Streats: Ready for hell

New Workers’ Party cadre willing to lose all to stand up for what she believes in

By Yong Hui Mien

‘I have no regrets joining WP. The path ahead is very uncertain, but I will regret more if I did not take that step to join.’ – Ms Lim

WHEN law lecturer Sylvia Lim Swee Lian, 37, decided to join the Workers’ Party, she resigned herself to two things: She might find herself in jail one day and she might be declared a bankrupt.

And when her friends learnt she was entering opposition politics, they too advised her to get her personal finances in order, just in case.

Even her father joked that she would land up in the lock-up one day, she said. While such thinking might be a major reason why so few Singaporeans join opposition political parties, Ms Lim, the WP’s new cadre, said yesterday she was prepared to go to jail or through hell to uphold her beliefs.

Nothing will stand between her and her convictions, she said in an interview with Streats.

And one conviction is that there is an urgent need for diverse voices in the opposition camp.

“Nobody encouraged me to join politics,” she said. “Who would? This is Singapore, you know.”

Recalling her former job as a police inspector from 1991 to 1994, she said: “I have seen what can happen to people sometimes, like lawsuits and bankruptcies.

“I know what the score is. We only live life once and I refuse to live in fear. That’s my philosophy.”

Ms Lim, who is single, joined the WP soon after the General Election last November.

The spunky law lecturer at Temasek Polytechnic decided to join the opposition party after the PAP took 75 per cent of the seats at the election. WP’s leader, Mr Low Thia Khiang, won in Hougang.

She recalled: “I sent a card to congratulate Mr Low after the General Election, along with a donation for the party. I also expressed my interest to contribute to the party. When he called me back, I was very excited, but I couldn’t answer the phone because I was teaching a class. We met later in Tampines.

“I think he wanted to size me up – to see if I was a lunatic or if I have any personal agenda for wanting to join the party.”

Besides being a council member in the party’s policy-making central executive committee, Ms Lim is also the chairman of the WP’s Party Vision Manifestal Committee and a member of the Policy and Current Affairs Committee.

Being in the opposition doesn’t mean being being anti-PAP, she stressed.

“We are not here to bring down the Government. It’s not our intention. They have been doing all right the past few years.

“I am aware of the broad government concerns, like I can see their operational considerations. This gives me a balanced view. I have become more realistic in my expectations.”

But more can be done, she added.

“The WP has always been speaking for working class and the less well-off. I agree with this platform.”

She and five other new WP members who joined since last June will be introduced at an anniversary dinner on Nov 16.

She got me thinking


AS a typically apathetic third-generation, or 3G, Singaporean, I have never felt excited about local politics.

It didn’t help that my constituency, Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC, had a walkover in the last General Election.

We complain that the political scene is one-sided but we do nothing about it. And we expect someone else to do the dirty job of championing our rights.

But my meeting yesterday with Ms Sylvia Lim, 37, a new Workers’ Party cadre, set me thinking and made me somewhat ashamed of my apathy.

At the end of our hour-long chat, I went away impressed with her.

I was particularly touched by her willingness to sacrifice her privacy and her time.

That someone ensconced in a secure, well-paying job as a law lecturer is willing to brave all odds and fight the mighty machinery of the PAP is in itself admirable.

Ms Lim is currently sacrificing her weekends to pore over tedious parliamentary bills to help WP leader Low Thia Khiang prepare for debates in the House.

If she becomes a party election candidate one day, she will have to do much more – keep in touch with Singaporeans and carry out a myriad of party programmes.

I admire her guts. Rightly or wrongly, she believes there are dangers in opposition politics, yet she is going ahead, come hell or high water.

Why does she bother?

Ms Lim said the PAP’s one-party voice in Parliament is too strong. There must be diverse voices. She hopes more younger Singaporeans will follow her steps and enter the arena.

Straits Times: WP grooming new faces ahead of next election

Underlining its push for self-renewal, it has in place a team with newcomers such as a lecturer and a financial controller


A wish to help the opposition prompted Ms Lim to join the WP. It’s a matter of conscience, she says.

Newcomers Mr Tan (left) and Mr Yaw hope to boost the WP’s chances at the next GE.

GOING into its 45th year next month, the Workers’ Party (WP) is pushing ahead with self-renewal and injecting new blood way before the next General Election (GE), which is due only in 2007.

A law lecturer, Ms Sylvia Lim, 37, and a financial controller, Mr Tan Wui-Hua, 36, are newcomers among the 14 members in the policy-making central executive committee led by Mr Low Thia Khiang.

The WP secretary-general and MP for Hougang is also beefing up his support with not one, but two assistant secretary-generals.

Besides training consultant Poh Lee-Guan, 40, who contested the Nee Soon East seat in the last GE, Mr Low also has researcher James Gomez, 36, as his other right-hand man.

Mr Gomez was instrumental in drafting the party’s last election platform, emphasising the strains on the “new poor” in Singapore.

Another newcomer, Mr Yaw Shin Leong, 26, the deputy organising secretary, is also Mr Low’s legislative assistant.

Both Mr Gomez and Mr Yaw were part of a WP team who tried to contest in the Aljunied GRC in the last election, but were disqualified because their nomination papers were not in order.

The new team will be introduced to members at an anniversary dinner on Nov 16, during which highlights of the WP’s history since 1957 will be shown.

Said Mr Low, 46, who took over the reins of the WP in May last year: “We must bring in new blood. You must build an organisation, a team, rather than an individual.”

The new members have updated the look of the party organ, The Hammer. And they are using it and the party’s website to disseminate views and information on party activities.

His priority, Mr Low said, was to ensure that the party was not associated with just one man, as it was with its first leader, Mr David Marshall and, later, lawyer J.B. Jeyaretnam, who quit the party just before the last GE.

Ten other members quit along with him, but the membership base is still dominated by older people.

Mr Low declined to talk about an ongoing legal suit against the party by Mr Jeyaretnam, who is now a bankrupt raising money to pay off debts incurred from fighting court cases.

Contacted by The Straits Times, Ms Lim, a former police inspector and lawyer, said the People’s Action Party’s (PAP) victory in the last GE in November with 75 per cent of the total votes prompted her to join the WP after the polls.

After seeing how strapped the opposition was in its fight against the PAP in that election, she decided it was time for her to do something “as a matter of conscience”.

Ms Lim, who is single and lectures at Temasek Polytechnic, helps Mr Low prepare for parliamentary debates by reviewing Bills presented by the Government to Parliament.

“Sometimes, I feel some of the laws are very widely drafted. Past experience has shown that, sometimes, the net may be cast too wide, which may have effects nobody intended,” she said.

Mr Tan, who works in a real estate investment company, has three postgraduate and graduate degrees in accounting, business administration and mathematics.

He is the WP’s deputy treasurer and wants to contribute ideas addressing issues like the factors stunting Singapore’s economic growth.

Before the last election, expressing his wish to join the party, he wrote in an e-mail message to Mr Low: “Let’s put our heads together.

“If we can come up with something good, let’s try it out. If we can win the trust of the people and do something, at least in our lifetime, we can say that is an achievement.”

‘No point wishing for a strong and credible opposition if one is not prepared to so anything.’
Law lecturer Sylvia Lim, in an article in The Hammer entitled Stand Up For Singapore

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