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I'm a President for all Singaporeans: Halimah
THE first reserved presidential election in Singapore's history drew to a close on Wednesday afternoon, with Halimah Yacob vowing to be a President whose top priority will be to serve the nation and all Singaporeans.
Perhaps recognising some disappointment on the ground surrounding her ascendency to the highest office in the land without an actual election, the 63-year-old former Speaker of Parliament promised to work even harder as she prepares to begin her six-year term.
"Although this is a reserved election (for candidates from the Malay community), I am not a reserved President," she said to loud cheers at the People's Association headquarters in Jalan Besar, after filing her nomination documents.
As she was the only person to successfully hand in her paperwork without any objections raised, the election's Returning Officer, Energy Market Authority chief executive Ng Wai Choong, declared her the President-elect via a walkover.
Addressing the nation for the first time in her new capacity, Madam Halimah, flanked by her campaign team and her husband Mohammed Alhabshee, spoke largely off-the-cuff in a short acceptance speech delivered in both English and Malay.
"I am a President for everyone, regardless of race, language, religion or creed. I represent everyone. Although there is no election, my commitment to serve you remains the same," she said.
"My resolve to work hard, work tirelessly and with great sincerity is even greater now."
Madam Halimah, who will become Singapore's first Malay President in nearly five decades after she is sworn in at the Istana on Thursday, described her victory as a "proud moment" for multi-culturalism and multi-racialism in society.
"This is not just good for now, but also good for generations to come because it shows very positively how Singapore practises multi-racialism," she added.
She expressed hope that her status as the first female head of state would be a major boost for gender diversity in Singapore.
"It shows that this is not just tokenism. When we talk about gender diversity, we are not just chanting slogans, but we really mean it. Every woman can aspire to the highest office in the land if you have the courage, determination and the will to work hard," she said.
She rallied the entire country to work as one people to overcome both internal and external challenges, and to focus on the priority to ensure Singapore remains "a great home" for all.
Urging people to focus on the similarities they share, not their differences, she reminded them that they live in a country that they can be proud of.
"We have come a long way, but we have an equally long way ahead of us. No one owes us a living. We owe it to ourselves to build a great nation that we all can be proud of, one that we can hand over to our children and grandchildren with great pride," she said.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong telephoned her to congratulate her, and expressed confidence that she would be able to fulfil her role with distinction.
He also thanked Salleh Marican and Farid Khan, the two businessmen who wanted to run for the presidency but were disqualified for not having met the revised criteria for private-sector applicants.
Mr Salleh is the chief executive of listed firm Second Chance Properties, while Mr Farid is the chairman of Bourbon Offshore Asia-Pacific. Mr Lee noted that it could not have been an easy decision for them and their families, knowing the kind of media attention and public scrutiny they would face as presidential hopefuls.
"They respected the Constitution and conducted themselves with propriety and decorum. They did not confuse people with wild promises that exceeded the remit of the President, which has happened before," said Mr Lee.
"I thank them also for accepting the Presidential Elections Committee's decisions. This is the way to make our democratic processes work properly and in the interest of Singaporeans," he added.
Both Mr Salleh and Mr Farid wished Madam Halimah all the best as she begins her term as President.
Mr Salleh said: "I believe she will be a unifying President. This has been a divisive run-up to the nomination. I hope she will heal the wounds."
Mr Farid, meanwhile, said he hoped that she would "have the people of Singapore in her thoughts when making any decisions that will affect our lives and the lives of our children".
Various business and community groups sent their congratulations to the President-elect throughout the day.
The Singapore Business Federation wished her a "fruitful term" in office, and said it looked forward to working with her and her office to benefit businesses and the community.
The Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations said the breadth and depth of her experience would be an advantage in building social capital for Singapore's development, as well as in championing an inclusive and cohesive society.
"The Chinese community is confident that under Madam Halimah's capable leadership, Singapore will continue to prosper and progress as one united nation," it said.
For more stories on the Presidential Election, go to bt.sg/pe2017.