SINGAPORE — Wearing orange-coloured clothes, hundreds of Madam Halimah Yacob’s supporters showed up at the People’s Association headquarters on King George’s Avenue in Jalan Besar on Wednesday (Sept 13) morning, to witness her historic rise to the highest office of the land.
They were at the nomination centre as early as 9am, arriving by the busloads, carrying with them banners, umbrellas and badges emblazoned with the letter “H” to represent the initial of her first name. Orange was a colour chosen as part of her presidential election campaign, to represent unity.
About 600 of those present were union leaders representing more than 45 unions. They were supporting their “sister”, whom they had revered as a fellow unionist.
At 11.20am, when she arrived, raucous cheers erupted, along with chants of “Halimah! Halimah!”
After that, Mdm Halimah, 63, successfully filed her nomination papers at the centre as the sole eligible candidate for this year’s Presidential Election, and was declared President-elect. She will be sworn in today, making her the first woman and first Malay in 47 years to become the President of Singapore.
Mr Zainal Sapari, 51, Member of Parliament (MP) for Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC and executive secretary of the Building Construction and Timber Industries Employees Union, said: “Mdm Halimah has done a lot for many workers and we strongly believe that she will make a good president.”
Residents from the Marsiling-Yew Tee constituency also travelled to the nomination centre on Wednesday to show their support for Mdm Halimah, who used to be their MP.
Mr Rasid Ibrahim, 65, an engineer at the Singapore Turf Club, is glad to have a President who is “no stranger to us”.
Recalling her presence in the constituency as an MP, he said: “She always goes to a coffee shop (in Marsiling) for dinner or breakfast. Once, I saw her having Indian rojak because she attended an event nearby.”
Dressed in an orange linen suit, Ms Angie Ng, 63, is one of the few members of the public who chose to witness the official declaration of Singapore’s “first lady President”.
Ms Ng, who is semi-retired, said: “As women, we must show our support. Hopefully, Halimah can show Singaporeans that she has the capability to do even better than the previous presidents.”
Administrative worker Alvin Lee, 40, said that this was the first time he had turned up at a nomination centre to support a presidential candidate. “It was something I wanted to do. It’s significant that she (would) be the first female president. Even the United States didn’t (achieve that),” he said.
His friend, business director Zillur Rahman Siddiqui, 45, said: “She’s the perfect person for the job ... Even if there was a contest, I would still support her.”
In the crowd were also a few who respect Mdm Halimah, but do not necessarily agree with her becoming President. Mr Rahman Sidik, 78, told TODAY: “There is no voting (for this presidency) ... That’s no good for her and Singaporeans.”
However, the retiree said that he respects Mdm Halimah for being someone who rose up the ranks “step by step” from a humble background.
Proceedings at the nomination centre were largely smooth yesterday, barring a brief commotion when former private tutor Ooi Boon Ewe, 76, asked to be let in to apply as a presidential candidate.
He was stopped by security personnel, and some shouting ensued. He was seen being escorted away by staff members at the centre.
After making her inaugural speech as President-elect, Mdm Halimah spent close to 20 minutes mingling with the crowd and to thank her supporters. She hugged some of them, and signed autographs for those who asked for it.
Just as she was being whisked away by her minders at the end of the day’s engagements, her husband, Mr Mohammed Abdullah Alhabshee, told reporters: “She will be the people’s President.” ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY SIAU MING EN