Inauguration of President Halimah Yacob

New head of state tours Istana grounds

Left: Madam Halimah touring the grounds with (from far left) Principal Private Secretary to the President Benny Lee; head of Istana Programmes and Household Sunny Seah; and NParks group director (Fort Canning and Istana) Wong Tuan Wah. Above: Madam H
Madam Halimah touring the grounds with (from far left) Principal Private Secretary to the President Benny Lee; head of Istana Programmes and Household Sunny Seah; and NParks group director (Fort Canning and Istana) Wong Tuan Wah.ST PHOTOS: DESMOND FOO
Left: Madam Halimah touring the grounds with (from far left) Principal Private Secretary to the President Benny Lee; head of Istana Programmes and Household Sunny Seah; and NParks group director (Fort Canning and Istana) Wong Tuan Wah. Above: Madam H
Madam Halimah Yacob making her first visit to the President’s Office in the Istana yesterday.ST PHOTOS: DESMOND FOO
Left: Madam Halimah touring the grounds with (from far left) Principal Private Secretary to the President Benny Lee; head of Istana Programmes and Household Sunny Seah; and NParks group director (Fort Canning and Istana) Wong Tuan Wah. Above: Madam H
Madam Halimah, who has been sworn in as Singapore’s eighth president, with a bust of Yusof Ishak, the country’s first head of state.ST PHOTOS: DESMOND FOO
Left: Madam Halimah touring the grounds with (from far left) Principal Private Secretary to the President Benny Lee; head of Istana Programmes and Household Sunny Seah; and NParks group director (Fort Canning and Istana) Wong Tuan Wah. Above: Madam H
NParks’ Mr Wong showing Madam Halimah the various plants and fruits grown in the lush gardens of the Istana. The President says elderly volunteers could be invited to tend to the Istana’s herb gardens, and help harvest its fruits and spices.ST PHOTOS: DESMOND FOO
Left: Madam Halimah touring the grounds with (from far left) Principal Private Secretary to the President Benny Lee; head of Istana Programmes and Household Sunny Seah; and NParks group director (Fort Canning and Istana) Wong Tuan Wah. Above: Madam H
Two reserved parking spaces have been created at the Housing Board carpark near Madam Halimah’s Yishun flat.ST PHOTOS: DESMOND FOO

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.

VIDEO

Halimah given a tour of Istana. str.sg/4VFo

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 15, 2017, with the headline 'New head of state tours Istana grounds'. Print Edition | Subscribe