President-elect Halimah Yacob has said that she will continue to live in her sixth-floor Housing Board flat. After winning the Presidential Election through a walkover on Wednesday, Mdm Halimah told reporters that she had no plans to move out of her family home in Yishun.
She was quoted saying, “I am still staying in Yishun…It is a very nice, comfortable place, and I have been living there for many years.”
The HDB flat which she stays in, is by no means a modest apartment. It is a jumbo flat which is made up of a four-room and a five-room flat which she has lived in with her family for more than 30 years.
The Police Security Command, tasked with protecting government leaders, already had arrangements there when she was Speaker of Parliament before she left to run for president. But with her recent change of status, police have since intensified security measures in the area.
Many online critics have voiced their disagreement at the decision of the newly “elected” President to continue staying at her HDB flat, but rather than it being an issue regarding the incompatibility of her status and the estate, it had to do more with how security arrangement will cause inconvenience to the block.
Arale Zu wrote on Straits Times’ Facebook post, “Eh I think it is great she wants to stay in HDB but are the inconveniences for the rest of the neighbourhood being considered? Did she or anyone weigh the pros and cons? Isn’t it better to just stay at the Istana for a couple of years while in office? Domestic Relocation is part of this job scope no?”
Tay Jun Yi also wrote, “If you wanna be president, then do it properly. Give up whatever you have to give up. It seems like you very humble and want to be close to your people, but in actual fact, you inconvenient your neighbours with so much security in your area. And you give people more logistics to settle. Yishun is congested enough, imagine every night mdm notmypresident wants to go home n they block off the road to escort her home. If you want to be close to your people, push to get elected the proper and fair way. Do the right thing for your people.”
Ravi Raju wrote, “Definitely Appreciated…One worry though is the security protocol etc which she may end up having as president may be disturbing for her neighbors? Some may like all the excitement but some may prefer their peace…”
Some critics also relate Mdm Halimah’s insistence to stay at her HDB flat to the action of US President Donald Trump and his family of staying out of White House.
Though Mdm Halimah is the first President who stays in public housing but she is not the first to stay in one’s private housing. If one were to look at the records, the only President who resided in the Istana is late President Yusof Ishak with the other presidents choosing to stay in their own properties, only to hold events and meet foreign dignities at Istana.
A point to note here is that while all other presidents had stayed in their private landed property, the distance between one’s property and others and relative isolation from public amenities, cater to the ease of security deployment without much inconvenience to neighbours.
While security expenses would likely to be no different to what was spent on installing security feature for the other presidents staying in their own property. But Mdm Halimah’s choice of staying in at her HDB flat for relative comfort and modest lifestyle in spite of her million dollar annual salary, might be seen as disregarding the inconvenience imposed upon her neighbours.
For starter, cars entering the HDB carpark lot may be screened by security and cross reference to namelist of residents. Hazardous material (flammables substance, ie, thinner, paint and etc) may not be allowed to be ferried into the carpark.
A video shared by Ravi Philemon, shows how just by her going in and out of the carpark will cause inconvenience to residents using the carpark.
The security screening for her flat would likely start from the lift landing instead of her flat, to give enough allowance for reaction if indeed there is a threat detected. This mean that residents will need to be screened along with their guests. Other than inconvenience, there is also a matter of privacy for the residents being monitored by security personnels and the security cameras recording 24/7. Parcels sent to the block might also be screened for explosives or biohazard matter.
If security team is uptight over the level of security, the other nearby flats might be subjected to screening as well, for fear of snipers or bombing threat.
The media and establishment might want to paint Mdm Halimah as a humble and down-to-earth individual whom citizens can look up to. But let us not forget that by end of her term, she would have earned close to 8 million in salary. And it will be far-fetched to think that residents have a channel to feedback if they feel inconvenienced by the whole security arrangement, because it is not something that is negotiable.
So if Mdm Halimah has the interest of her fellow residents at heart, it might be better to move out for her term and visit back at her HDB flat once in awhile.