SINGAPORE: Outgoing Singapore President Halimah Yacob, who will soon conclude her six-year term on September 13, expressed a “terrible sense of sadness” after attending her final National Day Parade (NDP) as the nation’s President.
The 2023 NDP on Wednesday night was especially poignant for Mdm Halimah, marking her last attendance in her official capacity. In May, she had declared her decision not to stand for re-election.
Post-parade, during a conversation with reporters at the National Gallery, Mdm Halimah shared her sentiments on having been the NDP’s presiding officer for the past six years.
As she mingled with performers and took selfies at the end of the parade, she emphasized the parade’s embodiment of unity and progression, which aligns with this year’s theme, “Onward as One”.
When pressed about her favourite NDP moment, she expressed the sentimentality of each parade, refraining from highlighting one over the other. However, she pointed out that the 2023 NDP was notably the first full-fledged parade at the Padang since the onslaught of the Covid-19 pandemic.
She candidly shared her emotions: “A terrible sense of sadness, but at the same time, a sense of inspiration when I look around me and see the crowd… celebrating as one.”
Throughout her tenure, Mdm Halimah observed and commended the consistent efforts of the NDP to integrate disadvantaged communities and persons with disabilities, reflecting Singapore’s inclusive spirit.
She proudly mentioned the nation’s message that people with disabilities simply have different abilities.
The Covid-19 pandemic, she said, unveiled a surge of humanity, emphasizing the importance of raising awareness for people with disabilities or distinct talents.
“It’s wonderful – as a country, on the most important day that we celebrate our nationhood, we integrate our people with disabilities, our disadvantaged communities. “We bring them to the fore. We tell Singaporeans we’re all in this together, not those who can run the fastest, but everyone must run together as a team,” she said.
However, the President noted the ongoing challenges in the integration of disabled individuals into the workforce, urging employers to persist in their inclusionary hiring efforts.
Mdm Halimah has been a staunch advocate for inclusive hiring in Singapore. In 2020, she spearheaded the President’s Challenge Enabling Employment Pledge, gaining the commitment of 148 organisations.
Reflecting on her presidential journey, Mdm Halimah expressed an undying sense of pride, satisfaction, and unity as a Singaporean, irrespective of her title.
She reaffirmed, “Even as an ordinary Singaporean after this, I’m sure I will feel the same sense of pride, participation, and togetherness.”
Elected to the presidential office in 2017, Mdm Halimah had previously served as a Member of Parliament as a People’s Action Party politician.
Mdm Halimah’s presidential election was somewhat controversial because it was the first reserved race election. She was appointed President without contest due to a walkover, following the disqualification of two other potential candidates by the Presidential Election Committee.
The President receives the same monthly salary as the Prime Minister, which includes the 13th month and the annual variable component, but excludes the performance and national bonuses. This totals S$1.54 million.