Earlier this year, nearly 100,000 people signed a petition calling on Melania Trump, the first lady of the United States, to move into the White House – or else foot the security bill for keeping her safe in Trump Tower in New York.
Her husband, US president Donald Trump, had moved into the oval office, but Mrs Trump had chosen to stay in New York with her 10-year old son, Barron. One of the reasons for Mrs Trump’s decision was for her son to complete his schooling in New York.
But the decision was a controversial one for several reasons, one of which was the security costs to the government in keeping her and her son safe in New York – costs paid for by taxpayers.
According to a report in the New York Times, the New York Police Department stated it costs between US$127,000 and US$146,000 a day “to protect the First Lady and her son while they reside in Trump Tower.”
It was only in June, amidst the continuing controversy, that Mrs Trump and her son finally moved into the White House to join her husband.
Singapore’s new unelected President, Halimah Yacob, seems to want to do a Melania Trump – telling the media here that she intends to continue to live in her jumbo HDB flat in Yishun instead of moving into the president’s official residence, the Istana.
“I’m still staying in Yishun,” said Madam Halimah Yacob, 63, when asked where she would be living after becoming president, according to the Straits Times.
The newspaper reported:
Her husband, Mr Mohamed Abdullah Alhabshee, 63, quipped that there was no need to move, as the house was “as huge as a penthouse”.
The jumbo flat is made up of a four-room and a five-room flat, and is where Madam Halimah has lived with her family for over 30 years.
After her confirmation as president on Wednesday, Channel Newsasia reported that police presence was seen around her block.
When Channel NewsAsia visited Madam Halimah’s HDB block on Wednesday (Sep 13) just hours after she was declared as the President-elect, there was a visible police presence.
Fresh red paint marked parking lots meant for police vehicles, and just outside her corner flat were two policemen checking on anyone who wanted to enter the area. At the block opposite, more uniformed officers were on patrol.
Asked about security considerations of her living in Yishun, Mdm Halimah said: “Security issues, I will leave it to the security department. I think they know how to secure the area, but I think it’s a very nice comfortable place. I’ve been living there for many years.”
What are the security improvements and measures that may be required to allow her to live in her flat after she is sworn-in as president on Thursday?
The Straits Times said:
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.
Security experts interviewed said threat levels are different for different leaders, and the threat to a head of state is considered higher than that to a Speaker.
Security will have to be beefed up, and more officers and equipment, like surveillance cameras, are likely to be deployed.
Will all this cost taxpayers extra money?
But what exactly is Halimah Yacob trying to prove in remaining in her HDB flat, and not move into the Istana where things could be more easily done?
Her reasons are unclear, save for her saying that it is a comfortable place for her and her husband.
But is that reason enough for taxpayers to foot the bill for providing her extra security measures?
One comment online advised her to not make “a spectacle of a job.”
“If the point is to remind everyone she’s just an ordinary citizen, please donate the $9 million salary to the needy,” the commenter said. “A lot of the elderly cleaners in her estate would be grateful.”
The $9m refers to the total salary she will have received by the end of her 6-year term in office. The president is paid S$1.5m per year, $1m more than the Speaker, which was her previous post.
“Sorry, stop with this nonsense already,” the commenter added. “Point made. Move on. Do the job.”
Indeed, for someone who is being presented as a humble public servant, isn’t she unnecessarily wasting taxpayers’ money? Is she aware of this at all?
Ironically, isn’t it one of her roles as president to make sure the government spends prudently, and be thrifty with taxpayers’ money?
Here is a short preview of what residents in her precinct will be subjected to every day, if she continues to stay in Yishun: