SDA's Desmond Lim: Underdog with derring-do instincts

A giant shark-shaped balloon bearing Mr Desmond Lim's smiling face might well have been floating around Punggol East by now, if he had his way.

"But I wasn't sure the police would allow it," said the Singapore Democratic Alliance (SDA) candidate on a recent walkabout. As it turns out, the law would frown on it as illegal election advertising.

Such campaign ideas are not new to the man. From his latest "online rally" to the superhero ant mascot Sinpo who could obliterate high taxes during the 2011 General Election, the engineer can be counted on to come up with unusual ideas.

The quirky, derring-do instincts have driven him back to Punggol East, despite garnering only 4.5 per cent of the vote in the general election and losing his deposit of $16,000. Others may be embarrassed by the poor showing. But Mr Lim, 45, turns it into his campaign message.

Holding up his clasped hands, he greets residents in Mandarin: "Hello, I'm Desmond Lim. I'm back again. I didn't do so well the last time, so please consider giving me your vote now."

Some residents say they like his underdog indefatigability. "He is very sincere. Even though he didn't succeed last time, he still wants to serve us," said Mrs Susie Wong, a 48-year-old housewife.

But ask them if they would elect him as their MP and they are not so sure. Their main concern is whether he can deliver on promises like a new hawker centre, bicycle paths and childcare centres.

Said cargo worker Ali Hussain, 40: "Mr Lim is enthusiastic. But his party is not as established as the People's Action Party or the Workers' Party. At least they have experience running estates."

Others say his small walkabout team of about six helpers, compared to the larger entourages by bigger parties, do not inspire confidence.

Mr Lim is aware that the SDA brand does not have the same heft as other parties. So he touts his credentials in Potong Pasir Town Council, where he was former opposition MP Chiam See Tong's right-hand man. Mr Lim helped run the council for 14 years, before leaving in 2010 after a spat with Mr Chiam and his wife.

Now, it is his turn in the spotlight, the one whose face adorns election posters or perhaps even a shark-shaped balloon.

That is why he has not given up on Punggol East. Said Mr Lim with a grin: "I'm moving forward now, and there will always be a place for me in life."