SINGAPORE - Singapore's 13 Parliament opened with its first session today (Jan 15) and saw the re-election of Madam Halimah Yacob as Speaker of the House for a second term.
"I am most humbled by your trust and confidence in me, and for reelecting me as the Speaker of the House. This is a duty that I do not take lightly as I understand the tremendous responsibilities and expectations that follow this appointment. It is a great privilege and honour to serve in this House and I will discharge my duties fairly and impartially," said Madam Halimah.
In her address in Parliament, the Speaker of the House had this advice for members of the 13th Parliament: "There is no need to play to the gallery. It is much easier to be convincing if you care about your topic, so you should figure out what's important to your message and speak from your heart."
"Regardless of the party that we represent, or the interests that we wish to champion, we are first and foremost the representatives of the people, and must act in their best interest," she added.
Newly-appointed Leader of the House, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu, congratulated Madam Halimah on her re-election and gave a tribute about her contributions during her time in office, both as a front- and back-bencher.
As Speaker in the last three years, Ms Fu said Madam Halimah's "impartiality and decisiveness" have gained the respect of all Members of the House. Madam Halimah's fairness upheld the decorum of the House and her firmness ensured that proceedings went on smoothly.
"You championed passionately for the disadvantaged in Singapore. You pushed for fair treatment of workers and fought on behalf of those in need. You sought to ensure that Singapore is a country where all Singaporeans have fair access to opportunities and can enjoy the fruits of our progress," said Ms Fu.
Other MPs like Vikram Nair, Zainal Sapar and Tin Pei Ling also gave tributes but in different languages.
The Leader of the House noted that the coming session of Parliament will present MPs with many difficult but necessary decisions.
"To provide Singaporeans with quality living, our infrastructure and landscape must be refreshed, our economy must continue to be dynamic, and our social safety nets must be strengthened. We must build good homes for people to live in, provide an efficient transport system for commuters, continue economic restructuring to create good jobs for our workers, and educate our students to be ready to take on those good jobs," she said.
"We must also continue to maintain quality and affordable healthcare and give Singaporeans the care that they deserve. We must do all these amidst an uncertain global environment and certain internal challenges, including those of a changing demographic with a fast ageing population."
These concerns are complex and facing up to them will involve trade-offs and energetic debate on the course of action to take, Ms Fu said.
"We welcome sincere, serious debate from Members as we discuss these vital issues affecting all Singaporeans, decide on the future that we want to create and launch the next chapter of our country's story together."