SINGAPORE - Ninety-one Members of Parliament (MPs) were sworn into Parliament on Friday (Jan 15) afternoon in a solemn ceremony that marked the start of the Government's new term.
As the bell rang just before 3.30pm to signal the start of the sitting, the MPs filed into the Chamber and took their seats.
The first item of business for the 13th Parliament was the election of Madam Halimah Yacob as Speaker of Parliament, a post she held before Parliament dissolved ahead of the general election in August 2015.
Leader of the House Grace Fu, who proposed Madam Halimah for the post, said after she was elected: "Your impartiality and decisiveness have gained the respect of all members of the House. In discharging your duties, your fairness upheld the decorum of this House and your firmness has ensured that the proceedings are expeditious, smooth and orderly. Under your guidance, the good standing of this House will continue to be maintained."
Following the election of the Speaker, the MPs, starting with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, took their oaths of allegiance.
He was followed by the three Coordinating Ministers - Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, and Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan.
The ceremony continued with the office holders, backbenchers and Non-Constituency MPs (NCMPs) taking their oaths of allegiance in 10 batches.
The 89 elected parliamentarians included 19 first-time MPs - all from the People's Action Party - and two new NCMPs from the Workers' Party (WP): Mr Leon Perera and Mr Dennis Tan.
One seat was conspicuously vacant: that of the WP's Lee Li Lian. Ms Lee was offered a NCMP seat after she failed to defend her seat in Punggol East in the 2015 General Election, but declined the position.
The decision on whether to fill the third NCMP seat now rests with Parliament.
After being sworn in, MPs Zainal Sapari, Tin Pei Ling and Vikram Nair rose to thank Madam Halimah for her guidance to the House, saying that she had been a role model for the other MPs.
They also said that as the first female speaker, Madam Halimah had blazed a trial for other women and proven that Singapore is a mature meritocracy.
Responding, Madam Halimah thanked MPs for their kind words and pledged to discharge her duties fairly and impartially.
She then welcomed the new MPs and advised them to make honest, sincere and heartfelt speeches.
"There is no need to play to the gallery. It is much easier to be convincing if you care about your topic, so you should figure out what's important to your message and speak from your heart," she said.
Later in the evening, the MPs will reconvene to listen to President Tony Tan Keng Yam deliver the President's Address, which will set out the Government's agenda and plans for its five-year term.