President-elect Halimah Yacob says she will continue to live in her sixth-floor Housing Board flat, making her Singapore’s first head of state to live in public housing while in office.
Shortly after being declared the winner in an uncontested presidential election yesterday, she told reporters that she had no plans to move out of her family home in Yishun.
“I am still staying in Yishun,” the 63-year-old said. “It is a very nice, comfortable place, and I have been living there for many years.”
Her husband, retired businessman Mohamed Abdullah Alhabshee, 63, added with a smile that there was no need to move, as the flat was “as huge as a penthouse”.
The jumbo flat is made up of a four-room and a five-room flat bought on the resale market, and it is where Madam Halimah has lived with her family for more than 30 years. She has two sons and three daughters, aged 26 to 36.
Singapore’s past presidents had lived in private housing or at the Istana, and Madam Halimah’s decision has raised questions about security arrangements.
Mr Lee Hooi Theng, 68, who is semi-retired and lives in a neighbouring block, doubts Madam Halimah will be able to continue living there “for security’s sake and her convenience”.
However, police have intensified security measures in the area.
Asked about security, Madam Halimah said: “I will leave it to the security department. I think they know how to secure the area.”
The Police Security Command, tasked with protecting government leaders, already had arrangements there when she was Speaker of Parliament before she left to run for president.
Security experts interviewed said threat levels are different for different leaders, and the threat to a head of state is considered higher than that to a Speaker.
Security will have to be beefed up, and more officers and equipment, like surveillance cameras, are likely to be deployed.
Mr Raj Joshua Thomas, 38, president of the Security Association of Singapore, said: “Anything can be secured. It is just a matter of how much inconvenience that might cause to others in the block.”
Meanwhile, neighbours are happy to have her in their midst.
Madam Halimah’s neighbour from two floors up, student Wan Tian Chong, 24, said it would be “quite cool” if she continued to live there. “Having a president living in your block, that is something you don’t see every day,” he said.
Madam Halimah sees another advantage to living in her flat: “When I come back from work, I will climb up the six floors, and if I have time, I will climb down.”
She added: “The Istana grounds are very big, so that gives me the chance to walk around and exercise further to keep myself fit.”
The straits times