Photo of Istana lunch from CNA

Everyone is asking: where was President Halimah Yacob during the high profile Donald Trump-Kim Jong Un meeting?

Like elderly picking up cardboard and all other things embarrassing in the real Singapore, Halimah Yacob was “kept” away from the two foreign leaders and the international media.

Singapore’s head of state was missing even at her own residence in Istana. The Indian-turned-Malay President had to deliberately vacate her own residence when Lee Hsien Loong separately hosted lunch with Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un.

The Istana, in the Malay language means “Malay palace”. However at both lunches, Lee Hsien Loong brought only Chinese and Indian Singaporeans to the table, and not a single . How embarrassing is it going to a Malay palace without seeing a single Malay. The issue is made worse when lower-ranked officials and ministers with no involvement with foreign affairs were chosen over Halimah Yacob. The Singapore President could have taken the place of Law Minister K Shanmugam, Deputy PM Tharman Shanmugaratnam and National Development Minister Lawrence Wong, but the S$1.5 million-a-year Halimah Yacob was not chosen.

Lee Hsien Loong’s decision to leave Halimah Yacob is open to speculation, but this appears to be passive racism. The Singapore Prime Minister nonetheless need to be questioned, like whether if he perceives Halimah Yacob’s hijab a poor representation to Singapore.

There are hard questions to ask about Halimah Yacob as well. Like whether if she needs an English translator when speaking with other English-speakers, or whether if she takes direct instruction from Lee Hsien Loong as a puppet many believe her to be.

Singaporeans felt a slap, regardless they are aware or not. The S$20 million did not buy Singapore a good reputation, it instead brought “face” to Lee Hsien Loong who reminded the world that the dictator is in control. Lee Hsien Loong gave Singapore a “filthy rich” image when he thinks nothing of gifting S$20 million. There was not even an attempt to negotiate cost-sharing with both US and North Korea, S$20 million was given like a dog playing fetch to his US master.

How we miss Lee Kuan Yew indeed.

Alex Tan
STR Editor