President Halimah's New Year message: Build bridges between communities and stay united

President Halimah Yacob delivered a new year message in a 50-second video posted on Facebook on Dec 31. PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM FACEBOOK/HALIMAH YACOB

SINGAPORE - In her New Year message, President Halimah Yacob has called on Singaporeans to build on the "tremendous strength" that Singapore has.

These strengths are evident "in the way we respect our religious and cultural diversity, in the way we provide opportunities for everyone, and in the way we value social cohesion", she said.

"As we enter the new year, let's continue to build on this strength. Build bridges between communities and stay united," added President Halimah, who marks her first new year as president.

Madam Halimah stepped down as MP and Speaker of Parliament earlier this year to run for the presidency. She was elected in September, becoming Singapore's first woman president - and its first Malay president in 47 years.

The message - delivered in a 50-second video and posted on Facebook on Sunday (Dec 31) - is the first New Year video message by a president. The President's Office said the video was shot by the Swan Pond of the Istana on Friday.

In the video, President Halimah also thanked Singaporeans for giving her the chance to serve as their president.

"In the course of the past three months, I have continued to reach out to many Singaporeans from all walks of life, something which I will carry on doing throughout my presidency," she added.

She wished all Singaporeans "a wonderful, prosperous and peaceful new year".

The video also put the spotlight on a pair of graceful swans living on the grounds of the Istana. The duo glided unhurriedly across the pond in the background, while President Halimah spoke to the camera.

The white swans - also known as Mute Swans, because of their quiet nature - arrived at the Istana from Jurong Bird Park in 2002, and are about 19 years old. Members of the public can catch a glimpse of the pair during Istana open house days.

According to the book Gardens of the Istana, the idea of having a lake on the Istana grounds, with swans and fishes, originated with founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew.

The lake was constructed in 1968, and the first pair of swans introduced to the pond then were a gift from the Zoological Society of London.

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