A Halimah Yacob presidential residence in Yishun Ave 4 will be like this. For 6 years.
If you live anywhere near her, fun times to come.
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The mainstream media in Singapore has so far avoided publishing the exact HDB block number that newly-crowned Singapore president Halimah Yacob resides at.
This is perhaps due to privacy reasons or out of respect for the first woman president of Singapore who lives like 85 percent of the population.
All that has been mentioned so far is that Halimah’s flat is at Yishun Avenue 4, on the sixth floor, a corner jumbo unit, and she has lived there for the past two decades.
But not as if the block number cannot be easily found online with some googling.
Perks and downsides
There are perks and downsides to this arrangement of allowing Halimah to continue to live in Yishun — with some of these downsides downplayed.
Other than the fact that the block will become the safest place in Singapore and how all of this is so very novel, here are some other consequences of a Yishun presidential residence that have yet to be addressed:
1. The president’s coming and going will be scrutinised by the whole estate
Past presidents of Singapore have all chosen not to stay in the Istana as they remained in their own private property residences (except Yusof Ishak).
But comparing staying in an HDB estate and a cocooned landed property estate is vastly different. A HDB estate is highly public, while a private property accords privacy by virtue of having fewer neighbours around.
For one, the number of people who can witness first-hand the coming and going of the president is much larger in an HDB estate, owing to the officious congregation of the security detail and the presidential motorcade below the block that takes up a lot of car park space.
You can see it for yourself: Before Halimah was even sworn in, plenty of photos have already been taken by the public of how it is going down in the Yishun estate as security has been stepped up.
And since this is a high-rise estate, there are plenty of vantage points.
This high visibility can be a sore point if one’s job is to keep the president safe.
Knowing the exact schedule of a president is not a big deal, because at the end of the day, the president is a public figure.
But being able to keep tabs and chart down precisely the movements of the president on a day-to-day basis is troubling from a security perspective, because that information becomes predictive.
There is a reason why you cannot directly look into the Istana from Plaza Singapura.
Because the whole point is: The less you see, the less you know.
2. The entire floor or even the whole block of residents will be ID-ed
When your neighbour Halimah pic.twitter.com/kyY6zwOpVd
— Mothership.sg (@MothershipSG) September 14, 2017
In this day and age where everyone gives away their personal data freely, it is no longer a big deal.
So, for residents of the block to be individually identified one way or another for security purposes, would not require a stretch of the imagination.
The rationale for identification is to facilitate the coming and going of residents who live in the same block of flats as Halimah, and to spot any anomalies of strangers suddenly showing up at the block unannounced.
Who you are, what you do for a living, or even how you get back home — these sort of information are all par for the course.
Sure, Halimah’s block will be free from loan shark runners, but for residents who engage in extra curricular activities late into the night — even if it is licit — your movements will be noted as part of security protocol, because they don’t want no surprises there.
You can also forget about riding in the same lift as Madam President, as it will be filled with her entourage of security officers and minders.
And if you’re staying in the opposite blocks and can look into Halimah’s unit, it is safe to say her minders can also look into yours.
3. That entire neighbourhood can be easily put on high alert
A moment of silence pic.twitter.com/BKBznOq6Le
— Mothership.sg (@MothershipSG) September 14, 2017
Our ordinary lives are punctuated by extraordinary events. In times of relative peace and quiet, everything is hunky-dory.
But what about during times of turmoil?
What if there was a replay of the SARS epidemic of 2003? Halimah’s humble HDB abode will suddenly become a public relations and health crisis at the same time.
Should Halimah continue to stay in her flat, which effectively puts her in contact with more people than necessary? Or should she move to a lower risk area, which then sends a not-so-subtle message of its own?
And what about the conspicuous presence or absence of the official car ferrying the president? It can suddenly become a marker of how things are going, especially if the chips are down.
For example, imagine if Singapore is in the doldrums for months now due to a crippling economic recession.
And the presidential motorcade suddenly whisks the president and her spouse away at 3am in the morning.
What would you do?
Most people would probably put it on Facebook if they saw it and got a video of it.
And what is there to stop anyone from live-streaming the happenings of Halimah’s block 24/7 for signs of activity in times of crisis or normality, using nothing but perseverance, a Facebook account and super fast internet connection speeds?
In short, the person who holds a key to the national reserves can afford a bit more privacy to begin with.
Because if you’re reading this article and wondering if it is really necessary to be shielding the president from Singaporeans prone to do weird things in Yishun, then you are not being paranoid enough living in a country that believes it is open to infiltration by foreign agents of influence.
All. The. Time.