Tributes flow for ‘trailblazer’ Halimah

Tributes flow for ‘trailblazer’ Halimah
Mdm Halimah with her husband Mohammed Abdullah Alhabshee attending Parliament yesterday, where MPs paid tribute to the former Speaker. Photo:
Published: 4:00 AM, September 12, 2017

SINGAPORE — On the same day that former Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob looked set to become Singapore’s next President, Members of Parliament (MPs) paid glowing tributes to her and wished her well for the future.

Madam Halimah, 63, is the only candidate ruled eligible to stand in the inaugural reserved Presidential Election, while two other two candidates were deemed not to have met the criteria.

Speaking in Parliament hours before it was announced that Mdm Halimah was the only candidate who qualified for the Presidential Election, Leader of the House Grace Fu lauded her achievements, noting how she has “advanced gender equality” by being the first female Speaker and is now taking strides towards the highest office in the country.

“I am sure all Members will agree that Mdm Halimah discharged her functions fairly, impartially and fully upheld the best traditions of this House,” said Ms Fu. “With tenacity and patience, and without fear or favour, Mdm Halimah moved the proceedings of this House smoothly and even-handedly.”

Ms Fu noted that the former Speaker had presided over parliamentary debates on important issues that cut across social, economic, security and political spheres.

“Throughout the vigorous and intense debates on the many contentious issues addressed in this House, Mdm Halimah’s unfailingly calm and measured temperament guided us towards fruitful conclusions,” she added.

Echoing this point, MP for MacPherson Tin Pei Ling said Mdm Halimah had ensured a “fair airing of opinions”. This allowed voices representing different interests to be heard, thereby preserving the diversity and credibility of Parliament, said Ms Tin.

“Mdm Halimah’s dedication and focus made sure the parliamentary proceedings were conducted and completed properly, so that legislations and issues of the day could be comprehensively discussed,” she added.

Senior Parliamentary Secretary (Social and Family Development) Faishal Ibrahim described Mdm Halimah as a “trailblazer (and an) inspiration” to many people, even though she had previously described herself to be a “ponteng queen” — someone who skips lessons, in Malay.

He noted how, besides being the first female Speaker of Parliament, she was also the first Singaporean to be elected to the International Labour Organisation in 1999.

“It is a testament to how hard she works, her determination and perseverance to do what she believes is right,” he added. “At the same time, Mdm Halimah had in both her election and re-election speeches in this House highlighted how she was humbled by the trust and confidence members had in her.”

Other MPs who paid tribute to Mdm Halimah included Mr Christopher de Souza (Holland-Bukit Timah GRC), who praised her for her “courage, resolve (and) integrity”, and Mr Vikram Nair (Sembawang GRC), who noted that she had a “long and distinguished career in public service”.

Mdm Halimah started her career as a legal officer at the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), and worked her way up to become NTUC’s deputy secretary-general. She was elected to Parliament in 2001 as an MP for Jurong GRC, making her the first female Malay MP since independence.

She was appointed Speaker in January 2013, a month after Mr Michael Palmer resigned in the wake of an extra-marital affair.

“Once again she is rising to the call of duty to run for President,” said Mr Vikram, adding that, as Speaker, she had managed proceedings in the House well.

Agreeing, Ms Fu added that Mdm Halimah “exemplified the principles of fairness and equality, giving everyone the opportunity to make their case to ensure a robust yet civilised debate”.

Noting that Parliament is a “cornerstone” of Singapore’s democracy and holds the executive branch to account, Mr Fu said: “Mdm Halimah leaves behind a stronger institution ... On behalf of this House, I wish Mdm Halimah all the best in her next and even more significant endeavour.”