Singapore parliament welcomes first woman speaker, Halimah Yacob

The Singapore Parliament has welcomed its first woman speaker, Halimah Yacob. 

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had nominated Madam Halimah to be elected as the 9th Speaker of Parliament. 

Former Speaker and Member of Parliament, Michael Palmer resigned from his posts last year due to an extramarital affair. 

"I declare Madam Halimah Yacob to have been duly elected as speaker of this parliament." 

Member of Parliament for the last 12 years, Halimah Yacob, will now take on a new role as the Speaker of the House. 

Other parliamentarians heaped glowing tributes on Madam Halimah as they spoke in support of her appointment. 

But they also acknowledged the contributions by the previous Speaker, Michael Palmer, who left the seat abruptly.

Many said they will miss her contributions to debates as an MP. 

But they have full confidence she will be able to execute her responsibility as speaker with balance and effectiveness. 

Denise Phua is MP for Moulmein-Kallang GRC. 

"Please continue to support with speed and heart and not ignore me when I raise my hands or try to catch your eye for an opportunity to continue to speak up for them in this house. I am confident that with your capability, your communication talents, your eloquence, you will carry out your duties as Speaker with fairness and dignity. My special wish for you is this - that beneath that power suit that you now don as our Speaker, you will always remain the same Halimah Yacob whom we have all come to like, love and respect."

Minister of State for Finance and Transport, Josephine Teo, also highlighted how Madam Halimah has made a difference not only in Singapore but abroad as well. 

"In the international labour movement, Mdm Halimah is a well-known and well-respected advocate of workers' interests. Singapore's unique brand of tripartism has drawn its share of criticisms over the years. However, through the active representation of our union leaders like Madam Halimah, we have won over our detractors. There is no one at the International Labour Organisation (ILO) who doesn't know her. Even after Madam Halimah was appointed Minister of State, she offered to return to the ILC to finish the challenging task she had started in 2010 to have the ILO adopt a new Convention and Recommendation aimed at improving the working conditions of domestic workers worldwide."

With this appointment, work begins immediately for the new Speaker as Singapore seeks to tackle challenges like an ageing population and labour constraints. 

Leader of the House and Defence Minister, Ng Eng Hen spoke on behalf of the house. 

"There will be crucial national issues put before us and difficult decisions to make. We must expect vigorous debates to balance the trade-offs with different choices."

"Madam Speaker, in all of this, we expect your firm and impartial hand that will move our debates and deliberations toward fruitful and expeditious outcomes. In this, your task will be simpler if all Members remember to keep their speeches short and to the point. Madam Speaker, we look forward to your leadership and contributions in the years ahead. This House must quickly gear itself up for much work that lay ahead of us." 

Madam Halimah said she is confident that she will have the support of the MPs to carry out her duties. 

"I'm confident that I will have your support and cooperation in the discharge of this duty and in the conduct of the proceedings of this House. You will agree with me that we owe a duty to the people of Singapore who have placed us in the house to act in their best interests."

"Honourable members may have different views and I expect debate to be vigorous. I believe that rigorous examination of policies and laws will no doubt ensure greater clarity, contribute to stronger policy formulation and better reflect the needs of our society". 

-By May Wong