SINGAPORE: As head of state, Halimah Yacob will unify the country, strengthen its sense of nationhood and be a President for all Singaporeans, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said at Mdm Halimah's inauguration on Thursday (September 14).
Mr Lee congratulated Mdm Halimah and hailed her swearing-in as "a significant moment in our history".
She is Singapore's first female president as well as the first Malay to become head of state since the country's first President, Yusof Ishak.
Citing Mdm Halimah's work as unionist, social activist and community leader, Member of Parliament, Minister of State, Speaker of Parliament, Mr Lee said: "Mdm President, you bring to the Presidency a heartfelt concern for your fellow citizens, a strong sense of duty, and a sterling record of public service … Your wealth of experience in public service has prepared you for your new duties."
He added: "However, there is one significant difference between being President and your previous posts.
"Hitherto, you have been fighting the good fight – in the unions, in the political arena, in the governing party.
"Now as President, you have to be non-partisan and above the political fray," said Mr Lee.
"As the President, you have to be the unifying figure of our nation and represent all Singaporeans. I am confident that you will adapt to this new role, and perform it with distinction."
MDM HALIMAH'S STORY "REFLECTS THE SINGAPORE STORY"
Mdm Halimah's life story reflects the Singapore story, Mr Lee said, noting her humble beginnings and her early years of "hardship and deprivation".
"In time you achieved success, but you never forgot the poverty of your childhood. You went out of your way to help those in need, and enable many others to succeed as you yourself have done.
"Your story reflects the Singapore story – how we have come this far together, and what we aspire to be as a nation," said Mr Lee.
Outlining the significance of Mdm Halimah's inauguration, Mr Lee said: "Today, we reaffirm the pledge that Mr Lee Kuan Yew made on 9 August 1965, in the first hours of our independence, that this would not be a Malay nation, a Chinese nation nor an Indian nation. Everybody would have his place, equal, regardless of language, culture, religion.
"Mdm President, half a century later, you symbolise, visibly, that Singapore will persevere with this dream.
"This has become all the more urgent considering the trends in our region and the rest of the world. In an age when ethnic nationalism is rising, extremist terrorism sows distrust and fear, and exclusivist ideologies deepen communal and religious fault lines, here in Singapore we will resist this tide.
"Here, the majority will make extra efforts to ensure that minorities enjoy equal rights. That is something special, precious and fragile," he said.
"Mdm President, Encik Yusof Ishak was President of all Singaporeans, regardless of race, language, religion or gender.
"You too will unify all of us. You too will strengthen our sense of nationhood. You too will be our President."