Halimah on staying independent: It's always been the people first

This article is more than 12 months old

The people have always come before party colours for presidential hopeful Halimah Yacob, who said at a press conference yesterday to unveil her campaign slogan that her close ties to the ruling party will not affect her ability to act independently.

The long-time People's Action Party MP, who left her posts earlier this month to run in the Presidential Election, said: "Whatever I do, it must always be the people first."

"And if, as a candidate, at any time I feel that I am not able to be independent, I would not offer myself," she added.

Madam Halimah was speaking at the NTUC Centre where she announced her slogan, "Do Good, Do Together", and introduced some members of her campaign team. She also fielded questions from reporters.

Since she announced her presidential bid, she has sought to convince Singaporeans that her past political affiliations will not compromise her independence. Pointing to her long years in public service - she spent more than two decades in the labour movement before joining politics in 2001 - she said she has always placed the interests of the people first.

She cited former president Ong Teng Cheong as a PAP politician-turned-president who did not always agree with the Government and established for himself the reputation of being "the people's president".

"We have to look at ourselves and ask, who are we serving? I have asked myself that question and I know where my loyalty lies. My loyalty lies with Singapore and Singaporeans, and nothing else," she said, adding that she too has disagreed with the Government.

Singaporeans will vote in the first presidential election reserved for Malay candidates on Sept 23, if more than one person qualifies to run for the position.

Madam Halimah is the only one among the three aspiring candidates who automatically qualifies, having served as Speaker of Parliament for more than three years.

Whether the other two qualify will depend on the discretion of the Presidential Elections Committee.

Madam Halimah is expected to submit her application forms to run in the election today.

She hopes a president elected through a reserved election would be seen as someone who represents all Singaporeans.

While Singapore has had success in promoting harmony among the races, she said there was still a way to go before race becomes a non-issue.

"I do hope that in future we may not need a reserved election... but I think the process is still a work in progress. And I hope this is how we will look at this reserved election," she said.

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