September 15, 2023
SINGAPORE – Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam is officially Singapore’s ninth president, having been sworn in about two weeks after his resounding win at the polls.
Mr Tharman, 66, took the oath on Thursday evening at his inauguration ceremony after completing an inspection of the guards at the Istana.
Shortly before that, his predecessor, Madam Halimah Yacob, had also inspected the guards and bade farewell to the line of honour before departing the grounds for the last time as president. She was accompanied by her husband, Mr Mohamed Abdullah Alhabshee.
In his inauguration speech, Mr Tharman said he was honoured and humbled to have been elected.
“This was a vote of confidence in Singapore’s future, a future where we all progress together and deepen our solidarity as Singaporeans,” he said.
He stressed that more than ever before, Singaporeans must grow their sense of togetherness.
“It will make us a better society, and add to our ballast as we face a more turbulent world.”
With the strong mandate given to him by the people, he said he will work with the Government, community groups and other voluntary organisations, and the entire nation to strengthen multiracialism and nurture a more inclusive society.
On the specific roles of the president, Mr Tharman said he will confer closely with the Council of Presidential Advisers, and be thorough and impartial in his assessments, and in exercising his veto powers on the reserves and key public service appointments.
He added that he will “be scrupulous and independent in making judgments that involve the use of the ‘second key’ on our reserves”.
Going back to his campaign promises, Mr Tharman also reiterated his plans to promote greater interactions between different communities, and enhance respect and appreciation for one another.
He added that he also plans to lend active support to the arts and sports scene here, and represent Singapore and promote its interests abroad.
To this, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in his speech that he looks forward to Mr Tharman’s support in sports and the arts, which will help Singapore become a rich and rounded society.
“I pledge my government’s full support and cooperation as we operate this unique system to protect our reserves and key appointments,” he added.
Noting Mr Tharman’s wealth of experience in economic and financial matters, and his familiarity with how the system of the second key works, PM Lee said he has every confidence in Mr Tharman’s ability to fulfil the important duty of the president in holding the second key.
PM Lee added that Mr Tharman’s experience in public service has prepared him well for his new responsibilities.
He cited Mr Tharman’s appointments in Cabinet, his time at the Monetary Authority of Singapore and his 22 years of service as an MP for Jurong GRC.
PM Lee said that the Government shares Mr Tharman’s declared goal – to build a more inclusive society, one where everyone is valued for who they are, and every Singaporean has a place.
He also said that he looks forward to Mr Tharman’s help in strengthening ties with other countries and international partners, and opening opportunities abroad for Singaporeans and local businesses as Singapore’s top diplomat.
PM Lee said he has no doubt that Mr Tharman, having held high-level appointments in international organisations and blue-ribbon advisory panels, will fulfil this role with distinction.
“The Government will work closely with you and support you to make the most of your experience and personal standing, in order to advance Singapore’s interests and enhance our status in the world,” he said.
PM Lee also noted that there is one person whose personal support will matter greatly to Mr Tharman.
“Let me take this opportunity to welcome your wife, Mrs Jane Ittogi Shanmugaratnam, to the new role that she will play as the spouse of the president in the years to come,” he said.
In closing, PM Lee said that Singapore is navigating its way forward in an increasingly troubled and uncertain world.
“Our society is in transition as we adapt to and evolve with changing circumstances. At such times, it is crucial that our nation’s highest office be occupied by someone with the right experience and abilities, values and character.
“I am sure that like your predecessors, you, too, will be a president for all Singaporeans, and serve Singapore with dedication and distinction.”