University. He first worked at The Times of London but was said to have been fired for falsifying quotes. Johnson is known as opinionated and regarded as one of the most recognisable politicians for speaking his mind. In 2001, he was elected as a member of UK parliament. He was also foreign secretary before being Theresa May’s successor as prime minister. Johnson had not only won against his electoral rival Jeremy Corbyn, but it was also a landslide victory. And with his determination to carry out Brexit, observers say it will be a different Britain by the end of his premiership.

Jacinda Ardern

The New Zealand prime minister’s response in the days after the massacre in Christchurch was lauded by leaders and ordinary folk all around the world. She called for compassion and sympathy towards the Muslim communities. Within weeks of the attack, the New Zealand government passed a law banning military-style semi-automatic guns in a first round of reforms. The new bill will include the creation of a registry whereby every firearm will be monitored and tracked. The legislation gained global praise especially in the United States. “The Christchurch Call” initiative hosted by Ardern and French president Emmanuel Macron led to five of the world’s biggest tech companies taking a pledge to tackle extremist content posted online. Ardern was also New Zealand's youngest prime minister in 150 years when she stepped into the role at 37 two years ago.

Emperor Naruhito

The Land of the Rising Sun saw the dawning of a new era called "Reiwa" under Emperor Naruhito starting May 1. The new era of “fortunate harmony” marked the end of the Heisei era. Naruhito ascended the throne as the 126th emperor of Japan after the abdication of emperor Akihito. Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah and Raja Permaisuri Agong Tunku Hajah Azizah Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah were among those who witnessed the enthronement ceremony of Emperor Naruhito at the Imperial Palace. Emperor Akihito declared his abdication due to ill health at a historic ceremony in Tokyo.

King Vajiralongkorn

Being the first Thai monarch to be crowned in nearly seven decades, the coronation of King Maha Vajiralongkorn was held in May three years after the death of his father who was the previous king. South China Morning Post reported that the grand coronation was marked by a six-hour parade of 1,300 people and elephants. King Vajiralongkorn was educated in the United Kingdom and attended military training in Australia. He married Queen Suthida days before his coronation. He was also the first Thai monarch to bestow the title of Royal Noble Consort in nearly a century, on a former nurse named Sineenat and then stripped her of the title three months later.

Robert Mueller

He is most famously associated with a report detailing investigations into the US presidential campaign and Donald Trump's ties to Russia. Robert Mueller is an American lawyer who served as the sixth director of the US' Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) from 2001 until 2013. When he was the US special counsel, Mueller conducted an investigation from May 2017 to March 2019. His Report on the Investigation into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election was published in April and subsequently became known as The Mueller Report. The report documented his investigations on Russian attempts to interfere in the 2016 US presidential election and other allegations.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

She is among the first female members of the Democratic Socialists of America elected to serve in Congress. She was also the youngest woman elected to United States Congress at the age of 29. Ocasio-Cortez, popularly known as “AOC”, is a politician and activist. She used to work as a bartender and waitress to support her mother’s income as a housecleaner and bus driver. Ocasio-Cortez describes herself as coming from a working-class background. Some of her progressive platforms are abolishing the US immigration and customs enforcement, tuition-free college and the Green New Deal that is a resolution to address climate change by weaning the United States off fossil fuels and curbing greenhouse gas emissions across the economy.

Juan Guaido

Juan Gerardo Guaido Marquez is a Venezuelan politician and leader of the National Assembly. In 2007, the broadcasting licence of independent television network RCTV was not renewed by the Venezuelan government. Guaido helped found the student-led political party with other student leaders in protesting the decision made by the government. He was also a founding member of the Popular Will political party in 2009. He declared himself as the interim president of Venezuela in January this year. Guaido’s claim to the presidency is recognised by the United States and numerous other countries.

Baby Archie

It was a blessed year for both Prince Harry and Meghan Markle as their son, Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor was born on May 6. He is the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’ first child and seventh in line to the British throne. This royal couple and their baby are breaking with tradition and making their own rules. As the first born son of a duke, Archie could have become the Earl of Dumbarton, one of Prince Harry’s subsidiary titles, or have been Lord Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor. Instead, he will simply be Master Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor. Archie is not traditionally found in the list of English royal names. It means genuine, bold or brave.

RIP: Prayers for Sulli

It was heartbreaking news in October for K-Pop fans to learn that top South Korean group f(x)'s former member Choi Jin-ri, 25, had died. Choi, better known by her stage name Sulli, was found dead in her house in Seongnam, Gyeonggi province. Her death shown the spotlight on the extent of cyberbullying endured by artistes. It was reported that Sulli was having a hard time dealing with hateful comments towards her and she was targeted by cyberbullies. A close friend of Sulli’s revealed that the singer-songwriter and actress had been planning to quit Night of Hate Comments, a Korean TV show that featured celebrity guests each week talking about their reactions to hateful comments, malicious rumours and cyberbullying. In an episode in October, Sulli confessed that she was feeling very worthless. The show, which debuted in June, has since been discontinued.

Karl Lagerfeld

The fashion world lost iconic designer Karl Lagerfeld in February. The much celebrated designer is easily one of the most recognisable individuals globally, with his trademark white hair in ponytail, dark glasses and signature suit and tie. His death in Paris was announced by Chanel which he had long been associated with. He had been the French fashion house Chanel’s creative director since 1983 and with the Italian luxury fashion house Fendi since the 1960s. He also founded his own line, Karl Lagerfeld. He could speak English, French, German and Italian. His creativity knew no bounds as he used to be a photographer too, and had authored a book. The prolific designer, known as the Kaiser in the industry, was 85 years old.

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