‘As President, I will serve everyone’
Sworn in as Singapore’s eighth president, Madam Halimah Yacob calls on the people to join her to create a brighter future “We have made great progress building a multiracial society over the years, but we also know that this endeavour is a constant work in progress.” — President Halimah Yacob
After she was sworn in as Singapore’s eighth president yesterday, Madam Halimah Yacob called on Singaporeans to work together towards a society where a reserved election would no longer be necessary.
Addressing the palpable disquiet over her walkover in the first reserved election, Madam Halimah, 63, said in her maiden speech: “I know that some Singaporeans would prefer to achieve this without needing reserved elections.
“I respect their views. Like them, I look forward to the day when we will no longer need to rely on the provision to have reserved elections, and Singaporeans naturally and regularly elect citizens of all races as presidents.
“Today, I want to assure all Singaporeans that as your president, I will serve every one of you, regardless of race, lan- guage or religion.”
Madam Halimah made history at the Istana state room yesterday when she was inaugurated as Singapore’s first Malay president after 47 years, and its first female head of state.
The former Speaker of Parliament was the only candidate to qualify to stand in this presidential election after the Constitution was amended to reserve it for Malays.
The move drew mixed reactions from Singaporeans, with some complaining that it went against meritocracy while others felt that it underscored the ethos of multiracialism.
Madam Halimah said having presidents who regularly come from every ethnic group was a welcome move as it protected the country’s multiracial identity.
Singapore, she said, needs “guideposts” to continue doing so.
“We have made great procustodial gress building a multiracial society over the years, but we also know that this endeavour is a constant work in progress,” she said.
Madam Halimah also said she valued meritocracy strongly because “without it, I would not be here today”.
Recounting her humble beginnings growing up in a singleparent family that experienced poverty, she said Singapore’s meritocratic system was what enabled her to enter public service.
Recognising that other Singaporeans had stories similar to hers, she pledged to continue building on the work of her predecessors S R Nathan and Tony Tan Keng Yam in the President’s Challenge to help the underprivileged.
“We firmly believe that anyone who works hard should be able to realise his or her full potential, and make valuable contributions to society,” she said.
As president, Madam Halimah also holds the second key to Singapore’s reserves and significant appointments in the public service.
She said: “In exercising my powers, I will use my independent judgment, consulting the Council of Presidential Advisers and working closely with the Prime Minister and the Government.”
She noted that the national reserves “must not be used except for very good reason” and the public service must maintain its high quality and standing.
Pledging to continue her service to Singapore, she called on the people to join her.
“We must measure our success not just by how well we do for ourselves, but by whether we enable the next generation to do even better.
“Let us commit ourselves to this task, and together create a brighter future for all Singaporeans,” she said.