SINGAPORE - Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong has urged Singaporeans to unite and rally behind President Halimah Yacob despite the controversy and criticism over the way she won the presidential election in a walkover.
ESM Goh wrote in a Facebook post on Thursday (Sept 14) that while the election process was "highly controversial", Madam Halimah was not a controversial figure.
"Halimah did not dream of being a President but will serve with full heart now that she is. The focus so far has been on process, but we should not let whatever unhappiness weigh down her duties," he said, referring to the unhappiness expressed online over the way she was elected.
"We expect our Head of State to be a unifying figure but we must also do our part to help the President succeed," he added.
ESM Goh Facebook post at 2pm comes four hours before the inauguration of Madam Halimah as Singapore's 8th President and first woman head of state, and the second Malay President in 47 years.
The 63-year-old former Speaker of Parliament was elected unopposed on Wednesday (Sept 13) in the first presidential election reserved for the Malay community.
Her two rivals, businessmen Salleh Marican. 67, and Farid Khan, 61, did not qualify to run because their companies did not meet the key $500 million shareholder equity threshold required for candidates from the private sector.
Madam Halimah has promised to be a President for all Singaporeans when she was declared President-elect on Wednesday. She said: "Although this is a reserved election, I am not a 'reserved' president... I am a president for everyone, regardless of race, language, religion or creed."
ESM Goh, who was Prime Minister when Madam Halimah quit NTUC to join politics in 2001, said he had persuaded her to leave the labour movement so she could serve all Singaporeans, not just workers.
Over the years, he tracked her performance with a keen eye, as an MP in her constituency, a backbencher in Parliament, then as Minister of State and Speaker of Parliament.
She also chaired the PAP Seniors Group committee, where he said he had personally observed her sincerity to help the elderly.
Congratulating Madam Halimah on her election, he said: "Her motivation, dedication and desire to serve and help others are not skin-deep. I have no doubt that she will gain the respect and support of the people as a humble, down-to-earth and sincere President with a big heart for all, regardless of status, wealth, abilities, race or religion."