‘These are emotions which you cannot control’: President Halimah bids farewell at NDP 2023
President Halimah Yacob presided over the National Day Parade (NDP) for the last time on Wednesday, concluding her sixth parade as the head of state.
She arrived at the Padang at about 6.50pm, to applause and cheers from the spectators.
Speaking to the media after the nation’s 58th birthday bash, Madam Halimah, 68, said she felt emotional while waving to the 27,000-strong crowd.
Her eyes welled up and her voice cracked as she said: “These are emotions which you cannot control.
“The terrible sense of sadness, but at the same time, a sense of inspiration when I looked around me and saw how people were standing together, celebrating as one.”
As Singapore’s eighth president, she presided over her first parade in 2018, having assumed office in September 2017.
In May 2023, she announced that she would not be seeking re-election when her term ends on Sept 13.
Asked what her top NDP moments were, Madam Halimah said it was hard to choose, but 2023’s parade is special because it is the first full-fledged parade since the Covid-19 pandemic. This parade’s interpretation of Total Defence as six large floats is also very relatable, as it uses everyday items to explain why each of the pillars matters.
She is also happy that the past six parades have seen more integration of persons with disabilities and their myriad talents, whether as performers or artists who contributed their artwork to adorn NDP packs in recent years.
Madam Halimah said that as the presiding officer of the NDP, she has interacted with many in disadvantaged communities “and it never fails to fascinate me, the kind of work they do, the talents that they have”.
“It’s wonderful as a country, on the most important day that we celebrate our nationhood, we integrate our people with disabilities, our disadvantaged communities,” she said.
“We bring them to the fore, we tell Singaporeans we are all in this together: not (just) those who can run the fastest, but everyone must run together as a team too.”
At Wednesday’s parade, four 25-pounder howitzer guns fired 21 times in salute as Madam Halimah reviewed the guard of honour contingents.
Madam Halimah wore a resolute expression as the parade commander, Lieutenant-Colonel Ragumaran Davindran, received permission for the contingents to march off.
After the parade had concluded and the National Anthem had been sung, Madam Halimah joined some of the performers and artistes on the Padang and took wefies with them.
“Whenever you come to NDP, you always feel so inspired because, you know, there’re so many Singaporeans together, celebrating this really truly momentous day, which is our National Day. So it’s been truly wonderful.”
First-time NDP spectator Malti Bhardwaj, 48, thanked Madam Halimah for her contributions to Singapore.
The housewife told The Straits Times at the Padang: “She has made us all proud as a woman, being our first woman president.
“She has set the benchmark, and in the future, I hope we will have more women presidents like her.”