Video by Sheryl Teo
By Shantelle Sim and Juliana Sharmine Riduan
SINGAPORE, Sept 14 (Campus Eye) – Former Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob was declared Singapore’s President-elect at noon on Wednesday.
“Madam Halimah Yacob is the only candidate who has been nominated. I declare Madam Halimah Yacob as the candidate elected to the Office of President of the Republic of Singapore,” returning officer Ng Wai Choong said to a crowd of cheering and whistling supporters at the nomination centre at People Association’s Headquarters at 9 King George’s Avenue.
Halimah, 63-year-old, is the eighth president of Singapore and the first female head of state. She is the second Malay president after the late Yusok Ishak who served his term from 1965 to 1970, 47 years ago.
In her acceptance speech, Halimah said: “Over the last two weeks I’ve been walking the ground very extensively. I’ve met many Singaporeans from all backgrounds, young, old, in many many places and I’ve spoken to them, and I’m so heartened.
“I’m really very grateful for their well wishes, their encouragement and their support.”
Sea of Orange
About 800 supporters, union members and citizens had arrived as early as 9.30am at the nomination centre to witness Halimah submit her certificates.
Decked in orange, a colour chosen by Halimah to represent unity, the supporters blew whistles and took photos of the historic moment.
Pioneer generation coordinator Vincent Teo was one of the many supporters who had gathered at the nomination centre on Wednesday morning.
The 71-year-old avid supporter of Halimah spent $80 on a bouquet of orange gerberas, intending to give Halimah the flowers after she had addressed the crowd.
“She’s an advocate for the elderly, the needy and the poor. I think Halimah would do a good job [as the president of Singapore],” he said.
Shabana Abdullah, a counsellor at Ain Society said: “This is a great opportunity for Singapore to be seen as a country that puts women to lead.”
“I am very proud of her. She has proven herself as a capable leader, and this is a nice change to see a president who represents the Malay/Muslim community.”
Housewife Norita Abdullah who came to support Halimah with members of Ain Society said: “If there were a contest, I would still vote for Madam Halimah anyway.”
Established in the year 2000, Ain Society is a local voluntary welfare organisation that provides cancer care services in the form of financial assistance schemes, counselling sessions, support groups, therapeutic play and life skills workshops for clients as well as family members.
Halimah has been an advisor to Ain Society for the past three years.
Halimah, who will be sworn in at the Istana on September 14, assured Singaporeans of her promise to serve the nation.
“Although this is a reserved election, I am not a reserved president. I’m a president for everyone regardless of race, language, religion or creed.
“My duty remains only to Singapore and Singaporeans. There is no diminution even one bit of my desire, passion, commitment to serve you,” said Halimah.
She was the only presidential hopeful who was issued the Certificate of Eligibility by the Presidential Election Committee (PEC) on September 11.
Presidential hopefuls chairman and chief executive officer of Second Chance Properties Mohamed Salleh Marican and chairman of Bourbon Offshore Asia Farid Khan Kaim Khan were not issued the Certificate of Eligibility.
The two applicants did not meet the $500 million shareholders’ equity requirement set for private sector applicants in the first ever reserved election for members of the Malay community.
This year’s controversial reserved election followed amendments made to the presidential election laws in November last year. The amendment meant that Singapore’s presidential election would be reserved for a particular racial group if no one from that group had been president for five continuous terms.
Just last month on August 23, former presidential candidate Dr Tan Cheng Bock’s appeal that the reserved election should be timed during the next election, was dismissed.
Dr Tan, who had previously lost in the 2011 presidential election to Dr Tony Tan by 0.34%, argued that the government’s count of five continuous terms for a reserved election should begin from former president Ong Teng Cheong, who was elected by the people, rather than former president Wee Kim Wee, who served his term before Ong.
The unanimous decision by the Court of Appeal to dismiss Dr Tan’s appeal meant that he was unable to participate in this year’s presidential election.
Ong Cheng Kim, a 52 year-old Singaporean, raised skepticism towards having a reserved election without sourcing for the public’s input.
“Shouldn’t this be done through a referendum?” he added.
Jeremy Lam, a 22 year-old university undergraduate, said: “Even though I am all for minority representation, I feel that reserving a spot specifically for a race defeats the purpose of having an election in the first place.”
Even though he was glad to have a Malay president, he wished that the presidential election had not been reserved.