President Halimah Yacob to move out of Yishun flat

President Halimah Yacob will be moving out of her Yishun flat, after the Ministry of Home Affairs said security agencies would face challenges in ensuring her protection if she continued to stay there. PHOTO: AZIZ HUSSIN FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

SINGAPORE - President Halimah Yacob will move out of her Yishun flat, after taking advice from security agencies tasked with ensuring her safety.

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said that after a careful assessment of security arrangements, it has informed Madam Halimah that "the security agencies face several challenges in ensuring her security and protection, if she continues to stay in her current home".

"MHA has therefore strongly advised the President to consider moving to another place. This will enable the agencies to ensure her safety and security with greater assurance," it added in a statement.

Madam Halimah, who has accepted the MHA's recommendations, said in a Facebook post: "Thank you for everyone's concern with regard to my residential arrangements."

She added: "MHA has just issued a statement about the security challenges they face if I continue living in my current home. Therefore, 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."

The Istana declined to say where she will move to.

After being declared President on Sept 13, Madam Halimah, 63, had continued to live in the Yishun flat, making her Singapore's first head of state to live in public housing while in office.

She had earlier told reporters she intended to live there during her term.

A retiree who lives in the same block as Madam Halimah said he had heard about the President moving out about two days ago. The 72-year-old, who gave his name only as Mr Ho, said in Mandarin: "I don't know her too well, but we always greet each other when we meet.

"It's better for her safety, and I think it will be more convenient for her to come and go from her home if she lives in a private place."

Mr Ho, who has been living there for 30 years, added that for about two weeks after Madam Halimah was sworn in as president, many people would visit the block hoping to catch a glimpse of her or see her unit.

Retiree Irene Song, 64, said she was a little sad to hear that a good neighbour would be moving away.

She said in Mandarin: "It's a bit hard to let go of such a good neighbour, everyone likes her. But as long as it's what she wants and she is happy, that's all that matters."

Her daughter, a 40-year-old auditor who wanted to be known only as Ms Loh, quipped that she would miss the added security in the neighbourhood.

"I imagine it must be quite challenging for her security detail to operate in such a public area, so if it's for her safety (to move away), it's good too," said Ms Loh.

The sixth-floor flat was the first property she and her husband, Mr Mohamed Abdullah Alhabshee, 63, bought as newly weds more than 30 years ago.

They later made it a jumbo flat by combining the four-room unit with a neighbouring five-room flat they bought on the resale market.

Madam Halimah has described it as a "very nice, comfortable place". She has been living there for the past 30 years with her family. She has two sons and three daughters, aged 26 to 36.

Singapore's past presidents had lived in private housing or at the Istana, and Madam Halimah's decision had raised questions about security arrangements.

Ever since her election as President, police have intensified security measures in the area.

An awning was put up at the foot of the Housing Board block, extending from the void deck to a carpark space reserved for police vehicles.

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