Former president Halimah Yacob has been conferred the Order of Temasek (With High Distinction).
If you don’t know what the Order of Temasek is, it’s the nation’s highest civilian honour.
On 25 October 2023, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) said that Madam Halimah, 69, will head the list of National Award recipients for 2023.
Former President Halimah Yacob Conferred Order of Temasek
Madam Halimah will receive the award from President Tharman Shanmugaratnam on 29 October at the National Awards Investiture.
It will be held at the Institute of Technical Education College Central.
Madam Halimah, the eighth president of Singapore, was Singapore’s first female president.
In 2013, she also became the first woman to hold the position of Speaker of Parliament.
She served a six-year term between 2018 and 2023, with her last day on 13 September 2023.
In May 2023, she announced that she would not be seeking re-election at the Presidential Election 2023.
Former senior minister Tharman succeeded her as president.
In an email to The Straits Times, she said she was deeply honoured to receive the award.
She added that she was grateful to have the privilege of serving the people of Singapore for all these years.
She stated that she is thankful for the opportunity to encourage others to serve.
As the president of Singapore, Madam Halimah was vocal about gender equality and discussed several social issues.
She has always emphasised the importance of building interfaith relationships and encouraging multicultural dialogue.
She also approved the government’s draws on past reserves during the COVID-19 pandemic, which must have been a complex situation to deal with.
Under her, the President’s Challenge focused on empowering people with disabilities, building a digitally inclusive society and supporting caregivers.
The last person who received this award was former senior minister S. Jayakumar.
Madam Halimah is the fourth former president of Singapore to receive the Order of Temasek.
Previously, former presidents Dr Tony Tan Keng Yam, Mr S R Nathan and Mr Wee Kim Wee received the award as well.
It was previously known as the Order of Temasek (First Class).
More About the Award
The PMO’s website states that the honour was introduced in 1962.
It has three grades – Order of Temasek (With High Distinction), Order of Temasek (With Distinction), and Order of Temasek.
Only Singaporean citizens can be conferred the award.
Non-Singaporean citizens can only be admitted to the Order under exceptional circumstances.
For instance, former Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was a non-Singaporean who received the award.
He was conferred in 2014 the highest grade of the Order of Temasek for his contribution to regional cooperation and the excellent relationship between Indonesia and Singapore.
Notably, the Order of Temasek is second in prestige.
In terms of prestige, it is ranked behind the Star of Temasek, which is only awarded to members of the Singapore Armed Forces, Singapore Police Force or Singapore Civil Defence Force for “acts of exceptional courage and skill” or “conspicuous devotion to duty in circumstances of extreme danger”.
Moving Forward: Chancellor of Singapore University of Social Sciences
Since stepping down from the role of president, Madam Halimah has been busy.
Namely, she was appointed Chancellor of the Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS).
She became its new Chancellor on 1 October 2023.
In response to her appointment, she said, “I am honoured to be appointed as the new Chancellor of SUSS.
“This university has a unique place in Singapore, with its mission to inspire learning for life… I look forward to working collaboratively with all stakeholders to ensure SUSS’ continued success in impacting society through applied social sciences.”
Notably, her appointment comes at a crucial time for the university.
For starters, the university is growing rapidly and is set to grow to accommodate 40,000 students.
In September 2023, it was reported that the university is in talks with the government to move out of its rented premises and get its own campus.
As a university that caters to working adults, SUSS president Tan Tai Yong stated that a centrally-located campus would make it more convenient for students to travel from work.
Furthermore, a centrally-located campus would make it easier for SUSS to foster realistic learning opportunities with industry partners.
Madam Halimah is already hard at work in her new position.
On 10 October, she posted a Facebook post where she shared that she had given out degrees for the first time at SUSS’ convocation ceremony.
She wrote, “Gave out degrees for the first time as the Chancellor of the Singapore University of Social Sciences at the convocation ceremony this morning. President Tharman was present as the Patron of SUSS.
“Wishing all graduates all the best. Your hard work and sacrifices have certainly paid off.”