Friday, 15 September 2017

President Halimah Yacob takes oath and makes history

Inauguration of the 8th President of the Republic of Singapore, Madam Halimah Yacob





First woman president also symbolises Singapore's multiracial dream, says PM Lee Hsien Loong
By Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh, The Straits Times, 15 Sep 2017

History was made at a quarter past six yesterday evening, with the inauguration of Singapore's first Malay President after 47 years, and its first woman head of state.

Looking solemn in a peach-coloured headscarf, President Halimah Yacob, 63, took her oath in the Istana state room, flanked by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon.

Her rise to the highest office of the land reaffirms Mr Lee Kuan Yew's vow in the very early hours of independence on Aug 9, 1965, that Singapore "would not be a Malay nation, a Chinese nation nor an Indian nation", PM Lee said in an address to 200 guests.

When this pledge was made, the nation had a Malay head of state: Encik Yusof Ishak, who died in his third term in 1970, at the age of 60.



"President Yusof Ishak symbolised, visibly, that though we had been forced out of Malaysia primarily because we were a Chinese-majority city, independent Singapore would never in turn suppress its own non-Chinese minorities. We chose the nobler dream: A multiracial, multi-religious Singapore."

"Madam President, half a century later, you symbolise, visibly, that Singapore will persevere with this dream," PM Lee said, adding that this has become more urgent in the light of regional and global trends.

"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.

PM Lee said this is why Parliament has members from all ethnic groups. Now, the nation will regularly have heads of state who are, like President Benjamin Sheares, Eurasian, like President S R Nathan, Indian; like President Tony Tan, Chinese, and like President Halimah Yacob, Malay, and a woman.

This was the "compelling reason" the Government amended the Constitution to reserve the presidency for a community that has not held the post for five terms, he added.



Speaking after PM Lee, Madam Halimah welcomed the move to preserve Singapore's multiracialism.

"I am proud that I belong to a country that does not just say it is diverse, but lives out this diversity every single day," she said, adding that while strides have been made, it remains a constant work in progress.

"We need guideposts to help us along this journey," she added, as she addressed the palpable disquiet of the past week over her walkover in the first reserved election.

"I know that some Singaporeans would prefer to achieve this without needing reserved elections. I respect their views," she said.

"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, language or religion."

PM Lee noted that the life story of the veteran unionist and former Parliament Speaker reflects the Singapore Story.



Madam Halimah said her life story is a testament to Singapore's meritocracy, a shared value the presidency embodies, together with multiracialism and stewardship.

"I have seen how much we can achieve by working together. Now, as President, my duty is to unite the people, to overcome the many challenges ahead of us, together.

"I pledge to continue this journey of service to our country. I call on all Singaporeans to join me in this endeavour," she added.






















President Halimah's life reflects the Singapore story: PM Lee
He speaks of her journey from hardship to success, and giving back to society
By Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh, The Straits Times, 15 Sep 2017

Madam Halimah Yacob's father died when she was eight, and she spent her school years juggling studies with work to help her family get by.

Even so, she became the first in her family to enter university, then devoted four decades of her life to public service, speaking up for the vulnerable.

Yesterday, as she was sworn in as Singapore's eighth president, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong noted that her life story - from "hardship and deprivation" to success and giving back to society - reflects the Singapore story.

"Your life story symbolises the sort of society that we aspire to be, and reminds us that the Singapore story is one of hope and opportunity," he said during a speech at the Istana.

"In Singapore, no matter where we begin in life, if we work hard, we will have ample chances to do well. And when we make good, we have a responsibility in turn to help others around us."



Madam Halimah, in her speech, attributed this to meritocracy.

Her story is not an uncommon one in Singapore, she said, and similar stories have played out all over the island.

"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 added. "I have strong personal convictions about our meritocratic system because without it, I would not be here today."



Recounting how her mother had brought her and her four siblings up single-handedly, Madam Halimah said they experienced poverty and hardship, struggling daily to survive.

"Fortunately, I was growing up in Singapore," she said.

Despite her family circumstances, a good education was within her reach as she had the support of family, teachers and the community, and also worked hard.

"That enabled me to launch my career in the public service, and later to give others in need a helping hand," she said.

That this is possible is something special and precious to the country, she added.

Her experiences are also an affirmation of Singapore's multiracialism, she said.

She grew up in Selegie House, in a multiracial neighbourhood, and attended the Singapore Chinese Girls' School, studying alongside classmates of all races.



In the unions, where she worked for over three decades, she helped workers regardless of their race.

When she became MP, she looked after the needs of Singaporeans of all races and religions.

The foundations of multiracialism were laid in Singapore's early years and have helped to build a diverse yet cohesive community, said Madam Halimah.

She noted that Singapore's founding fathers, including President Yusof Ishak, understood that multiracialism was not about ignoring or erasing differences between ethnic groups.

"Instead, they recognised our diversity and took steps to reassure every community that they were a unique and valued part of our society," she added.

She also said she was glad that multiracialism was not just enshrined in the national pledge, but also entrenched in key national policies like housing, education and security.

As a result, integration in housing and schools is now part of the social landscape, she said.

"Had we left them on their own, they might have taken a different direction."

But she added that every generation faces new challenges to the country's multiracialism.

"Every generation must update our institutions to strengthen our shared values. And every generation needs champions who care deeply about multiracialism and fight to uphold and realise this ideal," she said.



She pledged to be a President for all Singaporeans, regardless of race, language or religion.

Mr Lee said he had no doubt that Madam Halimah will unify all Singaporeans, like Mr Yusof did.

"You, too, will strengthen our sense of nationhood. You, too, will be our President," he said.






















President Halimah vows to exercise independent judgment
By Charissa Yong, The Straits Times, 15 Sep 2017

President Halimah Yacob pledged yesterday to exercise independent judgment in her role as steward of Singapore's reserves and the integrity of the public service.

"In exercising my custodial powers, I will use my independent judgment, consulting the Council of Presidential Advisers, and working closely with the Prime Minister and the Government," she said in her inaugural speech after she was sworn in as President at the Istana.

Besides being a symbol of national unity, the President holds the second key to Singapore's hard- earned reserves and has the power to approve or block key appointments in the public service.

Madam Halimah addressed these aspects of her role when she spoke on stewardship, a value shared by Singaporeans and embodied by the presidency.

She said Singaporeans have benefited from the hard work of earlier generations and inherited a prosperous and well-developed city, a clean and efficient system, and strong shared values.

"Now, it is our responsibility to steward this island nation well, so we can pass on to future generations a better country, a more robust system and a stronger commitment to our values," she said.

This includes taking care of an ageing population and growing healthcare needs, preparing workers and businesses for new jobs and opportunities, and dealing with divisive forces sweeping the world - including the twin threats of extremist terrorism and Islamophobia.



To plan for the future and build for the next generation, Singapore has to invest in its economy and people, Madam Halimah said.

She said projects in infrastructure, education and healthcare as investments will improve the lives of Singaporeans, make them more productive and create more opportunities for the next generation.

"But they also cost billions of dollars. Budgets will be tight," she added. "We need to grow our economy so as to generate more resources to afford these programmes and investments. We will also need to husband our reserves carefully."

These reserves have been built through the hard work and careful stewardship of successive governments and generations of Singaporeans, she said, adding: "Income from the reserves is an important source of government revenue. But the reserves themselves must not be used, except for very good reason."

Another asset is an honest and capable public service, which enables Singapore to do well as a nation and hold its own against international competitors, Madam Halimah said.

"I will do my duty to ensure that new appointments to critical posts measure up to our high standards of integrity and ability. The public service must maintain its high quality and standing in order to continue to serve Singapore well," she added.



Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said Madam Halimah's wealth of experience in public service would have prepared her for these duties.

He said she would have to make independent judgments, taking full advantage of the advice of the Council of Presidential Advisers, when exercising her custodial powers.

"At the same time, the President has to work closely with the Government for the two-key mechanism to function properly. I look forward to establishing such a relationship with you, just as I did with your predecessors," he added.











Time to rally behind President: ESM Goh Chok Tong
By Danson Cheong, The Straits Times, 15 Sep 2017

While there have been some rumblings over the process through which Madam Halimah Yacob won the presidential election, Singaporeans should unite and rally behind her now that she has been elected President, Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong said yesterday.



In a Facebook post, ESM Goh addressed the unhappiness that has been brewing online over the election, saying that while the election process was "highly controversial", Madam Halimah was not a controversial figure.

"Halimah did not dream of being a President but will serve with full heart now that she is. The focus so far has been on process, but we should not let whatever unhappiness weigh down her duties," said ESM Goh.

"We expect our head of state to be a unifying figure, but we must also do our part to help the President succeed."

Madam Halimah was elected unopposed in the first presidential election reserved for the Malay community.

Her two rivals, businessmen Salleh Marican and Farid Khan, were disqualified from contesting as they did not meet the threshold for candidates from the private sector.

On her part, Madam Halimah has promised to be a President for all Singaporeans.



ESM Goh, who was prime minister when Madam Halimah quit NTUC to join politics in 2001, said he had persuaded her to leave the labour movement so she could serve all Singaporeans. He said he had tracked her performance over the years.

Madam Halimah also chaired the PAP Seniors Group committee, where he had personally observed her sincerity to help the elderly.

ESM Goh said: "Her motivation, dedication and desire to serve and help others are not skin-deep. I have no doubt that she will gain the respect and support of the people as a humble, down-to-earth and sincere President with a big heart for all, regardless of status, wealth, abilities, race or religion."






















New head of state tours Istana grounds
By Desmond Foo, The Straits Times, 15 Sep 2017

President Halimah Yacob is considering making the Istana grounds more accessible to Singaporeans.

Madam Halimah, 63, mentioned this after she went on a tour of the Istana yesterday morning ahead of her inauguration as Singapore's eighth head of state.



She met Istana staff and was briefed on the organisation of the Istana. She also visited the President's Office, recently vacated by her predecessor Tony Tan Keng Yam.

She then took time to go on a guided tour of the gardens, including the Istana Villa, Sri Temasek and the Military Guard House.


Speaking to reporters after her tour, Madam Halimah said she was thinking of making the Istana grounds more accessible to the general public.


For instance, elderly volunteers could be invited to tend to the Istana's herb gardens, and help harvest its fruits and spices, she said.


Children could also be invited onto the grounds for picnics, in addition to the Istana Open Houses on certain public holidays.


"I understand that we must also preserve the dignity of the Istana, but taking that into consideration, could we also make the Istana a little bit more accessible to people? It is a beautiful place," she said.




The former Speaker of Parliament was declared president-elect on Wednesday, following a walkover in the first reserved election for Malay candidates.

Asked about the online criticism over the uncontested election, Madam Halimah called on Singaporeans to stay united and focus on the internal and external challenges facing the nation.

"I urge Singaporeans, let's work together, stay united. We have not seen the best for ourselves yet. Let's see what we can do to achieve the best for ourselves and for our children and our grandchildren," she said.

She is the country's first Malay president in 47 years, and Singapore's first woman president.
















Inauguration of President Halimah Yacob: China, US among those who send congratulations
By Danson Cheong, The Straits Times, 15 Sep 2017

China and the United States are among the foreign governments that congratulated Madam Halimah Yacob yesterday on becoming Singapore's eighth president.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying said that China attaches great importance to relations with Singapore, an important member of the ASEAN bloc, said state news agency Xinhua.

It reported Ms Hua as saying that China is ready to work with Singapore to develop the partnership of all-round cooperation in keeping with the times.




The American government, in its congratulatory letter to President Halimah, said the US shares a strong and time-honoured strategic partnership with Singapore.

"We look forward to working together and continuing our cooperation on our shared interests in the region and worldwide," its State Department said in a statement.


President Halimah is Singapore's first woman president and the first Malay president after 47 years.


Noting her achievement, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-Wen congratulated her on becoming Singapore's first woman president, the Taiwanese Foreign Ministry said in a statement.


Ms Tsai also said she was looking forward to working with President Halimah to deepen and expand relations between Singapore and Taiwan.


Meanwhile, two community groups in Singapore said that President Halimah was both a symbol of multiracialism and an inspiration to Singaporeans.


Mr Roland Ng, president of the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said he was looking forward to President Halimah unlocking greater economic opportunities abroad for Singapore companies.


"Madam Halimah signifies Singapore's successful multiracialism, which will help to sustain a stable environment conducive for our businesses," he said.


Mr K. Barathan, chief executive of the Singapore Indian Development Association, paid tribute to the President for her 40 years of public service, first with the labour movement, then later as MP, minister of state and Speaker of Parliament. He said she was an "inspiration to every Singaporean".


He added that he was confident she would continue to lead with passion, dedication and vigour.


"Under your leadership, we can foster a stronger and more cohesive nation that can only grow from strength to strength," he said.











President Halimah's inauguration: Don’t overlook this key moment in Singapore’s history
A Malay woman, with her unique qualities, overcame very long odds to be president
By Elgin Toh, Insight Editor, The Straits Times, 15 Sep 2017

In August 1954, a girl was born in her family home in Queen Street.

She was named Halimah Yacob.

Months later, Singapore held its first Legislative Assembly election. Of the 75 candidates who ran in 1955, only two were women. Both were Chinese, and both lost their contests. And of the 25 men elected, just three were Malay.

What were the odds, then, that a Malay girl, born in August 1954, could one day set foot in Parliament, become Speaker and ultimately be elected Singapore's President? Very long odds, indeed.

When Madam Halimah was sworn in as President yesterday evening, history was made.

The point is presented starkly here because there is a genuine danger we might overlook the significance of this moment - given the controversy surrounding the election.

It is important to acknowledge the controversy: There is a sizeable segment for whom an election reserved for candidates of one race is fundamentally flawed. The lack of a contest compounded the issue for this group.

The changes to the elected presidency, and the timing of the changes, have been debated. The Government has explained the need for the change. The debates will continue for a while longer.

But none of this should take anything away from the momentous nature of Madam Halimah's election and her remarkable journey.

Imagine a country that makes it through the qualifiers of the football World Cup for the first time in history. Defying all predictions, it then goes all the way to the final.

In the final, after 90 minutes of nail-biting play without a goal, the referee, in the game's dying seconds, awards that country a penalty kick, in a 50-50 call that could have gone either way. The team scores. It lifts the World Cup in its maiden outing.

The contention over the penalty will not go away easily. Pundits will argue its merits, maybe for years.

But such discussions do not detract from the remarkable World Cup run achieved by that country.



And so it is with Madam Halimah's historic election.

The changes to the presidency were hotly debated, but they were also somewhat beyond her control. Indeed, she knew of the risk to her own reputation, given how some disagreed with the changes, but she chose to step forward anyway.

Madam Halimah has faced formidable obstacles at every stage of her life. She worked hard to overcome them.

Any number of things could have led to a different outcome.

She could have dropped out ofschool to supplement the income of her widowed mother, who sold nasi padang to raise five children on her own.

As a woman lawyer in a labour movement dominated by blue-collar men, she could have been taken less than seriously.

As a headscarf-donning Muslim politician, she could have found it harder to connect with the non-Muslim majority.

As Speaker of Parliament, she could have shunned the public scrutiny of a presidential run.

At each stage, her unique qualities saw her through. These included her determined nature, her personal warmth, her genuine concern for the weak and her heart to serve the public.

In a parallel universe, Madam Halimah could so easily have not become president. But she has.

Not a long time ago - as recently as 2012 - there was no woman in Cabinet. Today, there are two: Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu and Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Josephine Teo. Now, there is also President Halimah Yacob.

As we pause to reflect on the import of this moment, we should, as a nation, challenge ourselves further: How long do we have to wait for a woman to be prime minister, or for someone from a minority race to be prime minister?

When that day comes, every child - boy, girl, Malay, Indian, Chinese, or of any race - can grow up believing that anything is possible under the Singapore sky.

Meanwhile, the fight to shatter glass ceilings continues.

The fight involves individuals waking up each morning and doing their best to realise their potential.

But the fight also involves ensuring a level playing field.

The reserved election is at times framed as a compromise of meritocracy - in order to advance multiracialism.

But if one accepts that the nature of Singapore's elections is unmeritocratic to begin with, because voters systematically discriminate against minority candidates, then affirmative action is not a compromise of meritocracy. It is in fact a desirable and necessary move to enable a truer meritocracy.

If a key role of the president is to be a unifying symbol of the nation, Madam Halimah personifies it. For she represents not just multiracialism, but also the progress of countless Singaporean women since the 1950s.

Above all, her incredible journey symbolises the journey of a country that itself overcame impossible odds to make something of its tiny existence.

As Madam Halimah begins her first full day as President today, the striving continues - for her, for millions of Singaporeans, and for this most improbable nation.





Speech by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong
A symbol of Singapore's dream to be nation for all races
The Straits Times, 15 Sep 2017

We are here this evening to witness the inauguration of Madam Halimah Yacob as the eighth President of the Republic of Singapore.

Madam President, congratulations on your election. Your story reflects the Singapore Story - how we have come this far together, and what we aspire to be as a nation. You have overcome difficult challenges in your life. Your early years were of hardship and deprivation. But you studied and worked hard, to get a good education and a steady job to support your family. 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 life story symbolises the sort of society that we aspire to be, and reminds us that the Singapore Story is one of hope and opportunity. In Singapore, no matter where we begin in life, if we work hard, we will have ample chances to do well; and when we make good, we have a responsibility in turn to help others around us.

Madam 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.

As a unionist, you championed workers' interests. As a social activist and community leader, you cared for the underprivileged, and groups in need of special help. As a Member of Parliament, you worked with residents to solve their problems and brought people together to build a community.

As a minister of state, you worked with youth groups to engage their energies and idealism, improved childcare services to support working mothers, and enhanced support for the disabled by setting up the Centre for Enabled Living, which later became SG Enable.

As the Speaker of Parliament, you were even-handed and fair to all MPs, encouraging robust debates on national issues, while maintaining decorum and order in the House.

Your wealth of experience in public service has prepared you for your new duties. The President has important custodial powers over the nation's past reserves and key public service appointments. When exercising these custodial powers, you have to make independent judgments on the issues before you, taking full advantage of the experience and advice of the Council of Presidential Advisers. At the same time, the President has to work closely with the Government, for the two-key mechanism to function properly. I look forward to establishing such a relationship with you, just as I did with your predecessors.



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. The highest office in the land, the President is the symbol of the nation. 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.

Madam President, you are the first Malay to become President since our first president, Encik Yusof Ishak, 47 years ago. You are also the first Malay to be elected President since it became an elected office in 1991, and the first President elected since the major constitutional changes last year. You are also our first female President.

Your swearing-in today is therefore a significant moment in our history. Today, we reaffirm the pledge that Mr Lee Kuan Yew made on Aug 9, 1965, in the very 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.

When Mr Lee made this pledge, we had a Malay head of state. President Yusof Ishak symbolised, visibly, that though we had been forced out of Malaysia primarily because we were a Chinese-majority city, independent Singapore would never in turn suppress its own non-Chinese minorities. We chose the nobler dream: A multiracial, multi-religious Singapore.

Madam 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. That is why we make sure that Parliament always has representatives from all ethnic groups. And now we will regularly have a head of state, the symbol of the nation, who can look like president Benjamin Sheares (a Eurasian), president S R Nathan (an Indian), president Tony Tan (a Chinese), and President Halimah Yacob (a Malay and a woman). Indeed, that was the compelling reason the Government amended the Constitution last year.

Madam President, Encik Yusof Ishak was the 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.












Multiracial society a work in progress: President Halimah Yacob
The Straits Times, 15 Sep 2017

Madam Halimah Yacob says, as she is sworn in as Singapore's first woman head of state, that she welcomes moves to ensure presidents come regularly from every ethnic group.

Prime Minister, Chief Justice, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

I am honoured by this opportunity to serve as the eighth President of Singapore. It is a heavy responsibility and I will do my best. I will discharge my duties faithfully in the best interests of Singaporeans and Singapore.

From the bottom of my heart, I want to thank all Singaporeans for your support. I am deeply touched by your good wishes and words of encouragement. Over the last few weeks, I have met thousands of Singaporeans from all walks of life, all ages and all races. Many of you shared with me your hopes and dreams for Singapore. I am energised and motivated by your conviction and enthusiasm. We are all united by our deep love for Singapore, our desire to see Singapore do well and our determination to make it a great home for all Singaporeans.

I wish especially to mention the labour movement, with whom I have worked very closely for many years, and from whom I have learnt much about compassion and comradeship. I know that these lessons will help me in my new role. I would also like to thank the many community, social and business organisations which have worked with me all these years. I look forward to our continued partnership.

The presidency is the highest office in our land and is a key institution in our democracy. It unifies our nation by embodying our shared values as a people - multiracialism, meritocracy and stewardship. These values are even more important today, guiding us as we find our way forward in a troubled and uncertain world. Let me speak about each of them in turn.



MULTIRACIALISM

First, multiracialism. Our first president, Encik Yusof Ishak, together with our other founding fathers, established the foundations of multiracialism during Singapore's formative years. They understood that multiracialism does not mean ignoring or forcibly erasing differences between ethnic groups. Instead, they recognised our diversity, and took steps to reassure every community that they were a unique and valued part of our society. I am glad that our founding leaders went beyond enshrining multiracialism in our National Pledge, to entrench it in key national policies like housing, education and security.

With these strong foundations, we have been able to build a diverse yet cohesive community. I grew up in Selegie House, in a multiracial neighbourhood. I attended Singapore Chinese Girls' School, and I had classmates and friends from all races. In the unions, I served workers regardless of their race. As a Member of Parliament, I took care of the needs of Singaporeans from every race and religion. I am proud that I belong to a country that does not just say it is diverse, but lives out this diversity every single day.

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. We need guideposts to help us along this journey. For example, integration in housing and schools is now part of our social landscape. Had we left them on their own, they might have taken a different direction. Every generation faces new challenges to our multiracialism. Every generation must update our institutions to strengthen our shared values. And every generation needs champions who care deeply about multiracialism and fight to uphold and realise this ideal.

Therefore, I welcome the recent moves to protect our multiracial identity by ensuring that our presidents will regularly come from every ethnic group, including the minorities. 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, language or religion.

MERITOCRACY

Meritocracy is another of our core values. We believe that all Singaporeans should have the opportunity to get a good education and a good start in life, regardless of who your parents are, or where you come from. We firmly believe that anyone who works hard should be able to realise his or her full potential, and make valuable contributions to society.

I have strong personal convictions about our meritocratic system, because without it, I would not be here today. I lost my father when I was young; my mum singlehandedly brought up my four siblings and me. We experienced poverty and hardship first-hand, struggling to survive every single day. Fortunately, I was growing up in Singapore. Even though my family was poor, I could get a good education by working hard, with the strong support of my family, teachers and the community. That enabled me to launch my career in the public service, and later to give others in need a helping hand.



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. As President, I will build on the good work of president S R Nathan and president Tony Tan. I will use the President's Challenge to uplift the less privileged in our society. Beyond giving immediate help, we must also assist needy families to prepare for the challenges of tomorrow. I thus welcome the Government's plans to make major investments in early childhood education, to get those from humble backgrounds off to a good start, ready to do well in our meritocratic system. I also welcome the major investments in skills upgrading, to help their parents earn more and enjoy better job security.

STEWARDSHIP

The last core value I want to speak about is stewardship. We have inherited a prosperous and well-developed city, a clean and efficient system, and strong shared values. In all this, we are beneficiaries of the hard work of earlier generations. Now it is our responsibility to steward this island-nation well, so we can pass on to future generations a better country, a more robust system and a stronger commitment to our values.

Stewardship includes taking care of one another, and working together to solve the problems we face today. Socially, we have to take care of our ageing population and growing healthcare needs. Economically, we have to prepare workers and businesses for new jobs and opportunities. And in terms of security, we must deal with divisive forces that are sweeping across the world, including the twin threats of extremist terrorism and Islamophobia.

But stewardship also means planning for the future, and building for the next generation. We must invest in our economy and our people. This includes infrastructure and hardware, but also education and healthcare.

All these programmes and investments will improve our lives, make us more productive and create more opportunities for our next generation. But they also cost billions of dollars. Budgets will be tight. We need to grow our economy so as to generate more resources to afford these programmes and investments. We will also need to husband our 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 judgment, consulting the Council of Presidential Advisers, and working closely with the Prime Minister and the Government.

Our reserves have been built up through the hard work and careful stewardship of successive governments and generations of Singaporeans. Income from the reserves is an important source of government revenue. But the reserves themselves must not be used, except for very good reason.

Our honest and capable public service is a precious asset that enables us to perform well as a nation, and hold our own internationally against bigger and better-endowed competitors. I will do my duty to ensure that new appointments to critical posts measure up to our high standards of integrity and ability. The public service must maintain its high quality and standing, in order to continue to serve Singapore well.

UNITY

Ladies and gentlemen, in my previous roles, I have seen how much we can achieve by working together. Now, as President, my duty is to unite the people, to overcome the many challenges ahead of us, together.

I pledge to continue this journey of service to our country. I call on all Singaporeans to join me in this endeavour. Our goal must be to leave behind a better Singapore for future generations. 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.











* President Halimah to move out of Yishun flat
Decision after 'strong advice' from security agencies about challenges in protecting her
By Tham Yuen-C, Assistant Political Editor and Tan Tam Mei, The Straits Times, 3 Oct 2017

Three weeks after she was declared President and indicated her desire to continue living in her HDB flat, Madam Halimah Yacob is moving out because of security challenges.

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said yesterday that it had "strongly advised" the President to consider moving to another place as security agencies tasked to protect her would face challenges if she continued to live in her home in Yishun.

After being sworn in on Sept 14, Madam Halimah stayed on, making her the first head of state to live in public housing while in office. Singapore's past presidents had lived in private homes or at the Istana.

Madam Halimah also told reporters she wanted to continue living in her sixth-floor flat during her six-year term, sparking questions about security arrangements.

Yesterday, MHA said it "strongly advised the President to consider moving to another place" after assessing security arrangements.

"This will enable the agencies to ensure her safety and security with greater assurance," it added.



Since her election as President, police have intensified security measures in the area. An awning was put up, for instance, at the foot of the HDB block, and it extended from the void deck to a carpark space reserved for police vehicles.

Madam Halimah, acknowledging the security challenges, said in a Facebook post that she had accepted the security recommendations: "As much as I would like to continue living in my current home in Yishun, I have accepted MHA's recommendation and will make arrangements to move to a new place soon." She also thanked people for their concern.

When asked, the Istana declined to say where she will move to.



The Yishun flat was the first property Madam Halimah, 63, and her husband, Mr Mohamed Abdullah Alhabshee, 63, a retired businessman, bought as a couple over 30 years ago, and where they raised their two sons and three daughters, aged 26 to 36. The couple later made it a jumbo flat by combining the four-room unit with a neighbouring five-room flat bought on the resale market.

Political observers said Madam Halimah's impending move could understandably spark some disappointment, as her earlier decision to continue living in the flat was very well received.

Law don Eugene Tan said: "It added to her common touch as an HDB heartlander. It was a wonderful endorsement for the ubiquitous HDB flat in which 80 per cent of Singaporeans live." But he stressed that security would ultimately have to take precedence, given her important role as head of state.

He added that if the present location is challenging to security agencies, it "would also pose potential security concerns to her neighbours".



Dr Norshahril Saat of ISEAS - Yusof Ishak Institute said the fact that some people have uploaded photos and videos of Madam Halimah, shot from neighbouring blocks, raises security concerns. Given the heightened security climate and terror threat, it was all the more important to ensure the security of Singapore's leaders, he added.

For almost a month, her block was closely scrutinised, as curious Singaporeans went there hoping to catch a glimpse of her.



Her neighbours told The Straits Times yesterday that they did not feel inconvenienced by the changes to their estate. Some quipped that they would miss the added security.

Long-time resident Sumana Divekar, in her 40s, said she felt proud that such a down-to-earth President lives in her block. Retiree Irene Song, 64, said in Mandarin: "It is a bit hard to let go of such a good neighbour, everyone likes her. But as long as it is what she wants and she is happy, that is all that matters."



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