SINGAPORE: Madam Halimah Yacob, the eighth President of the Republic of Singapore, was awarded the Order of Temasek (With High Distinction), the highest civilian honour in Singapore, presented to her by her successor, President Tharman Shanmugaratnam, at the National Awards Investiture on Sunday (Oct 29) at ITE College Central.
In the official NAI citations, published by the Prime Minister’s Office, the former President is called a trailblazer for women as she was the first Singaporean to be elected to the Governing Body of the International Labour Organisation (ILO); the first Malay woman to be elected a Member of Parliament (MP); the first female Speaker of Parliament; and the first female to occupy the highest office in the land – President of the Republic of Singapore.
She is also praised in the citation for having “raised Singapore’s international image, strengthened the nation’s ties with friends near and far, and opened new economic opportunities for Singapore companies”, as well as serving as “a powerful symbol of unity for all Singaporeans; an inspiration to all, young and old; ‘a President for everyone’.”
Applauding the former President for her role in approving the use of past reserves during the COVID-19 pandemic, the citation states that she exemplified how the President should wield the second key. It also suggested that Madam Halimah engaged in “rigorous and searching questioning” before approving the use of reserves.
The citation asserted that “History will record Mdm Halimah’s great service to her people as their first Crisis President”, as it revealed that she is being awarded Singapore’s highest honour “for embodying so fully the Singapore Story – and for her lifetime of devoted and distinguished service”.
Madam Halimah is a former governing party MP and Speaker of Parliament who resigned from politics to contest the presidential election in 2017. Despite interest from two prospective candidates from the private sector, she was declared the only eligible presidential candidate in September 2017 and became President of Singapore.
Madam Halimah declined to contest the 2023 election, and her former colleague, Senior Minister Tharman, retired from politics to throw his hat into the ring. He became the head of state, winning more than 70 per cent of the votes cast in the presidential election on Sept 1 this year.
Looking back on her term earlier this year, Madam Halimah told The Straits Times that she expected controversy when she considered contesting the first election. She said, “Public office is never a walk in the park, is it? You have to expect to be scrutinised, to be criticised, to be questioned…So I expected that, and it happened… but you just stay focused.”