There are many unforgettable moments throughout her Presidency, and there are “so many things to learn” on state visits, she shared.
For example, on a visit to the Netherlands, the contingent learned about vertical farming, she added, noting that Singapore hopes to produce 30 per cent of its own food by 2030.
She also learned from the Queen of the Netherlands that even the children of the royal family cycle to and from school.
“You can say because that’s how the infrastructure developed, or with people’s own desire to stay healthy. But also to reduce carbon monoxide poisoning … that’s a very interesting example,” said Mdm Halimah.
On a state visit to Malaysia, the government held a tree-planting ceremony and even named an orchid after her, which they had never done before.
“Those are things that are quite … they are very touching, because they make the extra effort to try and look at the head of state coming in and try to make it comfortable for the head of state.”
When asked about her visit to Saudi Arabia as a female President, Mdm Halimah said that the fact that the country agreed to host her was already quite a “big acknowledgement” that the country is looking at ways that Singapore encourages women’s participation in the economy and society.
The King of Saudi Arabia also presented her with a very prestigious award, she said, adding that the Middle East is transforming, wanting to diversify their economies and explore stronger bilateral relations with other countries.
Mdm Halimah was conferred the King Abdulaziz Medal by Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud in 2019. She is the first Singaporean to receive the award, which is the highest civilian honour in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
“For Singapore’s part, that was a good thing that we did because I was the first head of state (of Singapore) to visit Saudi Arabia,” she said, adding that she was also Singapore’s first head of state to visit Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Germany and the Netherlands.
“In all these countries, we bring also our perspectives to strengthen the bilateral relations,” she continued.
Mdm Halimah also reflected on her visits to China and her meetings with President Xi Jinping, who invited her to visit the country twice – as a speaker during the Asian Civilisations dialogue and for the Beijing Winter Olympics.
“The first one was really very much aligned to our beliefs (and) values, and that is cohesion,” she said, adding that she was happy that she was given a chance to speak at the conference to share how Singapore conducts its multiracial and multireligious society.
At both meetings, she had “very good discussions” with President Xi, Mdm Halimah added, describing them as very warm and friendly.
He also invited her several times for a state visit but she was not able to make the trips because of the COVID-19 lockdowns in Singapore and China, she shared.
“The relationship between Singapore and China is a very good relationship. And he reinforces that at the meetings that I had with him, and for that I think it is good that we continue with that,” said Mdm Halimah.
China is a huge country with vast resources, and while it may be going through a slowdown after the COVID-19 pandemic, it has “a great deal” of opportunities when it comes to both the economy and building bilateral relations, she added.
Noting the US-China tensions, Mdm Halimah said President Xi knows that Singapore will work with all parties.
“I certainly hope that relations between the two countries, the big superpowers will get better because then it is also good for our whole region as well.”
Watch Halimah Yacob: A President For Everyone at 9pm SG, Sep 12 on CNA.
https://www.channelnewsasia.com/singapore/singapore-consistent-and-reliable-partner-halimah-yacob-key-message-when-travelling-president-3761221 Singapore a consistent and reliable partner: Halimah Yacob on a key message when travelling as President