Workers’ Party (WP) chairperson Sylvia Lim revealed in a recent interview that she and PM-in-waiting Heng Swee Keat go way back and that he was involved in her recruitment into the police force, almost three decades ago in 1991.
She told Bloomberg: “Well, I actually know DPM Heng personally, although not very well because he was a police scholar and I was a police officer in the past. In fact, he headed the recruitment interview when I was recruited to the police force and by all accounts, I think everyone agrees that he’s a very decent man.”
Mr Heng began his career in the Singapore Police Force in 1983 where he was awarded the SPF Overseas Scholarship. In 1997, he joined the Singapore Civil Service’s Administrative Service and served a period at the Ministry of Education, before being appointed the Principal Private Secretary to former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew (who was then Senior Minister) in 1997.
In 2001, Mr Heng became the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Trade and Industry before being appointed as managing director of the Monetary Authority of Singapore from 2005 to 2011. In 2011, Mr Heng left the central bank to contest that year’s election as a People’s Action Party (PAP) candidate.
When he was introduced as a candidate, former Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong tipped him to be a potential minister and core member of Singapore’s fourth generation leadership team. Mr Heng was fielded in the PAP’s team for Tampines GRC, led by then-Minister for National Development Mah Bow Tan, and was elected into Parliament.
Days after the election, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong appointed Mr Heng to the Cabinet as the Minister for Education, making him the second first-term MP-elect to be directly promoted to a member of Cabinet in Singapore’s history. Mr Heng served as Minister for Education until 2015 when he was made Minister of Finance.
In 2019, he was appointed the Government’s sole Deputy Prime Minister. This, coupled with Mr Heng’s appointment as the PAP’s first assistant secretary-general in 2018, made it apparent to observers that he has been selected to succeed PM Lee. Mr Heng was narrowly returned to Parliament in the 2020 General Election.
Ms Lim took an alternative path.
A law graduate, Ms Lim followed her father’s footsteps and joined the Singapore Police Force for three years as a police inspector in 1991. She initially did investigation work at the Central Police Division Headquarters, and then became a staff officer under the Director of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID).
Ms Lim returned to law after she left the police force and joined M/s Lim & Lim law firm, handling both civil and criminal cases in the High Court, Subordinate Courts and Juvenile Court between 1994 and 1998.
In 1998, she joined Temasek Polytechnic as a law lecturer and taught civil and criminal procedure, criminal justice and private security. She was also the Manager of Professional Development and Manager of Continuing Education and Training at the polytechnic’s School of Business.
Ms Lim joined politics after feeling “distressed” that opposition parties could contest only one-third of the parliamentary seats during the 2001 general election. 10 days after the election, she signed papers to become a member of the Workers’ Party (WP) and within 18 months quickly rose to become the Chairman of the party in 2003.
The WP’s star candidate was fielded for the first time at Aljunied GRC in the 2006 general election. Although the WP team led by Ms Lim ultimately lost to the PAP team with 58,593 votes (43.9%) to the ruling party’s 74,843 (56.1%), Ms Lim was appointed a non-constituency member of parliament since her team received the highest score among the losing opposition candidates in the election.
Ms Lim was elected in Parliament in the same election that Mr Heng was elected, when the WP won Aljunied GRC in 2011. She was re-elected as Aljunied GRC MP in the 2015 and 2020 general elections and has served as an opposition parliamentarian for nearly a decade.