Singapore’s outgoing President Halimah Yacob on Wednesday extended her best wishes to the Indian-origin President-elect, Tharman Shanmugaratnam, in her final speech as the holder of the city-state’s highest but non-political post. Singapore-born economist Tharman will be sworn in as the ninth president of the city-state on Thursday, days after he was overwhelmingly elected as the ninth head of state of the country. The 66-year-old President-elect won 70.4 per cent of the 2.48 million ballots cast by voters on September 1, while his Chinese-origin rivals Ng Kok Song and Tan Kin Lian received 15.72 per cent and 13.88 per cent respectively.
Wednesday marked the end of 69-year-old Halimah’s six-year term as president.
“Tomorrow, a new president will be sworn in,” she said at her farewell reception at the Istana (Presidential Palace), according to Channel News Asia. “I wish Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam all the best in discharging his duties,” she added. Halimah, also Singapore’s first female president, said she was humbled that the people of Singapore had placed their trust and faith in her as their president.
She added that this unwavering support fuelled her determination to serve every day of her six-year term.
Retrospectively, Halimah said she had a good relationship with the government. One that was “based on mutual trust, respect and a clear understanding of each other’s roles and responsibilities.”The farewell reception was attended by Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Tharman, among others.
Tharman, who has served Singapore all his life in public service, was overwhelmingly endorsed by the city-state’s predominantly Chinese society.
Before being president-elect, Tharman served as a senior minister between 2019 and 2023, coordinating minister for social policies between 2015 and 2023, and Chairman of the Monetary Authority of Singapore between 2011 and 2023. He also served as Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister from May 2011 to May 2019.
He also co-chairs the Global Commission on the Economics of Water with Ngozi Owonjo-Iweala, Mariana Mazzucato and Johan Rockström.
Tharman is also a member of the Board of Trustees of the World Economic Forum (WEF). He is also a member of the United Nations Secretary-General’s High-Level Advisory Board on Effective MultilatSeralism, which will make recommendations on Effective Multilateralism for the UN Summit of the Future in 2024.
Singapore, in the past, has had two Indian-origin presidents. Sellapan Ramanathan, popularly known as S R Nathan, a Singaporean politician and civil servant of Tamil descent, served as the president of Singapore. In 2009, Nathan defeated Benjamin Sheares to become Singapore’s longest-serving president.
Chengara Veetil Devan Nair, better known as Devan Nair, served as the third president of Singapore from 1981 until his resignation in 1985. Born in 1923 in Malacca, Malaysia, Nair was the son of a rubber plantation clerk who was originally from Thalassery, Kerala.