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Yam Ah Mee (Returning Officer Extraordinaire) is a Singaporean electoral official who became an internet celebrity following his memorable appearance on live TV to announce the results of Singapore’s General Elections held in May 2011. Due to the strong presence of opposition candidates in this election, millions of Singaporean citizens tuned in to the announcement. However, as Yam Ah Mee began to pronounce his prepared report, many viewers became captivated by his monotonous manner of speech.
Yam Ah Mee is the Returning Officer (RO) for Singapore’s 2011 election and the chief executive director of People’s Association, a statutory board leading efforts to promote racial harmony and social cohesion in Singapore. Mr Yam Ah Mee had served in the Republic of Singapore Air Force and held a rank of Brigadier General
On May 8th, 2011, Mr. Yam appeared before the Singaporean press corp to announce the electorate winners. While it was a critical moment in the nation’s closely contested race, many viewers at home became fixated with Mr.Yam’s monotonous speech and indifferent expression, particularly on a legal clause that was repeated over 26 times:
“Pursuant to Section 49, Sub-Section 7E, Paragraph A of the Parliamentary Elections Act…”
Some of the other memorable lines from his speech included mispronunciations of Workers’ Party candidate “Sylvia Lim” into “Silver Lim” and Minister of Education Masagos Zulkifli into “Masagos Chukifree.” Even the Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong name wasn’t spared, which Mr. Yam pronounced as “Lee Hsien Loon.”
On the same night, YouTuber FallenSuperheroSG posted a “Club Remix” version based on the broadcast footage of Mr. Yam’s announcement. Within 24 hours of debut, the video gained over 100,000 views.
The Singaporean news media instantly picked up on the buzz, further establishing Mr. Yam as the unlikely star to emerge out of the 2011 general elections. Upon gaining his internet fame, Mr. Yam Ah Mee released a statement on his newly established celebrity status explaining that his robotic voice was caused by an operation he had undergone to “remove a fishbone in his larynx.”
A misspelled Facebook page titled “Yah Ah Mee, Returning Officer Extraordinaire” was also launched, gaining more than 30,000 likes within the first day and spawning a number of photoshopped tributes.
Many users commented on his stern “Poker Face” expression, joking that they would avoid playing poker with Mr. Yam at all cost, while others suggested that he should run for the presidential election, or become the “news anchor every evening, for good calming effect.”
Aftermath of meme
Mr. Yam himself was fully aware of the meme, even taking time to thank fans for their support on Facebook.
On May 13, 2011, Mr. Yam posted a spoof video of himself on YouTube, using the same expressionless demeanor to invite fans to join him for the PAssion Movie Night on May 21, 2011 at East Coast Park in Singapore.
On May 21, 2011, Mr. Yam was at the 100 Plus PAssion Run, a marathon co-organized by the People’s Association and beverage brand 100 Plus. There, Mr. Yam took to the microphone, reading out a modified version of the legal clause to spur on the runners. His move was met with applause and laughter from the crowd.
Right after the run, Mr. Yam attended the swearing-in ceremony of members of the Cabinet of Singapore, before making his way to the PAssion Movie Night to watch Shrek Forever.
3 days later, he posted a video containing a montage of scenes from the PAssion Movie Night on his official YouTube channel.
Mr. Yam was featured on local news programmes online and on TV the following day.
On May 25, 2011, Mr. Yam posted another video of himself, this time dancing to the original soundtrack of Korean drama Dream High. This video was uploaded to invite members of the public and fans to join him at the People’s Association Ngee Ann City Line Dance Fiesta at Ngee Ann City on May 29, 2011.
On June 1, 2011, Mr. Yam was at the Pre-University Seminar as a guest speaker for a panel discussion at Lecture Theatre 26 at the National University of Singapore.
There, he parodied himself reading the election results yet again.
“Pursuant to section 3, subsection 1B, paragraph A of the Pre U Seminar booklet, I declare every participant here this morning – indeed, you’re wonderful.”
In May 2012, a by-election for the electoral division of Hougang, a single-member constituency in the northeastern region of Singapore, was called, after incumbent Member-of-Parliament Yaw Shin Leong was sacked by the Workers’ Party for failing to come clean over allegations of extramarital affairs.
Mr. Yam was the Returning Officer for the by-election, and announced the candidates on Nomination Day, with Png Eng Huat of the Workers’ Party and Desmond Choo Pey Ching of the Peoples’ Action Party the as eligible candidates.
On 27 May, 2012, Mr. Yam announced the results for the Hougang by-election, with Png Eng Huat of the Workers’ Party as the candidate elected.
On the same day, Fallen Superhero made a club remix in quick succession, with videos consisting of his announcements at the 2011 general and presidential elections, and the 2012 Hougang by-election.
fn3 Google Trends – Hot Searches: May 9th, 2011 (Singapore only)