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'Malayness' of presidential aspirants an issue for community committee to decide: Mdm Halimah

SINGAPORE — Asked by reporters about the public discussion on the “Malayness” of potential presidential candidates, Madam Halimah Yacob pointed out on Saturday (July 29) that she has been “certified four times by the community committee” as a member of the Malay community.

Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob observes the NDP preview as reviewing officer on July 29. Mdm Halimah has been one of the reviewing officers for the parade preview since 2013, when she was appointed as Speaker. Photo: Mugilan Rajasegeran/TODAY

Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob observes the NDP preview as reviewing officer on July 29. Mdm Halimah has been one of the reviewing officers for the parade preview since 2013, when she was appointed as Speaker. Photo: Mugilan Rajasegeran/TODAY

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SINGAPORE — Asked by reporters about the public discussion on the “Malayness” of potential presidential candidates, Madam Halimah Yacob pointed out on Saturday (July 29) that she has been “certified four times by the community committee” as a member of the Malay community.

The Speaker of Parliament successfully contested as a minority candidate for Jurong Group Representation Constituency (GRC) in the 2001, 2006 and 2011 General Elections, and for Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC in the 2015 polls. 

While she is still considering whether to stand in September's Presidential Election (PE), Mdm Halimah, whose father is Indian-Muslim, said that should she contest, her eligibility is "something for the community committee to decide”. 

“I’m still thinking (about it). I’m honoured by the expressions of support that have been given at this event, but I still need to do further consultations and discussions, so yes, I’m still considering it," said Madam Halimah, who was speaking on the sidelines of a post-Hari Raya interfaith event at the MUIS Harmony Centre.

The coming PE is reserved for Malay candidates.  To qualify, presidential hopefuls will have to submit a community declaration to the community committee to certify their ethnic group. A fact-finding process will be conducted by the Malay community sub-committee to decide if the candidate belongs to the community. The person may be interviewed and required to provide further information, among other things.

Earlier this month, Mr Farid Khan Kaim Khan, 62, chairman of marine service provider Bourbon Offshore Asia Pacific, and Second Chance Properties chief executive Salleh Marican, 67, declared their intentions to run in the PE, if they are deemed eligible by the Presidential Elections Committee. Mr Khan, whose race is indicated as “Pakistani” on his identity card, had to fend questions about his “Malayness” at the press conference to announce his intent while Mr Marican – who is of Indian heritage – has been heavily criticised for his lack of fluency in the Malay language.

Former parliamentary secretary Yatiman Yusof, who is on the sub-committee, previously told TODAY that the sub-committee will make its evaluation based on Article 19B of Singapore’s Constitution. The provision states that a “person belonging to the Malay community” means any person, whether of the Malay race or otherwise, who considers himself to be a member of the Malay community and who is generally accepted as a member of the Malay community by that community.

Madam Halimah has been touted as a potential candidate, and she first told the media that she is throwing her hat into the ring two weeks ago at a community event. 

At Saturday's event, Madam Halimah spoke to some 20 women leaders of various faiths on the importance of racial harmony in Singapore, and cautioned Singaporeans not to take the state of affairs for granted.

"The advent of the Internet, and particularly social media, has made things more complicated. Any action or comment that are perceived to intentionally hurt the feelings of a particular community can easily go viral, attracting other irresponsible comments that exacerbate the situation," she said. Nevertheless, she reiterated that Singapore is "blessed with people who, in difficult times, are still able to stand as one people and choose to be resilient against disharmony". 

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