SINGAPORE: On Wednesday (13 Sep), Singapore’s outgoing President Halimah Yacob marked the conclusion of her term as the nation’s eighth President.
The 69-year-old former Member of Parliament, Singapore’s first female President, bid farewell to Istana staff members and government officials as she left office.
Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam, having won the presidential election with 70.4% of the vote, is slated to take the oath of office on 14 September.
Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore, Lawrence Wong, expressed his gratitude for her service on Thursday through a Facebook post.
Mdm Halimah resigned from her position as Speaker of Parliament and her Parliamentary seat for Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC in August 2017, a month before she joined the Presidential Election bid.
DPM Wong, who was her former colleague, remembered their time together and praised her authentic leadership.
He recalled the bittersweet moment in 2017 when both he and the residents of Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC were saddened by Madam Halimah’s departure.
“But we were also very proud to have you serve in the highest office of our land, and as our first female President! ”
DPM Wong, who also holds the role of Finance Minister, acknowledged that her authentic leadership had illuminated the path forward, inspiring a more caring and inclusive society.
He expressed deep gratitude for her exceptional leadership during the challenging Covid-19 pandemic period.
“We interacted many times in the course of the crisis. As you said, the President’s office is not meant to operate as a parallel Ministry of Finance (Singapore). ”
DPM Wong expressed satisfaction that both Madam Halimah and his team “had a clear understanding of each other’s roles and responsibilities”.
He praised Madam Halimah for diligently carrying out her duties, “asking rigorous questions to understand the rapidly evolving situation”, and ensuring that the requested draws on reserves were necessary and justified.
“In the end, you approved the emergency funding, enabling us to mount a successful pandemic response.”
DPM Wong commended Madam Halimah for her distinguished service as President and highlighted her legacy of service, compassion, and strength.
“You have helped us to be a more united, compassionate and inclusive society,” DPM Wong expressed his heartfelt appreciation and extended his best wishes to both Madam Halimah and her husband, Mohammed Abdullah Alhabshee, as they embark on the next chapter of their lives.
Mdm Halimah’s unconventional path to Presidency raises questions of independence and public representation
Mdm Halimah’s presidential election was somewhat controversial because it was the first reserved race election.
In the backdrop of her term, Mdm Halimah’s rapid transition from a prominent member of the People’s Action Party (PAP) in 2017 as both a Member of Parliament and Speaker of Parliament to her role as the non-partisan President in just over a month had garnered significant attention.
Questions arose about her ability to act independently from the PAP and serve as an effective check on the government.
Her being the sole eligible candidate in the presidential race – after two potential candidates from the Malay community were disqualified – had left many Singaporeans shocked, feeling deprived of their political voice.
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.