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HomesingaporeAs President, Halimah made Singaporeans more conscious of the less privileged, brought...

As President, Halimah made Singaporeans more conscious of the less privileged, brought nation closer: PM Lee

SINGAPORE — As President, Madam Halimah Yacob’s efforts to champion social causes made Singaporeans “more conscious of our less privileged brethren, and ameliorated their plight”, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Wednesday (Sept 13) at a farewell reception for the outgoing head of state.

Mr Lee also spoke about how Mdm Halimah, a woman from a minority community who came from “very humble family background”, had pursued her education and graduated with a law degree. 

She then moved on to serve in the labour movement and in politics, before eventually occupying the highest office in the land.

“You showed that our meritocratic system works: That every Singaporean can achieve his or her aspirations, regardless of race, language or religion, and regardless of family background or station in life.”

Adding that this happens only in very few countries in the world, Mr Lee said that Singaporeans can justly be proud of this.

He said that Mdm Halimah has worked hard to strengthen mutual understanding, trust and respect across diverse community groups while serving as President. 

‘RIGOROUS BUT NOT ANTAGONISTIC’ 

As holder of the second key to the nation’s reserves in tandem with the Government’s first key, Mdm Halimah had to exercise this “important duty on an unprecedented scale” during the Covid-19 pandemic, Mr Lee noted.

The reserves had previously been drawn during the Global Financial Crisis. However, the pandemic was “on a different scale altogether”, Mr Lee said, and the Government had to seek her approval repeatedly over three years to draw upon the reserves.

“As the officials involved will attest, you participated actively in a thorough process,” Mr Lee added, addressing her.

“Rigorous, but not antagonistic. I am glad that officials were able to deal fully with your searching queries and clarifications, and to address the reservations and concerns that you and the Council of Presidential Advisers raised.”

He also said: “With your support, the Government was able to save lives, stabilise the economy, preserve jobs and ensure that Singapore emerged more resilient and stronger from Covid-19.”

The system of two keys made all the difference during the crisis, with the robust processes and steady hands operating the system helping to protect this resource while retaining flexibility, Mr Lee added.

“I am confident this system will continue to serve us well in the years to come.” 

Mr Lee went on to laud Mdm Halimah for representing Singapore on the world stage as the country’s top diplomat, fulfilling her duties “with dignity and grace”. 

He also thanked her husband, Mr Mohamed Abdullah Alhabshee for the critical role in supporting her throughout this journey. 

With her term of office drawing to a close, Mr Lee told her that she can look back on a “distinguished and remarkable career in public service, and as our President”. 

“I still remember what you said when you were first elected six years ago: ‘I am a President for everyone’. Through your leadership and heart for the people, you have certainly fulfilled your promise.

“On behalf of the Government and people of Singapore, I thank you for your service to our nation. We bid you and Mr Mohamed farewell, and wish you all the best in your future endeavours.” 

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