PM Lee thanks Halimah Yacob for her many contributions

Madam Halimah Yacob, with her husband Mohammed Abdullah Alhabshee behind her, joining in a mass singing of National Day songs at the Marsiling National Day dinner celebration on Sunday.
Madam Halimah Yacob, with her husband Mohammed Abdullah Alhabshee behind her, joining in a mass singing of National Day songs at the Marsiling National Day dinner celebration on Sunday.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

He says former Speaker will make a good president if elected, noting how she has fought for those in need

As a unionist and politician, Madam Halimah Yacob had been a champion of workers, ordinary Singaporeans and the underprivileged, always pushing for a more equitable society, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday.

He had no doubt she would make a good president if elected, he wrote in reply to her resignation letters for her various posts.

Mr Lee, secretary-general of the People's Action Party (PAP), recounted Madam Halimah's contributions as unionist, MP, minister of state and Speaker of Parliament in his three-page letter.

He recalled meeting her for the first time 20 years ago, when she was head of the National Trades Union Congress' (NTUC) legal department, and said she was always humble, sincere and fair in her roles.

"The president's role requires her to be non-partisan and above politics, working with the Government but making independent judgments when she exercises her custodial powers, such as when deciding on reserves and key appointments. I have no doubt that you will be able to play this different constitutional role well," he wrote.

Yesterday morning, Madam Halimah tendered her resignation as an MP of Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC and a member of the PAP, in which she was a member of the central executive committee and chair of the PAP Seniors' Group. She also resigned as Speaker of Parliament in a letter to Clerk of Parliament Ng Sheau Jiuan.

In her resignation letters, she spoke of her long public service career and causes close to her heart.

Her time in NTUC, which she joined in 1978, shaped her desire to fight for workers and the disadvantaged, and to contribute to society.

 
 
 
 

Recounting the insights gained, she said the job became "a calling", teaching her the importance of building trust, which is also important in politics. "We need to secure the confidence of the people we serve. If they trust us, they will understand that we are not there for personal reasons," she added.

Madam Halimah also said the opportunities she had were made possible because Singapore is a multiracial, meritocratic nation where everyone regardless of race, language or religion can chase their dreams.

"It is with all these in mind that I have made the decision to offer myself as a candidate for the elected presidency," she told Mr Lee.

Mr Lee, in his letter, recounted the many firsts she achieved: The first Singaporean elected to the United Nations' International Labour Organisation in 1999, the first woman Malay MP since independence after being elected in 2001 in Jurong GRC and the first woman to be made Speaker of Parliament in 2013.

As an MP, she "won over residents of all races and ages with your sincerity, warmth and effectiveness", he said. And in Parliament, she was "an active backbencher" who championed cost of living issues, affordable healthcare and fair employment.

As minister of state in the then Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports in 2011, she maintained an independent view and argued her case in Cabinet, "often causing us to rethink our positions", Mr Lee said.

In the PAP, she was on a committee that interviews potential PAP candidates as she "had a good sense of people" and was "shrewd in judging characters and motives".

Though she was a "leader and role model" in the Malay-Muslim community, her support for social causes cut across racial lines.

He added: "I am writing to put on record my thanks for your many contributions."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 08, 2017, with the headline 'PM Lee thanks Halimah for her many contributions'. Print Edition | Subscribe