Lim re-entered the legal sector following the 2011 general election. She is currently senior associate in Peter Low LLC, helmed by former Law Society president Peter Low.
Lim had her early education at CHIJ Our Lady of Good Counsel, CHIJ St Joseph's Convent and National Junior College. She then read law at the National University of Singapore (NUS), graduating with a Bachelor of Laws (Honours) in 1988. She obtained a Master of Laws from the University of London (University College London) in 1989, and was called to the Bar in Singapore in 1991.
During her undergraduate and postgraduate studies, Lim did volunteer work with the Spastic Children's Association, Salvation Army Home for the Aged and University College Hospital. She later did voluntary editorial work for the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme of the Law Society of Singapore.
In 1991, Lim joined the Singapore Police Force for three years as a police inspector. 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).
Lim joined the law firm M/s Lim & Lim in 1994. She handled litigation work both civil and criminal cases in the High Court, Subordinate Courts and Juvenile Court between 1994 and 1998.
Lim joined Temasek Polytechnic in 1998 as a law lecturer. She was also the Manager of Professional Development and Manager of Continuing Education and Training at the polytechnic's School of Business. Her main areas of teaching and research were in civil and criminal procedure, criminal justice and private security. During her time at Temasek Polytechnic, Lim contributed to the volume on Criminal Procedure for Halsbury's Laws of Singapore (2003), a legal practitioners' reference series, and has also collected and published primary research on private security in Singapore.
In March 2006, Temasek Polytechnic modified its staffing policies to enable Lim to run as a candidate in the general election without having to resign her teaching position at the institution.
Lim was cited as 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 joined the Workers' Party (WP) and within 18 months quickly rose to become the Chairman of the party in 2003.
At the 2006 general election, Lim led the WP team to contest the Aljunied Group Representation Constituency (Aljunied GRC), campaigning on the slogan "You have a Choice". Means testing in hospitals, as well as the James Gomez fiasco became hot button issues during the election campaign.
The WP team ultimately lost to the team from the governing People's Action Party (PAP) by 58,593 votes (43.9%) to 74,843 (56.1%). This was the highest percentage of the vote garnered by any losing opposition candidates in the election, and therefore meant that the WP was entitled to select one of its team members from Aljunied GRC to become a Non-constituency Member of Parliament. The party chose Lim to become its NCMP.
During her term in Parliament, Lim spoke out against ministers' salaries, and also against means testing in hospitals, which resulted in the PAP deferring a decision on this for a period of two years from 2006 to 2008. In addition, she also called for a reduction in the Goods and Services Tax, arguing that it was a regressive tax, and urged the government to do more to help retrenched workers.
In 2009, Parliament debated the Human Organ Transplant (Amendment) Bill which would permit an organ donor to receive a reasonable amount of payment as a reimbursement for medical checks, insurance and other medical expenses, and loss of income. Lim spoke of her worry that the bill might lead to a backdoor organ trading and profiteering.
In 2010, Lim mooted the idea that the proportion of each Primary 1 cohort that would be seeking a university education should be increased beyond the 30% by 2015 that the Government was planning. She noted that in Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries in 2006 about 37% of each age cohort received a degree-level education, and that a sizeable number of Singaporean students who failed to gain entry into local universities had done well in reputable universities overseas. She also suggested giving concessionary fares to disabled individuals who make up 2% of the adult population under 60 years.
Lim expressed concerns about a proposed constitutional amendment introduced in April 2010 that would allow magistrates to hear what are called "first mentions" through video conferencing. A first mention is a hearing that must be held within 48 hours of a person's arrest. She felt it failed to adequately assure accused people that they were allowed to complain to magistrates about injuries they had sustained or acts of misfeasance against them by the authorities. In response, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Home Affairs Wong Kan Seng assured MPs that processes would be in place to ensure that accused people are treated fairly. For example, during a video conference, an accused person will be alone in a room with no police officer, and will be able to see what is happening in the entire courtroom. Secondly, the screen that will be used by the judge is large enough to enable him or her to clearly see whether the accused is under duress. Finally, accused people who have been mistreated can either complain to the police or to the judge when they are later present in court.
The following month, during parliamentary debates on major revisions to the Criminal Procedure Code, Lim suggested there was a need to improve pre-trial disclosure procedures and to ensure that victims of crimes received redress. Further, she expressed concerns over the leniency of community-based sentencing. The bill eventually incorporated several of her suggestions.
In 2011, Lim noted that the Compulsory Education Act ensures that all children have the opportunity to receive an education. However, she expressed concern that processes for entry to schools for children with special needs were cumbersome. Furthermore, education for children with special needs was not subject to the same subsidies that students in mainstream schools had. She thus brought to the House's attention the fact that special needs children might have been unintentionally marginalized. These concerns were supported by Penny Low, MP for Pasir Ris–Punggol GRC.
In the 2011 general election, Lim again contested in Aljunied GRC, along with Muhamad Faisal Manap, Pritam Singh, Chen Show Mao and party leader Low Thia Khiang, who vacated his seat of Hougang to lead the charge in Aljunied. Lim and her party campaigned on the slogan "Towards a First World Parliament", which entailed maintaining checks and balances in Parliament to keep the ruling party accountable to the public, and for opposition parties to gain experience in policy formulation and constituency work. In her final election rally speech, Lim emphasised that contrary to the public's perception, there was "no glamour" in being an opposition MP, and that she was only "fighting to serve". In a televised political broadcast on cooling-off day, Lim warned the public that "there is a very real danger of an 87 to nil score ... and if that happens, Singapore's political landscape will suffer a tremendous setback from which we may never recover."
Lim was returned as an elected Member of Parliament for Aljunied GRC after her team won 54.71% of the votes (54.72% including overseas votes), the first time that an opposition party won a GRC since the system's introduction on 1 June 1988. In addition, the defeat of the incumbent PAP team marked the first time in Singapore's electoral history that a serving cabinet minister lost his seat.
She has been assigned to look after the Serangoon ward previously held by the PAP's Lim Hwee Hua and has also been appointed Chairman of the combined Aljunied-Hougang Town Council. Lim's victory also made her the first female opposition MP in Singapore's post-independence history.
One week after the election, she announced that she would be resigning from her lecturing job at Temasek Polytechnic after 12 years of service. She said that her political activities had already led to her having to take significant time off from her teaching duties in the past, and that she did not think it would be fair to the polytechnic if she stayed on as she anticipated future Parliamentary duties would take up even more of her time. Since then she has returned to the legal profession and is now a senior associate taking on legal cases on an ad-hoc basis at Peter Low LLC.
In her maiden speech as an opposition MP in October 2011, Lim urged the government to adopt a more holistic approach in assessing the well-being of Singaporeans, which included using Gross National Happiness (GNH) as an indicator apart from conventional indicators such as the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Lim further noted in her speech that Singapore was a co-sponsor of Bhutan's resolution in the United Nations entitled Happiness: Towards a holistic approach to development. Lim's speech drew swift rebuttals from MPs of the ruling People's Action Party, including Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong who suggested later in 2014 that it was impractical "to switch to a different metric - from GDP to GNH". Lim replied that "the search for alternative indicators other than GDP is highly relevant ... GNH is not merely about measuring an emotion. It is about measuring societal progress in a holistic way".
In 2012, Lim engaged in a heated debate with Law Minister K Shanmugam where she questioned if the judgement published by the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) with regards to the Woffles Wu speeding case had addressed public concerns on the equitability of Singapore's legal system. Lim noted the "aggravating factors", such as the fact that Wu had abetted someone to provide false information to the police, and he had committed more than one offence over a prolonged period.
Lim also spoke out against the Population White Paper, contending that the government's strategy of using immigration to "top up" for the shortfall in Singapore's total fertility rate (TFR) "will further dilute national identity" and place Singapore on course in requiring "even more population injections in the future". She added that the government's attempts to encourage childbirths have been "half-hearted". Lim and her party proposed a greater tradeoff between GDP growth and population numbers, as well as new initiatives to encourage TFR recovery.
The AIM saga, which involved the termination of town council IT software owned by the PAP in the event of a "material change" in the leadership of a town, became a much talked about issue in the lead up to the Punggol East by-election in 2013. Lim contended that a "material change" was taken to mean a "change in political leadership" as in Aljunied GRC, and questioned how the public interest was served with the presence of such a termination clause. This led to Lim filing an adjournment motion in Parliament titled Safeguarding the Public Interest in Town Council Management, which she withdrew after the government announced it will conduct a review on the issue. Then Minister for National Development Khaw Boon Wan accused Lim of being "self-righteous" and "arrogant", in which Lim replied she "definitely does not accept his ascription of those motives to me personally". The WP won the by-election in Punggol East.
Lim opposed the Public Order Bill in the aftermath of the 2013 Little India riot, characterising the "hasty introduction" of the bill as a "knee-jerk reaction" by the government. She noted that the bill would in effect "stigmatise Little India as a special zone requiring special legislation" and that "there are already sufficient powers under our laws" with the Committee of Inquiry (COI) set to release its recommendations soon. Lim further expressed concerns with regards to newly imposed liquor control regulations, as well as policing resources and manpower required to handle such occurrences.
Lim also advocated for a more progressive tax system and strengthening of social safety nets to mitigate inequality, which included tweaking the income tax tiers for high income earners and fixing loopholes in the property tax measures.
Lim expressed support for the Pioneer Generation Package rolled out by the government in 2014, but raised concerns with regards to the MediShield Life scheme, particularly for Singaporeans who are already on private medical insurance or those living abroad.
Less than a month before election day on 12 August 2015, Lim set up her Instagram account with the first post showing a photo of herself eating oyster omelette at Fengshan Hawker Centre. The accompanying caption read "The taste of Fengshan - heavenly!" and a cryptic hashtag "#ReasonsToWin". A media frenzy and large public reaction ensued, with rumours circulating that Lim was considering a move to contest the election in Fengshan SMC. Alluding to the financial problems of the WP-run Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean joined in the fray, criticising Lim for wanting to "swallow up Fengshan" and "help the town council with the deficit". Lim later replied that it was "unfortunate" that Teo "does not seem to have a sense of humour".
In the Singaporean general election, 2015, Lim defended her Aljunied GRC ward against a new PAP team led by Yeo Guat Kwang. Campaigning on the platform "Empower Your Future", the vote numbers came down to the wire and a recount had to be conducted as the margin was less than 2%. At 03:10 AM SST on 12 September 2015, Lim and her team was returned to Parliament with a reduced majority of 50.96%.
Speaking to the media just hours after the election results on the sidelines of a thank you parade, Lim questioned if "voters don't want too much opposition in Parliament". She added that the fact that all 89 seats were contested by the opposition might also have resulted in some pushback, where voters were worried "sooner or later the PAP might be dislodged as a government". The feel-good factor of the SG50 golden jubilee celebrations, memory of the late Lee Kuan Yew who died in the same year and the unstable economic environment were also some other factors Lim cited for the results swinging in favour of the ruling party.
Singapore's 13th Parliament opened on 25 January 2016 following the elections in 2015. In her Parliamentary speech to President Tony Tan Keng Yam's addenda, Lim called for fundamental changes to Singapore's education system and how students are assessed, as well as scaling back the government's presence in non-core government functions such as in the boards of sports groups so as to allow such organisations to "manage their own affairs". Lim further noted that "an exceptional nation should have a people whose DNA is being unafraid to fail".
In a sharp exchange with Law Minister K Shanmugam which lasted seven hours, Lim and her party colleagues voiced strong objections to the Administration of Justice (Protection Bill) which deals with the law of contempt of court. Lim argued that the bill was "being bulldozed through Parliament" and "unnecessarily lower[s] the threshold to what amounts to scandalising the courts". She added that the bill provides "draconian enforcement muscle" to the government, with the Minister using "a sledgehammer to kill an ant ... we are one step closer to being a police state". Lim ended her speech as such,
While Lim supported the Government Proceedings Act, she argued against one of the act's clauses which removes the limit to the amount of legal fees the government can be awarded if and when it goes to court. Lim expressed "grave concerns" about the bill, saying that the bill will give the public the impression that the government is "using legal costs as a deterrent or prohibitive factor when it comes to litigation with the government".
Lim has opposed the elected presidency, advocating for the president to be an appointed one instead. Lim argued that a president "elected under a PAP government might be pro-PAP and could potentially cripple a non-PAP government in its first term". In a debate with Law Minister K Shanmugam in November 2016, Lim also disagreed on the "dual role" expected of the elected president - being a custodian of reserves as well as being a head of state - as this might lead to the president being faced with a confrontational situation with the government.
Lim has suggested since 2006 that a reversion back to the system where the president is appointed by Parliament would "naturally take care of any concerns of minority representation and would not be regressive". Lim further called for a national referendum for Singaporeans to decide whether the public preferred an elected or appointed president. Lim therefore voted against the constitutional amendments on the Elected Presidency Act in February 2017, which would provide for a reserved election if and when an individual from a minority race has not been president for five consecutive terms. She took issue with the government's decision to use Wee Kim Wee's presidential term as the basis of starting the count for the hiatus triggered mechanism, arguing that Wee was never elected by the people.
Alluding to Lim's accusations, Minister Chan Chun Sing charged that Lim was "casting aspersions on the integrity of the Prime Minister" , while DPM Teo Chee Hean asked Lim to mount a judicial challenge in the courts if she disagreed. This subsequently led to former presidential candidate and ex-PAP MP Tan Cheng Bock filing a suit in the High Court on whether the government's decision to start the count from President Wee was correct and in accordance with the constitution. Tan's case was dismissed and thrown out by the High Court and Court of Appeal. The writ of election for Presidential Elections 2017 was issued soon after on 28 August 2017. On the same day, Lim filed an adjournment motion in Parliament titled "Counting from President Wee Kim Wee or President Ong Teng Cheong – policy decision or legal question?", which will see her speak on the issue once again when Parliament sits on 11 September 2017.
Speaking during the 2-day special Parliamentary session on the 38 Oxley Road dispute, Lim noted that allegations of abuse of power mounted on PM Lee Hsien Loong by his siblings Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Lee Wei Ling were "serious charges" and "deeply troubling". Focusing her speech on potential conflicts of interest, Lim revealed that Singapore's current Attorney-General (AG) Lucien Wong represented the PM as his personal lawyer in the dispute involving the house. The Deputy AG, Hri Kumar, was also an ex-PAP MP. Lim questioned if the leadership of the Attorney-General's Chambers had "recused themselves in advising the Government on any decision it wishes to take on 38 Oxley Road", and "whether these appointments instill public confidence that the AGC will act independently in matters where the Government or Prime Minister has an interest in the outcomes". In an ensuing debate with Senior Minister of State for Law Indranee Rajah, Lim further questioned if the Cabinet agrees that there should be "distance between the Government and the AGC leadership", to which Rajah disagreed and replied that "independence of mind" was the crucial factor.
Lim's current appointments are as follows:Chairman, Workers' Party of Singapore
Co-Chairman, Aljunied Constituency Committee (AJCC)
Vice-Chairman, Aljunied-Hougang Town Council
Member, Special Select Committee on Nominations for Appointment as Nominated Members of Parliament
Member, Advisory Council on Community Relations in Defence (ACCORD)
Lim's father, Lim Choon Mong, worked in the police force before quitting to study law in London and qualified as a practicing lawyer at age 39. Old photographs from the National Archives of Singapore show Lim's father, who was then in the police force, regularly giving briefings to founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew whenever Lee visited the army barracks. In an interview with The Straits Times in 2013, Lim said much of her early political education were received in large part from her father. Lim's mother was a nurse.
Lim is a Catholic. While speaking at the CANA Catholic Centre Talk of the Town event in 2014, Lim said she tries "to read the bible everyday" but prefers to keep her faith private, adding that it is "not my nature to evangelise" as others may already have their own religion in which they take comfort in.