|Who turned out the lights?|
Just as Seet Ai Mee went down in history as the first minister to lose her office in an election, Lim shares the dubious honour of being sacked by popular vote from the office of Minister, Prime Minister's Office, Second Minister for Finance and Second Minister for Transport. She was made full minister on 1 April 2009, a cruel joke that lasted two years for some residing in Serangoon Gardens.
Lim polled 40% of the votes in Serangoon, her Waterloo and site of the contentious foreign worker dormitory. Over 1,600 residents out of the roughly 4,000 households in the immediate vicinity of the proposed dormitory presented a petition to Lim in 2008. During a dialogue session, which was attended by some 250 people, the residents could sense they were talking to a brick wall. She was paying lip service to the peasants, and deferring to Minister for National Development Mah Bow Tan who had said earlier in the year in Parliament that, given the constraints of land, foreign workers’ dorms would eventually be near residential areas. It was the tip of the iceberg of the foreign worker influx, and we were kept in the dark.
Today, Lim said she does not believe anything she did differently in her Serangoon Gardens division would have changed the outcome of her fate. "People feel they are not being listened to sufficiently and that the party makes policies based on their intellect and does not seem to listen," she said. What she did not say was that she was part of the groupthink, and supporting Mah in 2008 would certainly not deter her promotion in 2009. Like the rest, she has mastered the art of obfuscation, masking the truth from the people, and maybe herself as well: "The Serangoon Gardens episode was a good experience – residents got a better understanding of the macro needs whilst being assured that the disamenities, if any, would be minimized, through constant interaction among all stakeholders." Cocooned for 15 years of smug self-adulation at The Party, she was enlightened only at the 9 days in May, "It is a surpirse for us that the resentment is so deep."
Lim said she'll head back to the corporate sector (last employer: Temasek Holdings). It remains to be seen if she'll ever draw the same super-sized paycheck again. But quite definitely, she can kiss the 8 months GDP-linked bonus goodbye.