MPs pay tribute to Halimah for being fair guiding hand

(Front row, from left) MP Charles Chong (Punggol East), Minister for Culture, Community and Youth & Leader of the House Grace Fu, Mr Mohamed Abdullah Alhabshee, Madam Halimah Yacob, NMP Thomas Chua, and NMP Mahdev Mohan. (Back row, from left) Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim, Mr Chong Kee Hiong from Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC, MP Vikram Nair (Sembawang GRC MP), NMP Randolph Tan, MP Lee Bee Wah (Nee Soon GRC MP), MP Lim Biow Chuan (Mountbatten MP) MP Daryl David (Ang Mo Kio GRC MP), MP Joan Pereira (Tanjong Pagar GRC), PM Lee Hsien Loong, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Transport & Ministry of Health Lam Pin Min, Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies Tharman Shanmugaratnam, MP Tan Wu Meng (Jurong GRC MP), MP Png Eng Huat (Hougang MP), and Minister for Defence Ng Eng Hen. PHOTO: FACEBOOK/HALIMAH YACOB

Madam Halimah Yacob spent an eventful four years as Speaker of Parliament, steering the House through a period of national mourning after the death of founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, and intense debates on public order, population policy and changes to the political system.

As Mr Tan Chuan-Jin was elected yesterday to fill the post she vacated, MPs paid tribute to Madam Halimah for being a fair guiding hand even during the most contentious of debates.

The 63-year-old, who quit her party and political posts last month to contest the presidential election, was seated with her husband Mohamed Abdullah Alhabshee in the chamber.

Ms Tin Pei Ling (MacPherson) said Madam Halimah had, during her term, ensured that the voices representing different interests and Singaporeans were heard.

Leader of the House Grace Fu, too, praised her impartiality.

"She has exemplified the principles of fairness and equality, giving everyone the opportunity to make their case to ensure a robust yet civilised debate," she said, adding: " Madam Halimah leaves behind a stronger institution."

She noted that Madam Halimah had presided over intense debates that spanned the spectrum, including those on public order and security after the Little India riot, and the controversial Population White Paper that projected Singapore's population to be between 6.5 million and 6.9 million by 2030.

Madam Halimah moved proceedings without "fear or favour", giving all members the opportunity to speak, said Ms Fu.

She also opened up Parliament House to Singaporeans from all walks of life in the days after the death of Mr Lee Kuan Yew for his lying-in-state in March 2015.

Ms Fu - who in 2015 became the country's first woman minister with her own portfolio - noted that Madam Halimah had advanced gender equality by being the first woman Speaker and was now "taking strides towards the highest office of the country".

Hours later, it emerged that Madam Halimah was the only presidential hopeful issued a certificate of eligibility, indicating that she will be declared the country's eighth president shortly after nominations close at noon tomorrow.

Some MPs, like Mr Vikram Nair (Sembawang GRC), said that while her presidential bid will be a loss to the House, "it will hopefully be a gain for Singapore".

"I look forward to having our first female head of state - a great way to mark the next 50 years of Singapore's journey."

Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 12, 2017, with the headline MPs pay tribute to Halimah for being fair guiding hand. Subscribe