Originally posted on July 9th, 2015. Last Updated on July 13th, 2019 at 11:40 AM.
Is Singapore a Monarchy?
Singapore’s PM Lee Hsien Loong has said that society will lose out without a natural aristocracy. While Singapore does not technically have a king or queen, its leadership networks strongly feature cross-generational continuity.
Associated words used by netizens: FamiLEE, LEE-gime, LEEgalised corruption, LEEgacy, and Marry-tocracy.
I was very curious about a Lee Family Tree graphic that was created by Alternative View SG.
I have gathered some excerpts from reliable sources which verify most of the family ties in this Lee Family Tree image.
If readers know of any inaccuracies, please contact me to verify the data. Thank you :)
* SECTION 1: RUMOURS AND SPECULATIONS
1) RUTH LEE = LKY’s Niece
Here are a couple of pictures of Ruth Lee and Wong Kan Seng:
In a Straits Times interview, Shermay Lee said she has an older sister and younger twin brothers. (Note: I am guessing these younger twin brothers are in the 1993 black and white picture above, in front on the right.)
Pamelia Lee is standing and in the centre of the 1993 photo. Looking at this pictures makes me wonder if the woman to the left of Pamelia Lee is “Ruth Lee,” the older sister that Shermay referred to.
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* SECTION 2: VERIFIED BY RELIABLE SOURCES
This section contains excerpts and screenshots which verify the other family ties in the Lee Family Tree graphic.
1) HO SING = HO CHING’S Younger Brother
A 2010 Today Online article mentioned that Ho Sing, then 44, is the brother of Temasek CEO Ho Ching.
Ho Sing has worked with several Singapore Technologies-affiliated companies. At YTL, Mr. Ho oversees a growing list of assets in Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, China and Japan.
Ho Ching was the CEO of Singapore Technologies Group from 1997-2001. A 2007 NYT article mentioned that a Temasek spokesman was unwilling to reveal Ho Ching’s age or date of birth, although a Temasek bond document in 2005 said she was 52.
As the following netizen says: “I don’t understand why all the secrecy.”
2) HO PENG = HO CHING’S Younger Sister
A 2005 Fortune Magazine interview mentioned that Ho Peng, who was then working as the Curriculum Planning and Development director at the Ministry of Education (Singapore), is Ho Ching’s sister.
Ms. Ho Peng was appointed Director-General of Education in April 2009. She retired from the MOE in March 2015.
3) GRACE FU = DAUGHTER OF JAMES FU
James Fu was Mr. LKY’s press secretary from 1972 to 1993.
Grace Fu, senior minister of state, is the daughter of James Fu.
4) KWA CHONG SENG = NEPHEW OF LKY’S WIFE
“It was in the immediate wake of the HPL affair of 1996 that LKY initiated a series of changes to the relationship between the DCAC and the GLCs — changes that were part of a broader overhaul of the financial sector that finally came to fruition in 1999. Lee Hsien Loong as Deputy Prime Minister was given special responsibility for this project and set about changing the structure — and the personnel — in the GLC sector.
This activity marked a major shift of institutional power away from Goh and Richard Hu and to members of the Lee family and a few Lee loyalists. First the power to appoint board members and non-executive directors of GLCs was transferred from the DCAC to Temasek holdings.
This is significant because it occured around the same time (1996) that LKY loyalist S. Dhanabalan was appointed Chairman of Temasek Holdings and LKY’s wife’s nephew, Kwa Chong Seng, was appointed Deputy Chairman of Temasek Holdings (1997).
It may be significant that at about the same time (1997) Lee Hsien Loong’s wife, Ho Ching, was appointed Executive Director and CEO of the Singapore Technologies Group, which is the Temasek-owned holding company for defence-related GLCs.”
(Source: The Ruling Elite of Singapore, by Michael Barr)
5) KWA SOON BEE (LKY’s Brother-In-Law)
“Many senior business figures in Asia are related to other prominent figures by blood or by marriage. The connections in Asia are often not obvious to outsiders but they can be a minefield for the unwary.
The mix of marriages and blood relations in Asia can make for some complex webs. Here are a few examples that involve some of Asia’s biggest business names:
Lee Kim Yew, Chairman of the Singapore food company Cerebos Pacific, is a brother of Singapore’s Senior Minister and former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew. Lee Kim Yew’s wife is Gloria Lee, the founder of one of Singapore’s most prominent stock brokerages Kim Eng Securities.
A third brother is Lee Suan Yew, a past director of Singapore’s Hotel Properties Ltd. His wife, Pamelia Lee, has been a senior director at the Singapore Tourist Promotion Board. Kwa Soon Bee, the brother of Lee Kuan Yew’s wife Kwa Geok Choo, is a former permanent secretary of health and a member of the Singapore Tourist Promotion Board.
Lee Kuan Yew’s sons Lee Hsien Loong and Lee Hsien Yang are deputy prime minister of Singapore and head of Singapore Telecom respectively. Lee Hsien Loong’s wife, Ho Ching, is head of Temasek Holdings.”
(Source: Big in Asia, by Palgrave Macmillan / 2003)
6) TAN CHIN TUAN (OCBC Pioneer + Tony Tan’s Uncle + LKY’s Uncle-in-Law)
- Kwa Siew Tee is Lee Kuan Yew’s father-in-law.
- Lee Kuan Yew’s mother-in-law, Wee Yew Neo and Banker Tan Chin Tuan’s wife, Helen Wee (a banker’s daughter), are half-sisters.
- Which makes Tan Chin Tuan LKY’s uncle-in-law.
- Tony Tan is Tan Chin Tuan’s nephew. Tony Tan was sworn in as President on 1 September 2011.
This is a picture of Kwa Siew Tee and Wee Yew Neo:
This screenshot from Geni (a genealogy directory) states that Helen Wee and Wee Yew Neo are half-sisters.
These screenshots show that Helen Wee was married to Tan Chin Tuan.
According to the blog Veritas:
Without the Kwa family network of powerful families, it is questionable whether LKY could have emerged as the leader of the PAP in the 1950s, given that there were many other extremely capable and charismatic leaders in the party. The nexus of Kwa family probably also helped LKY to win the trust of the British, which handed over to him the control of security apparatus. That is the key with which LKY was able to arrest his political opponents.
7) TEO CHENG GUAN (father of DPM Teo Chee Hean):
He was on the same management board as Tan Chin Tuan, Tony Tan’s uncle.
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* SECTION 3: SAY THE WORD AND GET SUED
Definition of “Nepotism”: The practice among those with power or influence of favoring relatives or friends, especially by giving them jobs. (Oxford)
A summary of how “nepotism” is a sensitive word in Singapore — including publications that were sued for alleging that high-ranking Singapore officials got their jobs through nepotism.
1) “Days after political website Temasek Review Emeritus (TRE) revealed Mr Richard Wan as of one of its editors, lawyers acting for Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong issued him a five-page letter in 2012, demanding that the website remove an opinion piece that contained comments which alleged “nepotistic motives” in the appointment of Lee’s wife as head of sovereign wealth fund Temasek Holdings. After retracting the article, Wan published an apology on the website, and urged TRE readers to refrain from making similar comments.”
(Source: SG Rebel and Asia Sentinel)
2) “The problems created by Lee Kuan Yew’s urge to control most aspects of Singaporeans’ lives are more subtle than nepotism. Lack of political and economic freedom [is] the cancer at the heart of Singapore.”
3) “In its apology, Bloomberg said its article had implied that Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong had put the Lee family’s interests above the country’s in allowing Ms. Ho’s appointment, and that her husband and father-in-law were guilty of nepotism. Lawyers for the three men accused Bloomberg and Mr. Smith of acting maliciously. The article has been removed from Bloomberg’s Web site and subscription service.”
4) “The Financial Times has apologised and paid libel damages and costs to Singapore’s prime minister and the country’s founding father after accusing them of nepotism.”
5) “The International Herald Tribune apologised, settled the $678,000 in libel damages, and, as part of the settlement, [columnist] Bowring agreed that he would not say or imply that Lee Hsien Long took office through nepotism.”
(Source: Foreign Policy)
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* SECTION 4: IS NEPOTISM CORRUPTION?
According to Wikipedia:
Forms of corruption vary, but include bribery, extortion, cronyism, nepotism, patronage, influence peddling, graft, and embezzlement.
Some other excerpts:
1) “Corruption comes in different forms and nepotism is one of its most subtle and overpowering forms. . .it marks the destruction of a meritocracy which should be the basis of admissions or employment. The problem with nepotism is even though only a few people in power have the ability to use nepotism for their own gain, its effects are widespread and affect many people.”
2) “Favoritism, cronyism, and nepotism all interfere with fairness because they give undue advantage to someone who does not necessarily merit this treatment.
In the public sphere, favoritism, cronyism, and nepotism also undermine the common good. When someone is granted a position because of connections rather than because he or she has the best credentials and experience, the service that person renders to the public may be inferior.
Also, because favoritism is often covert (few elected officials are foolish enough to show open partiality to friends, and family), this practice undercuts the transparency that should be part of governmental hiring and contracting processes.”
(Source: Santa Clara University)
3) “When patronage, nepotism, and cronyism become popular mechanisms for government to select appointees for important positions, the corruption of collusion (i.e. conspiracy) will unavoidably take place.”
(Source: Government Anti-Corruption Strategies)
4) “There needs to be a change. Singapore is not the Lee Family and we need to get rid of the climate of fear.”
(Source: KJ in IB Times)
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* SECTION 5: CLOSING COMMENTS
X’ Ho on Nepotism:
“Is nepotism not considered corruption? Just consider: LKY’s son is PM, his other son was head of Singtel and is CEO of Civil Aviation Authority, his daughter-in-law is in charge of the sovereign wealth fund, his relative is President. I could go on but it is absolutely clear that the entire family benefited enormously from his ruthless control of the government. The gov lost 40% of the vote in the last election & yet still retains 82 out of 89 seats in parliament? Why? The electoral system has been gerrymandered & twisted to the ruling party’s benefit entirely corruptly. No corruption? Absolute rubbish & nonsense.”
Former ISD Director on PM LHL and Ho Ching:
“She did not marry me and become Temasek Holdings’ Chief Executive Officer. I married her because she had the talent of a CEO.” This was the dramatic revelation of PM Lee Hsien Loong in referring to his wife, Ms Ho Ching, in an interview with Mr. Phil Ponce, host of the Chicago Tonight on WTTW Channel 11 last Thursday. Apparently, this was said to pre-empt Mr. Ponce from popping the question of nepotism in the Singapore government.
(Source: SG Recalcitrant)
“You can see they all ‘kaki lang‘ (one of us) — damn jia lat (this is serious).”
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MORE INFO (re: the “wider” family tree):
1) Why It Might Be Difficult For The Government To Withdraw From Business
2) “The Lee Dynasty of Singapore”
3) The Beginning of The End of Lee Kuan Yew’s Dynasty?