TODAY: No need to quit TP to contest GE

Policy amendment means WP chairman Sylvia Lim won’t have to leave poly job


GOOD NEWS: Ms Lim welcomed the news but said GRC operations may require all her time.

WORKERS’ Party chairman Sylvia Lim will not have to leave her job at Temasek Polytechnic (TP) to contest the coming polls. But she might not return to work after that.

Her employer announced yesterday that it was changing its human resource policies for staff who enter the political arena.

TP employees previously had to obtain approval to participate in political activities and had to retire from service if they wanted to stand for elections.

Both requirements have now been dropped. However, the reason for the change is not due to Ms Lim’s expected candidacy at the General Election, according to the polytechnic.

It said in a press statement that the policy was removed to ensure consistency in HR practices with that of other polytechnics.

“TP’s policies are reviewed whenever there are changes in the policies of the civil service, or following discussions or regular reviews with the other polytechnics,” a spokesperson told TODAY.

“The last check with the other polytechnics was earlier this year. Upon finding out that TP’s policy on participation in political activities was not consistent with that of the other polytechnics, TP decided to review this policy.”

A check with Ngee Ann Polytechnic revealed that it too has revised its rules, which had been similar to TP’s, after a review earlier this year, as the policy was found to be “outdated” and “inconsistent” with its counterparts.

Singapore Polytechnic and Nanyang Polytechnic (NYP), which counts MP Zainudin Nordin (Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC) as one of its staff, have never had such a policy.

“All staff are free to choose whether to participate in politics and stand for GE,” said NYP public affairs officer Dawn Ho.

Ms Lim, who lectures on law at the Temasek Business School, welcomed the news but said she would probably not return to her job if she gets elected.

“The likelihood is that I’ll run for a GRC seat. To manage operations at a GRC level would require a lot of my time. I owe it to the party and the voters to devote my energy to them,” she told TODAY.

Mr Zainudin, who is the manager of the Electronics Design Centre at NYP, also welcomed the move.

“It’s a positive development. My view is that a review of HR policy would make sense in the present times. People are more active and want to be involved in shaping decisions,” he said.

Although he did not have any restrictions, he did inform his employers when he stood in the 2001 GE.

According to TP, when it was established in 1990 its HR department adapted policies and practices of the Government and other statutory boards.

Its spokesperson told TODAY: “The general practice of TP has been to adopt and adapt from the Government Instruction Manual when policies are not mandatory for TP to follow and when the non-mandatory policies are relevant and appropriate for adoption.”

According to the Public Service Division, civil servants cannot participate in political activities, such as holding office in a political organisation, speaking publicly or writing to the press on any political matter and canvassing for political purposes.

They may join a political party as a member, but will have to resign should they wish to stand for election to Parliament.

But there is more leeway for statutory boards like polytechnics.

“Statutory boards are not bound by civil service guidelines as they have the autonomy to decide on their own rules, taking their own circumstances into consideration,” said PSD’s director of personnel policy, Ms Ong Toon Hui.

Since the last GE, two TP employees have sought approval to enter politics, one of them, of course, being Ms Lim.

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