SINGAPORE - President-elect Madam Halimah Yacob was on Thursday (Sept 14) morning given a tour of the Istana ahead of her inauguration as Singapore's eighth head of state later in the day.
Madam Halimah, 63, 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.
There was also a preparation for her swearing-in ceremony.
Speaking to reporters after her tour, Madam Halimah said she was considering making the Istana grounds more accessible to Singaporeans.
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, apart from the Istana Open Houses on certain public holidays, when the grounds are open to the public.
“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’s 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, lets work together, stay united. We have not seen the best for ourselves yet. Lets see what we can do to achieve the best for ourselves and for our children and our grandchildren,” she said.
She will be the country's first Malay president in 47 years and first woman president.
The other two presidential hopefuls, businessmen Salleh Marican and Farid Khan, did not qualify to contest.
One of the key messages in Madam Halimah's inauguration speech will be on the core values of multiracialism and meritocracy, which have brought Singapore to where it is today and which are dear to her.