‘My duty is to unite the people, to overcome the many challenges ahead’: President Halimah Yacob

‘My duty is to unite the people, to overcome the many challenges ahead’: President Halimah Yacob

11:22
In a troubled and uncertain world, Singapore’s shared values of multiculturalism, meritocracy and stewardship become even more important in guiding the nation, said President Halimah Yacob on Thursday (Sep 14).

SINGAPORE: In a troubled and uncertain world, Singapore’s shared values of multiculturalism, meritocracy and stewardship become even more important in guiding the nation, said President Halimah Yacob on Thursday (Sep 14).

Speaking after being sworn in as Singapore’s eighth President, Mdm Halimah said: “My duty is to unite the people, to overcome the many challenges ahead of us, together.

“I call on all Singaporeans to join me in this endeavour. Our goal must be to leave behind a better Singapore for future generations.”

The inauguration at the Istana came a day after Mdm Halimah was declared President-elect, as she was the only person to qualify for an election that was reserved for members of the Malay community.

Mdm Halimah said she welcomes recent constitutional changes which allow for an election to be reserved for a particular racial group if no one from that group has been president for five continuous terms, but noted the unhappiness among some Singaporeans.

“I know that some Singaporeans would prefer to achieve this without needing reserved elections. I respect their views,” the President said in her speech.

“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.”

She added: “Today, I want to assure all Singaporeans that as your President, I will serve every one of you, regardless of race, language or religion.”

MULTIRACIALISM, MERITOCRACY, STEWARDSHIP

Singapore’s first female President focused much of her speech on the shared values multiracialism, meritocracy and stewardship.

She said even though Singapore has made great progress building a multi-racial society over the years, it is “a constant work in progress”.

“Every generation must update our institutions to strengthen our shared values, and every generation needs champions who care deeply about multi-racialism and fight to uphold and realise this ideal,” said Mdm Halimah.

On meritocracy, the President said she has “strong personal convictions” about upholding this core value. “Without it, I would not be here today,” she said, recalling a difficult childhood losing her father when she was young and growing up in poverty.

“My life story is not uncommon in Singapore. Many of you have stories similar to mine, or know someone who has. This is something special and precious to Singapore.”

To help the less privileged, Mdm Halimah said she will build on the good work her predecessors Dr Tony Tan and the late Mr SR Nathan have done in supporting the President’s Challenge.

Lastly on stewardship, Mdm Halimah spoke about the important of taking care of one another and working together to tackle issues such as the ageing population, disruption in the economy and the threat of terrorism.

Amid investments in various social programmes and initiatives to grow the economy, Mdm Halimah said there is a need to husband Singapore’s reserves carefully.

“The President holds the second key to our reserves, and to key appointments in the public service. In exercising my custodial powers, I will use my independent judgement, consulting the Council of Presidential Advisors, and working closely with the Prime Minister and the Government.”

Mdm Halimah said being President is a “heavy responsibility”, and that she will strive to do her best to serve Singapore.

Thanking all Singaporeans for their support, she said she is “deeply touched” by the good wishes and words of encouragement. She also thanked the labour movement, where she served in various roles for three decades.

“I have learned (from the labour movement) much about compassion and camaraderie. I know that these lessons will help me in my new role.”

She concluded: “In my previous roles, I have seen how much we can achieve by working together … I pledge to continue this journey of service to our country. I call on all Singaporeans to join me in this endeavour.

“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.”

Source: CNA/gs