SINGAPORE: Engaging Singaporeans and making the Istana more accessible were at the forefront of President-elect Halimah Yacob's mind as she started her first day at work on Thursday (Sep 14).
Speaking to the media, Mdm Halimah said she wants to focus on the various functions and activities she would have to perform as President.
"I really am thinking of the work that we have to do, and I really want to start immediately," she said.
The former Speaker of Parliament added that she was thinking of ways to share the Istana grounds with more Singaporeans, in addition to the days where the grounds are open to the public.
"For instance, we have the herb garden. (I was thinking) whether could we invite some senior volunteers to come once in a while to tend to the garden and also to harvest some of the garden’s fruit, the spices, the chillies," she said. "I was thinking also - could we have picnics for children, off from the normal periods from when we open the grounds?"
"I understand that we must also preserve the dignity of the Istana, but taking that into consideration, could we make the Istana a little bit more accessible to people? It’s a beautiful place, (it would be nice) to see how we could share it more with Singaporeans."
The President-elect was also asked for her response to doubts raised by some Singaporeans over the reserved election.
"We’ve got a tremendous amount of work to do. That’s why I am calling upon Singaporeans to focus on our priorities," Mdm Halimah said. "We’ve always been a nation that’s very resilient, very forward-looking, very progressive, and that’s how we’ve overcome so many crises in the past. Our people have stood united and we’ve overcome so many obstacles. I am sure that we can do a lot more."
Reiterating a point made in her speech on Wednesday, she said: "I urge Singaporeans - let’s work together, stay united. We’ve not seen the best of ourselves yet. Let’s see what we can do to achieve the best for ourselves, and our children and grandchildren."
Mdm Halimah was also given a run-through of what to expect at the swearing-in ceremony, to be held on Thursday night at the Istana.
Earlier on Thursday, Mdm Halimah was picked up from her Yishun home in a state car and arrived at the main porch of the Istana at about 9.30am, where she was greeted by staff of the President's Office.
The former Speaker of Parliament was given a tour of the Istana grounds, including the gardens and buildings.
This comes a day after Mdm Halimah was declared Singapore's next head of state.
The 63-year-old is the country's first female President.