Singapore's multiracialism not just a slogan: Halimah

Above: With Madam Halimah at the nomination centre yesterday were (from left) daughter Sharifah Bahiyah, daughter-in-law Amal Nasibah, son Syed Isa, son-in-law Mohd Karno and son Syed Ali. Left: The crowd showing their support for the President-elect
Above: With Madam Halimah at the nomination centre yesterday were (from left) daughter Sharifah Bahiyah, daughter-in-law Amal Nasibah, son Syed Isa, son-in-law Mohd Karno and son Syed AliST PHOTOS: ZAKIR HUSSAIN, KUA CHEE SIONG
Above: With Madam Halimah at the nomination centre yesterday were (from left) daughter Sharifah Bahiyah, daughter-in-law Amal Nasibah, son Syed Isa, son-in-law Mohd Karno and son Syed Ali. Left: The crowd showing their support for the President-elect
The crowd showing their support for the President-elect at the People's Association Headquarters. A sizeable majority of those present came from the unions, where Madam Halimah spent more than three decades fighting for workers' rights. ST PHOTOS: ZAKIR HUSSAIN, KUA CHEE SIONG

Having second Malay president shows everyone is given opportunities, regardless of race or religion, she says

That Singapore has its second Malay president - after 47 years - shows multiracialism is not just a slogan, said Madam Halimah Yacob, who was yesterday elected unopposed in the country's first reserved presidential election.

In a speech to several hundred supporters, she said: "I believe that this is a proud moment for Singapore. This is a proud moment for multiculturalism, multiracialism, for our society.

"This shows that multiracialism is not just a slogan - something that is good for us to say, something for people to hear. It means that it really works in our society, that everyone has a chance to reach the highest office of the land."

This is not just good for now, she added. It will also be good for generations to come because it shows "very positively how Singapore practises multiracialism".

Her supporters gathered at the open field in the midday sun at the nomination centre, the People's Association Headquarters, cheering her on with whistles and clappers.

Multiculturalism was on display at the field, where a sea of supporters mostly dressed in orange - the colour Madam Halimah chose for her campaign as it represents unity - whooped with joy as the 63-year- old was declared President-elect.


Madam Halimah Yacob, with her husband Mohamed Abdullah Alhabshee beside her, giving her speech at the People's Association Headquarters yesterday. Also on
stage were (from left) assentors Tan Khee Giap and Simon Tay, Returning Officer Ng Wai Choong (partially visible behind Associate Professor Tay),
assentors G. Muthukumarasamy and Chia Yong Yong, proposer Teo Siong Seng, assentor Mildred Sim, seconder Mohd Ali Mahmood and assentors Lawrence Leow,
Mary Liew and Benett Theseira. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

A sizeable majority came from the unions, where Madam Halimah spent more than three decades fighting for workers' rights - first as legal adviser, before rising to be deputy secretary-general of the National Trades Union Congress.

Others travelled across the island from heartland wards where she served as MP or represented a diverse array of community groups.

Women in orange tudungs and Buddhist monks in saffron robes alike braved the hot sun as Madam Halimah delivered her speech in English and Malay.

Singapore has not had a Malay president since its first head of state Yusof Ishak, who took office in 1959 and died midway through his third term in 1970 at the age of 60.

The reserved presidential election was introduced this year following changes to the Constitution to ensure that members of all communities have a chance to become president from time to time.

Madam Halimah said in her Malay speech that Singapore having its second Malay president is proof that everyone is given opportunities, regardless of race and religion.

"This is a good example for Singapore. It shows that if we are given opportunities, if there is support, then regardless of race, we will reach a state we aspire to," she said.

Various community groups extended their congratulations to her yesterday. The Singapore Malay Youth Library Association (Taman Bacaan) said it believed she has what it takes to unify Singaporeans from all walks of life.

Similarly, the Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations noted that the head of state serves as the "embodiment of our nation's harmonious multiracial identity". It said: "The Chinese community is confident that under Madam Halimah's capable leadership, Singapore will continue to prosper and progress as one united nation."

Madam Halimah told reporters that a central message in her speech at her inauguration today will be on the core values of multiracialism and meritocracy, which have brought Singapore to where it is today and which are dear to her.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 14, 2017, with the headline 'Singapore's multiracialism not just a slogan: Halimah'. Print Edition | Subscribe