|حليمة بنت يعقوب
ஹலிமா பின்தி யாகொப்
|8th President of Singapore|
14 September 2017
|Prime Minister||Lee Hsien Loong|
|Preceded by||Tony Tan|
|9th Speaker of Parliament|
14 January 2013 – 7 August 2017
Lim Biow Chuan
|Preceded by||Michael Palmer|
|Succeeded by||Tan Chuan-Jin|
|Born||(1954-08-23) 23 August 1954
|Political party||People’s Action Party (2001–2017)
|Spouse(s)||Mohammed Abdullah Alhabshee|
of Singapore (LLB, LLM)
Halimah binti Yacob (Jawi: حاليمه بنت ياچوب; ) is a Singaporean politician who is the current President of Singapore. Formerly a member of the country’s governing People’s Action Party (PAP), she was the ninth Speaker of Parliament, from January 2013 to August 2017. She was a Member of Parliament (MP) representing Jurong Group Representation Constituency between 2001 and 2015, and Marsiling-Yew Tee Group Representation Constituency between 2015 and 2017.
On 7 August 2017, Halimah Yacob resigned from her positions as Speaker and MP, and from her membership in the PAP, to stand as a candidate for the 2017 Singapore presidential election. On 13 September, Halimah Yacob was declared President-elect in a walkover, as no other presidential hopeful was issued the Certificate of Eligibility. She was sworn in the following day, becoming the first female president in the country’s history.
Early life and education
Halimah Yacob is of paternal Indian and maternal Malay descent. Her father was a watchman who died when she was eight years old, leaving her to be brought up by her mother.
She was educated at Singapore Chinese Girls’ School and Tanjong Katong Girls’ School, before going on to the National University of Singapore where she completed an LLB (Hons) degree in 1978. Halimah Yacob was called to the Singapore Bar in 1981. In 2001, she completed an LLM degree at the National University of Singapore, and was conferred an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from NUS on 7 July 2016.
Halimah worked as a legal officer at the National Trades Union Congress, and became the director of its legal services department in 1992. Halimah Yacob was appointed as a director of the Singapore Institute of Labour Studies (now known as the Ong Teng Cheong Institute of Labour Studies) in 1999.
Halimah entered politics in 2001 when she was elected as an MP for the Jurong Group Representation Constituency (GRC).
Following the 2011 general election, Halimah Yacob was appointed Minister of State at the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports. Following a Cabinet reshuffle in November 2012, she became a Minister of State at the Ministry of Social and Family Development. She has also served as the Chair of Jurong Town Council.
In January 2015, she was co-opted into the PAP’s Central Executive Committee, the party’s highest decision-making body.
At the 2015 general election, Halimah Yacob was the sole minority candidate for the People’s Action Party group contesting the then-newly-formed Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC.
She has spoken out actively against radical Islam, in particular condemning and disassociating from the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant.
Speaker of Parliament
On 8 January 2013, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong nominated Halimah Yacob to succeed former Speaker Michael Palmer who resigned after he was revealed to have had an extramarital affair. Halimah Yacob was elected Speaker of Parliament on 14 January 2013, the first woman to hold the post in Singapore’s history.
Trade union involvement
Halimah served at the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) as the Deputy Secretary General, Director of the Legal Services Department and Director of the Women’s Development Secretariat. She also served as the Executive Secretary of the United Workers of Electronics and Electrical Industries.
Halimah was elected as the Workers’ Vice-Chairperson of the Standards Committee of the International Labour Conference (ILC) in Geneva from 2000 to 2002 and in 2005. In 2003 and 2004, she was the Workers’ Spokesperson for the ILC Committee on Human Resources Development and Training.
2017 presidential election
On 6 August 2017, Halimah announced that she will step down as Speaker of Parliament and MP of Marsiling-Yew Tee the next day to run for the presidency in the 2017 Singapore presidential election, which was reserved for members of the Malay community. She was widely viewed as the PAP’s candidate for the election, and was endorsed by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
On 25 August 2017, Halimah launched her official campaign website, including her campaign slogan “Do Good Do Together”, which was criticised by many for being ungrammatical. Halimah Yacob defended her slogan, explaining that it is meant to be catchy.
In response to public queries whether Halimah broke election rules by campaigning ahead of the nomination day, the ELD clarified that its rule which forbids candidates from campaigning before close of nomination only applies to candidates who are nominated.
Queries were also raised regarding her long affiliation with PAP and perceived lack of political independence as she quit the party just one month ago to campaign in the election. Halimah responded by comparing herself to the late President Ong Teng Cheong who was also a member of the PAP before being elected. She also cited that she had abstained from voting in an amendment for the Human Organ Transplant Act in 2007.
Former NMP Calvin Cheng suggested that Halimah does not appear to have the professional experience needed to manage the financial reserves. According to Publichouse.sg’s estimate, her financial management involvement is only about $40 million, much less than the stringent $500 million shareholders’ equity requirement for private sector candidates.
Being the only candidate to be issued a Certificate of Eligibility, the election resulted in a walkover; hence Halimah became the 8th President of Singapore. Dr Tan Cheng Bock wrote that Halimah “will occupy the most controversial presidency in the history of Singapore.” The Economist described her as “popular and able”.
On 13 September 2017, the Singapore Democratic Party filed a lawsuit in the High Court against the PAP government for refusing to call a by-election in Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC following Halimah Yacob’s resignation from her post as the sole minority MP in her constituency.
After the Elections Department announced that Halimah was the only possible candidate for the presidency, global media monitoring house Meltwater observed a significant increase in negative sentiment on social media surrounding the Presidential Elections from 11 to 12 September 2017. The data shows 83% of negative sentiment and 17% of positive sentiment.
Critical backlash on the internet has also led to the widespread use of the hashtag #NotMyPresident in Singapore. In response, The Straits Times reported that there was the use of #halimahismypresident by an “equally vocal group”, urging “Singaporeans to rally round their next president”.
Halimah’s decision to stay in her jumbo HDB instead of moving into the Istana has raised security concerns and is met with disapproval by netizens who highlighted the inconvenience caused by the Presidential motorcade as well as the additional cost in maintaining such security arrangement.
Halimah is married to Mohammed Abdullah Alhabshee, a retiree of Arab descent, and has five children. Halimah is a Muslim. She lives in a public Housing and Development Board duplex in Yishun, consisting of one 5-room flat and one 4-room flat joined together by demolishing the median wall.
In recognition of her contributions, she was conferred the Berita Harian/McDonald’s Achiever of the Year Award in 2001, the “Her World Woman of the Year Award” in 2003, the AWARE Heroine Award 2011, and was inducted into the Singapore Council of Women’s Organisations’s Singapore Women’s Hall of Fame in 2014.