May 12, 2012


After the writ of by-election for Hougang was issued on Wednesday, I called the Elections Department to clarify certain details about form submission. The Department official answered my call, half in jest: “Hi Ms Lim. I thought I would be hearing your voice again only 4 years later”.

We are now in that period between the writ and nomination, when documentation must be scrupulously checked to ensure the nomination goes through. All hands are also on deck to prepare for the campaign, in terms of logistics, manpower and messaging. The Workers’ Party machinery is cranking, and there is a certain beauty and rhythm, refined over the decades.

Png Eng Huat is our candidate. People have started to give testimonials about him and the work he has done in Hougang and Kaki Bukit (Aljunied). Allow me to share something more personal. I have known him for about 6 years, and we are fans of similar genres of music, a la the Beatles and the great lyricists of the 1970s. We decided in 2010 to start the first ever WP Christmas choir for the Hougang Children’s Christmas Party. He spent hours transcribing guitar chords and showing me the fingering for shortcuts of the difficult chords (e.g. C#m), so that we could cobble together a good show for the children and families.

What’s so special about Hougang? In summary, Hougang residents have shown that they will defend democracy in their own backyard, even if it costs them.

About 15 years ago, long before I joined WP, I had a secretary who was an Hougang resident. I asked her how it felt to have transport routes to the area being cut after WP was elected. She told me something which I remember vividly to this day: “Never mind – if we have no train, we will take bus! If we have no bus, we can walk!” Such is the resolve of her and thousands of her neighbours, who have withstood decades of discrimination to vote for WP and Mr Low Thia Khiang, election after election.

Does Hougang matter? You bet it does.

May 15, 2011

Those Aljunied Voters!

It’s been a week since Returning Officer Yam Ah Mee (YAM) announced that Workers’ Party had outpolled the PAP in Aljunied GRC.

When YAM made that announcement in the wee hours of Sunday May 8, I instinctively turned to hug my team-mate Faisal. Faisal reacted calmly then, but told me at lunch yesterday that he was puzzled as to why I did that… I explained that it was just the flood of thoughts - about the many years we had spent together knocking on doors, facing all sorts of reactions, and our individual circumstances at different points in time. My word, the Aljunied voters had come through!

The WP Aljunied team went through two Thank-You parades, one on May 8, the other yesterday May 14.

May 8 turned out to be the hottest day in 19 years, according to Pritam. We were too tired to think of using any sun block, which made all 5 of us literally change colour on the lorry. Weaving in and out of car parks and roads in Bedok North (Kaki Bukit), Bedok Reservoir and Serangoon was invigorating, as there was a palpable sense of pride in the voters for the outcome in Aljunied.

There were also hints of what was on the minds of certain voters when they cast their vote, from what some of them called out from their flats as we drove past. “Keep your promise!” yelled one man, referring to our promise to serve them as best we could. Yet another bellowed out: “I want to REPE-N-N-T-T-T”, which needs no further elaboration. One lady came running after our lorry, saying: “林小姐,你的手好了吗?” meaning “Ms Lim, has your hand recovered?” Yes, she was the one whose dog sank its teeth into my hand when I visited them at home on March 13….

Yesterday we were fully prepared for Part 2 of the Thank You parade, with several choices of sun block. As if to play a cruel joke, the heavens poured torrents. We were then weaving around Paya Lebar - Kovan and Lorong Ah Soo. My team-mates decided to be men and stand in the rain totally drenched, while I was permitted to be a “gu-niang” and take cover under a WP umbrella. Residents ran up to us offering more umbrellas, drying cloths and other aids. We were very touched.

A new phase has begun.

We are indeed grateful to the voters for their support, and look forward to serving them.

May 14, 2011

Leaving Temasek Polytechnic

I have resigned from Temasek Polytechnic. The text of the media release is here.

Media Release


This is to confirm that I have, on 13 May 2011, tendered my resignation from my position at Temasek Polytechnic, after more than twelve years of service.

The move is prompted by what I anticipate to be an increased workload after being elected as part of the Workers' Party team for Aljunied GRC in General Elections 2011.

My role at the Polytechnic included teaching full-time and part-time students, as well as co-ordinating continuing education initiatives for adult learners undertaken by the Polytechnic's School of Business. To fulfill these responsibilities well would require sufficient time, focus and dedication.

Already in the last 5 years as Non-Constituency Member of Parliament, working hours have been spent on Parliamentary activities such as sittings and the occasional overseas trip. While the Polytechnic management has supported these national platforms, I foresee that the years ahead as an elected Member will be even more demanding.

After due consideration, I have concluded that it would not be fair to the Polytechnic management, colleagues and students for me to continue in my post at Temasek Polytechnic as an elected MP. I will henceforth explore other career options.

This decision to leave Temasek Polytechnic was arrived at with decidedly mixed feelings, as I have enjoyed my work and colleagues there tremendously. I would like to record my sincere thanks to the Polytechnic management and colleagues for their kind understanding and friendship all these years.

Apr 26, 2011

Thoughts on the eve of Nomination Day

It is hard to describe the feeling when one works towards a day for years, and finally is standing at the banks of the Rubicon.

Our people have been tireless, rooted in a sense that our efforts will bring about some good for Singapore.

It is hard to predict the course of the campaign and its outcome. But we wish Singapore well in every sense.

I know that as I proceed tomorrow with comrades to our respective nomination centres, we are living an enormous moment. Wish us luck!

Dec 11, 2010


As someone who follows a bit of local soccer, the Suzuki Cup elimination could have been a bit more dignified. Vietnam has 80+ million people, so they will definitely progress further. But what about us? Something also has to be done about the S-League, which seems to be serving largely the interest of gamblers.

We are in the thick of December, but for me, this is so unlike Decembers of the past, which typically allow for down-time and spending more time with family and friends. It’s not just due to the impending GE, but various writing projects and work exigencies too. But God bless my students, both full-time and part-time. They keep me sane in the madding crowd.

Last night my team and I visited a block in my favourite GRC. Due to the fascinating and varied conversations, we could only finish half the block. But among the 50 odd households was a microcosm of the diversity of Singapore and people’s expectations and aspirations.

There was a young undergraduate, who had literally just come home from his reservist ICT. He was sharing how his unit was deployed in field exercises, in his opinion to remind them of the basics of what a `1G SAF’ was like! He was articulate, and overall had every reason to be optimistic about the future.

For another tertiary student, the recent teen gang slashing at Downtown East affected him deeply, as he knew some of the suspects now in police custody. The events came as a shock, and he was still trying to cope psychologically with their enormity and implications.

There was an ex-offender who had been released from Prison. He was very cheerful and confident by disposition, which to me was rather unusual for an ex-offender. Nevertheless, he had found the job search daunting and unsuccessful, and reintegration difficult. He was embarking on a vocational training course, and believed it was one of the few viable options left.

A mother with young children had been diagnosed with a terminal illness. Her husband worked nights as the sole-breadwinner. She shared with us how they had just sold their flat to downgrade to a smaller one which was more affordable. She had been training the children to assist their father in household administration e.g. bill payments, and detaching herself from them to make the final parting less painful. It was heart-wrenching.

A 60+ year old Chinese-educated man felt that Singapore was now a place for only the English-educated. In addition, he felt that at the rate costs were rising, it was incumbent upon parents to spend less on themselves so as to save/provide for their children, who would otherwise not be able to meet future costs of living.

A 50-ish resident, whose home was clearly his refuge, came to the conclusion that `something is wrong’. While the government had done some good things, why do older people (40 and above) have to worry so much about jobs and healthcare costs, he asked? “I’m not a big thinker in these things”, he said self-effacingly, “but something is wrong”.

And so in just 2 hours, a snapshot of our society emerges.

Aug 2, 2010

Live Our Dreams. Fly Our Flag.

Funny how slogans can mean different things to different people.

In a couple of days, the annual National Day Parade, the product of zillions of man-hours and resources, will culminate at the Padang. The NDP is a powerful rallying point at which to celebrate our country’s independence and achievements.

Beyond the pomp and fireworks, and towering skyscrapers, what lies beneath? What are the national values we hold dear as Singaporeans? How committed are we to the country’s success? Do we feel we belong? How much would you give up in order to benefit a fellow Singaporean? Are we - a nation?

To this end, the just-released Institute of Policy Studies National Orientations of Singaporeans Survey No. 4 is interesting in several respects. It seems that generally, Singaporeans are faring well relative to other countries in their sense of national pride. Around 30% of the approx 2,000 respondents wanted more government provision of social goods, even if it meant higher taxes. And, perhaps more significantly, 85% believed that `voting gave citizens the most meaningful way in which to tell the government how the country should be run’.

It is indeed right that the General Election remains a national level event – one which lets the people write a collective report card on the incumbent’s performance. It is wrong to re-cast a national election into a vote in favour of local estate upgrading plans, or worse, threats of withholding such plans.

As we approach our 45th National Day, we should really take stock of where our nation is going at this critical juncture. Yesterday, I met two residents of Aljunied GRC who lamented that while they had critical views on government policies, there was no point voicing them. “What can one voice do?” they asked. They could not be more wrong. If every person whom we venerate as a mover and shaker thought that way, would there ever have been human progress?

We owe it to ourselves and the next generation to do what we can, to secure a Singapore which endures. Live Our Dreams. Fly Our Flag!

Jun 29, 2010

what really matters?

I just spent 2 weeks in Belgium and France this month on a European Union Study Tour, looking at EU institutions in Brussels and Strasbourg, and meeting with Members of the European Parliament and officials working for the European Commission, Parliament and Council of Ministers.

The discussions were very insightful as to current EU concerns, which included the Eurozone crisis and the increased role of the European Parliament post-Lisbon Treaty. I also had opportunity to speak with officials concerned with crime and security issues, particularly the EU approach towards transnational crime, terrorism, and judicial co-operation.

Despite the heavy business in Brussels and Strasbourg, it’s fair to say that most people’s minds this month are undoubtedly on the World Cup!

For instance, I was scheduled to meet a Portuguese Member of the European Parliament (MEP) one afternoon at 3 pm. I had already noted that this meeting clashed with the duration of the game between Portugal and North Korea. As expected, the Portuguese MEP turned up quite late after running back from some pub where he was watching the game in progress, up to 4-0, apologizing for being late without the need to. Fifteen minutes into our chat, his assistant popped his head into the room and made his day by saying only 2 words: “Seven-Zero”.

At Brussels Airport, scores of well-suited men were crowded around TV screens to endure Italy’s ouster from the group stages. Even on the flight back to Singapore on KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, the crew made periodic announcements updating us of Netherlands’ match against Cameroon, drawing rapturous cheers from Dutch passengers. Nothing seemed to matter more than what was going on in South Africa!

Despite this terrible distraction, there was time to soak in the culinary and cultural jewels which Belgium and France (in particular, Strasbourg in Alsace - see above) had to offer.

Here are some pictures from Brugge, a medieval town in northern Belgium (Flanders) which I highly recommend you visit if you have the chance:

And from my dream destination for food and beverage – Alsace. Again, same recommendation as above (here with a fellow EU Visitor):

I'm now back, and back to reality. Life is indeed too short!