Some Singaporeans online have pointed out that Wikipedia has featured current President Halimah Yacob in a list of prominent Indians in Singapore.
In an article about prominent Indians in Singapore who have made significant contributions locally and globally, the open source online encyclopedia names President Halimah as one prominent individual who is of Indian descent. The article states:
“Halimah Yacob (born 1954) – Singapore’s eighth President (starting in 2017) and first President who is female and of South Indian Tamil Muslim descent on her father’s side, with Malay ancestry on her mother’s side, she is married to a Malay retired civil servant husband of Hadhrami Arab descent.”
The fact that President Halimah Yacob’s name is among a list of Singaporean citizens and permanent residents who are Indian is curious since she became President in an election that was reserved for Malay candidates.
In the 2011 Presidential Election, establishment favourite and former Deputy Prime Minister Tony Tan became president after a fierce fight with Dr Tan Cheng Bock.
Dr Tan Cheng Bock, who narrowly lost the election with less than 0.35 percent of vote difference with Tony Tan, was seen as an independent candidate despite being a former ruling party MP himself because of his track record of speaking up for his convictions and opposing his own party during crucial decisions even when he was a serving MP.
Five years passed. In March 2016, Dr Tan announced his intentions to contest the 2017 Presidential Election.
Just 8 months later, in November 2016, Parliament amended the eligibility criteria of the Elected Presidency scheme and reserved the 2017 Presidential Election for candidates from the Malay community. Dr Tan was, thus, barred from contesting the election and lost a constitutional challenge against the amendment in court.
In August 2017, ruling party MP and Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob announced her resignation from Parliament to contest the reserved Presidential Election.
Halimah’s announcement that she would run for President came months after speculation that she is the Government’s preferred candidate for the election arose when cabinet minister Chan Chun Sing addressed Halimah as “Madam President” twice instead of “Madam Speaker” in Parliament in February 2017.
Her sudden resignation as MP left her ward, Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC which had five MPs, with four MPs and no minority MP. The decision sparked calls for a by-election. After the High Court ruled it would not compel a by-election in the ward, the nation’s apex court ruled that a by-election is not required if a single seat becomes vacant in a GRC.
The fact that Halimah Yacob’s father is Indian also sparked backlash since the election was reserved for Malay candidates. While some speculated that her background should disqualify her from the race, Halimah identified herself as Malay.
Before Nomination Day, two other Malay candidates – Salleh Marican and Farid Khan – threw their hat in the ring and announced their intention to contest the election. On Nomination Day, the Presidential Elections Commission announced Halimah Yacob as the only candidate eligible to contest the election.
As the only eligible candidate for the presidency, Halimah Yacob was declared the President-elect on Nomination Day, 13 September. Winning the election by walkover, Halimah was sworn in as Singapore’s eighth President on 14 September at the Istana.
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