SINGAPORE – President Tharman Shanmugaratnam stated that he will be “rigorous and impartial” when making decisions involving the “second key” of Singapore’s reserves.
During his inaugural address on Thursday, Tharman, 66, stated that he will “carefully weigh the matter” if Singapore needs to use its reserves to address crises and existential threats.
“We will need to strike a balance between meeting immediate needs and preserving the reserves so that every generation, present and future, can enjoy their benefits,” Tharman told Asia One.
In addition to being prudent regarding the protection of national reserves, the newly-elected president stated that he intends to foster greater interactions between Singapore’s diverse communities while preserving the vibrancy of diverse cultures.
“This may be accomplished by encouraging our youth to participate in sports that are presently dominated by a specific ethnic group, by learning each other’s art forms, or by fostering collaborations between our self-help groups, various community organisations, and business chambers.
“As our interactions and life experiences increase, so will our appreciation and reverence for one another. Tharman stated, “We strengthen our shared Singaporean identity, which has been and must continue to be our most valuable asset.”
As president, Tharman also promised to “actively support” Singapore’s arts and athletics.
As an adolescent, Tharman represented his school in hockey and participated in a variety of other athletic activities.
At the age of 17, he was diagnosed with a severe case of anaemia that also affected his heart, which abruptly put an end to his athletic endeavours.
In his inaugural address, he noted that Singapore has made “significant strides” in both areas over the years, citing how the local arts scene has become more vibrant and how a number of local athletes have “excelled internationally, under tremendous pressure.”
“In both disciplines, however, our best years lie ahead. “By fostering every artistic and athletic talent and supporting them throughout their journeys, they will inspire us all,” said Tharman.
In keeping with his presidential campaign slogan ‘Respect for All,’ Tharman stated that he intends to establish a strong culture of kinship and respect by supporting the most vulnerable members of society, including disadvantaged youths, those with mental health issues, carers, and the elderly.
Tharman previously addressed the gravity of mental health issues among Singapore’s youth and those around the globe during a forum organised by The Straits Times.
Instead of “stressing out” their children, he urged parents to enable them to play and have more free time.
“Parents and children must understand that life is a long game… you may not be number one or even fifth in school, but life is a long game.”
At the conclusion of his inaugural address, the newly-elected president vowed to carry out his responsibilities “diligently and faithfully.”
Tharman, who received 70.41 percent of the vote in the Presidential Election, also expressed gratitude to Singaporeans for their “strong support.”
“Regardless of the challenges ahead of us or the inevitable differences among us, let us remember that we share a common destiny,” he said.
“Let’s have faith in what we’ve accomplished so far and commit to working together for a future of optimism and mutual respect.”
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong congratulated Tharman on his “decisive win” at the event.
During his speech, PM Lee stated, “The high percentage of votes you received demonstrated the respect and support voters had for you and for the message of unity expressed in your campaign slogan ‘Respect for All’.”
Beyond Tharman’s resounding victory, Lee stated that the Presidential Election result was “positive” for Singapore for numerous reasons.
This election has demonstrated that race plays a lesser role in voting than it once did.
PM Lee referred to a remark Tharman previously made about race being a “factor in politics everywhere”, but acknowledged that Singaporean voters today “look at many other factors too”.
“It is indeed a positive sign that in a national election, Singaporeans elected a candidate from a minority community as President based on his merits,” said PM Lee.
The prime minister also noted that the recent election demonstrated that voters “understand the roles and responsibilities of the president better than before.”
PM Lee elaborated on his point by stating that the campaign was centred on how the candidates intended to exercise the president’s executive powers and what personal experience and qualities they would contribute to the position, rather than on government policies or political issues.
“Singaporeans realised that they were electing the nation’s president and not the next government. All of this bodes well for the future of our nation.”
Attended the swearing-in ceremony at the Istana were Prime Minister Lee, Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, former President Dr Tony Tan, Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong, and a number of Cabinet Ministers.
Over 200 attendees, including prominent government officials and members of Congress, were also invited to attend the ceremony. Thomas Chua, President of the Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Association, and Royston Tan, assentor for Tharman, were also in attendance.
Before delivering his speech, Tharman signed his Affirmation of Office in the presence of Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon.