SINGAPORE- For almost a month, a Housing Board block in Yishun was the most scrutinised in Singapore as it housed the country's first woman President.
On Monday (Oct 2), neighbours of President Halimah Yacob said they will miss the long-time Yishun resident after the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) announced she will be moving out of her HDB flat.
The ministry had advised Madam Halimah to move out, after conducting a careful assessment of security arrangements which found 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 said in a statement.
Residents living in the same block told The Straits Times Madam Halimah is a friendly face that everyone is fond of, and a good neighbour.
Retiree Irene Song, 64, said she was "a bit sad" to hear the news. 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, who wanted to be known only as Ms Loh, quipped that she would miss the added security that Madam Halimah's officers gave the neighbourhood.
The 40-year-old auditor added: "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, it's good too."
After her inauguration as president on Sept 14, Madam Halimah continued living in her Yishun flat, becoming Singapore's first head of state to live in public housing while in office. She earlier told reporters she intended to live there during her term.
Another neighbour Madam Susan Ho, 63, said she was shocked to hear that the president was moving out. "I didn't think it would happen so fast, I've only seen her a couple of times but she's always very pleasant."
Residents who spoke to The Straits Times said they did not feel inconvenienced by the changes to their estate, which have drawn public scrutiny. For instance, an awning was put up at the foot of the block which extended from the void deck to a carpark space reserved for police vehicles
A 50-year-old housewife who lives on the same floor as Madam Halimah said she often bumps into the President while walking her dog downstairs.
"She living in our block is not inconvenient for us at all. Rather, it's more inconvenient for her and her security," said the neighbour, who wanted to be known only as Madam Choo.
A 72-year-old retiree, who gave his name only as Mr Ho, said many people visited the block for about two weeks after Madam Halimah's inauguration, hoping to catch a glimpse of her or see her unit.
Mr Ho, who has lived there for 30 years, said: "But that too has died down. Things are back to normal."
Long-time resident Madam Sumana Divekar said she used to see Madam Halimah almost every day around the block and felt proud of the fact that such a down-to-earth president lives in the same block.
Said the Montessori director in her 40s: "When she moves away we will definitely miss seeing the familiar face around."