Hailing the election of Indian-origin economist Tharman Shanmugaratnam as Singapore’s new president, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said today that Singaporeans had chosen a candidate who was “eminently qualified for this high office”.
Speaking at Tharman’s inauguration at The Istana, the president’s official residence, PM Lee said that the presidential election — Tharman won with a 70.4 per cent vote share — showed that race was a “smaller factor now than it used to be” for Singaporeans.
Lee said that he was happy to congratulate Tharman on winning the election so decisively. “It was good that there was a contest and Singaporeans had the opportunity to exercise their right to vote,” added the prime minister.
“It is indeed a good sign that in a national vote, Singaporeans have elected a candidate from a minority community as president, on his merits, by an overwhelming majority,” said Lee.
Indian-origin Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon administered the oath of office to President Tharman Shanmugaratnam at a ceremony held at The Istana, a 154-year-old palace in the heart of Singapore’s shopping and hotel belt of Orchard Road.
Tharman, 66, will serve a six-year term. He succeeds President Halimah Yacob, Singapore’s first female president, whose tenure ended on September 13.
“Singaporeans have chosen a candidate who is eminently qualified for this high office,” PM Lee said, describing the former Senior Minister as “someone who not only has the ability, experience and stature to carry out his duties both at home and abroad, but also sound judgement and unquestioned integrity”.
These were “all vital pre-requisites for being president”, said the prime minister. He highlighted the newly sworn-in president’s “long and distinguished” career in the public service, beginning with his role as an economist at the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS).
Tharman rose to become MAS’ managing director and later, chairman. He also held key appointments in the Cabinet, first as Education Minister and then Finance Minister. Following this, he “shouldered broader responsibilities” as Deputy Prime Minister, Co-ordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies and, most recently, Senior Minister.
Lee said that as the Member of Parliament for Jurong for 22 years, Tharman had served his constituents “with all [his] heart” and was “always there for them, solving their problems and improving their lives”.
The prime minister welcomed Tharman’s wife Jane Yumiko Ittogi to her new role, calling her the “one person whose personal support will matter greatly” to her husband. Lee said that he was sure Tharman would, like his predecessors, be a “President for all Singaporeans” and serve Singapore with “dedication and distinction”.