Singapore: Nepotism?

Singapore: Nepotism?

First published on 4th September 2015. Updated on 15th July 2019.

View the family tree series and decide for yourself whether the Singapore government structure is based on meritocracy or nepotism / clan and kinship.

Thanks to diligent netizens for contributing to this post.

Links for verification and additional info below.


Nepotism Quotes

“. . .the perception of favoritism and preferential treatment is virtually impossible to overcome. . .the existence of a nepotism policy ensures that individuals cannot influence the hiring, promotion or discipline of a close relative.”

“Human kinship systems have a number of features that seem especially consistent with group nepotism: (1) Human kin groups come in many sizes, ranging from families to clans, lineages, and tribes of thousands of people. (2) Human kinship commonly features an “axiom of amity,” a presumption that kin are entitled to aid simply by virtue of being kin. . .the theory of group nepotism may have implications for a number of research areas in the social sciences [including] the psychology of ethnocentrism.”
(Doug Jones in Current Anthropology,

“Our system of meritocracy has morphed to a mixture of nepotism, cronyism and the favouring of a chosen few over the many. In this environment we end up being ‘ruled’ not led and not by the best in society but the related and connected. These people have a vested interest in avoiding domestic competition at all costs and so as their power grows so does the rest of society fall.”
(Brad Bowyer, @SGBelieves)

Meritocracy Quotes

“In a meritocracy, everyone is allowed the opportunity to succeed based on the same tests, and the most talented are selected based on these nondiscriminatory challenges.”

“‘Elitism ends up being a phenomenon produced by our system of meritocracy,’ says Adrian Kuah, senior research fellow at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy.”
(The Edge Singapore)

Reference Links


Teo Chee Hean is the father of Teo Eng Siang. Teo Eng Siang received a PSC Overseas Merit Scholarship in 2005 to study International Relations and Philosophy at Brown University (scholarship funded by Singapore taxpayers). Brown University’s tuition fee for 2015-2016 is US$48,272 per annum.


According to John Harding’s website, Mah Bow Tan is the father of Warren Mah (who received an MAS scholarship to study overseas; funded by Singapore taxpayers).


Juthika Ramanathan, CEO of the Supreme Court, is the daughter of former president S. R. Nathan.

4. YONG YING-I = Daughter of YONG PUNG HOW

Private wake of Lee Kuan Yew at Sri Temasek, Istana on 23 March 2015. Mr Lee’s close friend and former Chief Justice Yong Pung How with his wife and daughter. Source: AsiaOne

Yong Ying-I is the daughter of former Chief Justice Yong Pung How, a close friend of LKY.

5. GRACE FU = Daughter of JAMES FU

Grace Fu, senior minister of state, is the daughter of former press secretary to LKY, James Fu.


Ngiam Siew Ying and Ngiam Shih Chun are relatives of Ngiam Tong Dow.


Prof. Wong Tien Yin, a former President’s Scholar, is the son of former senior minister of state, Dr. Aline Wong.

8. a) CHUA SIAN CHIN = Brother-in-Law of WONG YIN HIN


Chua Sian Chin, former Minister of Home Affairs, is the brother-in-law of Wong Lin Ken (Home Affairs Minister from 1970 – 1972). The above images show that Chua Sian Chin married Alice Tan, who is the sister of Lilli Tan. Lilli is the spouse of Wong Lin Ken.

Photos of Tan sisters from National Archives of Singapore (Alice Tan and Lilli Tan).


Wong Lin Ken, former Minister for Home Affairs.

Wong Lin Ken was found to have committed suicide in 1983.

1) Francis Seow opines this reflected the level of trust and faith that Lee Kuan Yew had in Rajaratnam instead of Jek Yuen Thong and Home Affairs’ Dr. Wong Lin Ken. Wong subsequently returned to academia after being told by Lee senior that he did not ‘want a liberal’ (Straits Times, 5 May 1971) in his cabinet, and later committed suicide.

Source: PBWorks: SG Press and The Media Enthralled

2) By the 1968 elections, LKY’s efforts to assemble a group of successors had begun — bright PhD holders such as Chiang Hai Ding and Wong Lin Ken were fielded, but he quickly learnt that political leadership required “other qualities besides a disciplined mind able to marshal facts and figures.”

Source: Today Online

9. FOO MEE HAR = Descendant of CHIA HOOD THEAM

MP Foo Mee Har held a number of senior positions in Standard Chartered Bank.

Foo Mee Har, born in Malaysia. Source: Today Paper

She is one of several MP’s who were not born in Singapore.

Foo Mee Har’s mother-in-law is Madam Eleanor Tan Kok Neo. In a 2014 article, Madam Tan, then 79, had paid her stepdaughter (Wendy Chan) $1 million “not to say or write anything about her or her family, who are descendants of Mr Chia Hood Theam, a prominent Peranakan and bank agent born in the mid-19th century.” Wendy Chan and her brother were born out of wedlock after Dr Chan, who was married to Madam Tan, had an affair.

As a netizen says:

“Rich people’s problems.”

10. CHEW SIBLINGS = Grandchildren of TAN CHIN TUAN (uncle of TONY TAN whose son-in-law = SIMON CHESTERMAN)

Chew Siblings: Grandchildren of Tan Chin Tuan.

Chew Gek Khim, Chew Kwee San and Chew Gek Hiang are the grandchildren of Tan Chin Tuan (uncle of President Tony Tan). They are thus relatives of Kwa Geok Choo through Tan Chin Tuan (their mother is Dr. Tan Kheng Lian, daughter of Tan Chin Tuan and cousin of Kwa Geok Choo).

Chew Kwee San is an Advocate and Solicitor of the Supreme Court in Singapore. Chew Gek Khim sits on the board of Singapore Exchange Limited and is a Member of the SSO Council and Board of Governors of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies. Chew Gek Hiang serves on the advisory panel of the GST Review Board.

Tony Tan became the 9th NUS chancellor in late 2011; Simon Chesterman was installed as NUS law dean in early 2012. Chesterman is also Editor of the Asian Journal of International Law and Secretary-General of the Asian Society of International Law. Tony Tan is the current NUS chancellor as of June 2015.

Simon Chesterman is married to Patricia Tan, daughter of Tony Tan.

11. YEOH GHIM SENG = Father-in-Law of ROBERT NG (son of property tycoon NG TENG FONG)

Yeoh Ghim Seng, former Speaker of the Parliament, had 5 daughters. One of them, Yeoh Saw Kheng, is the spouse of Robert Ng, who is the son of Far East Organization founder Ng Teng Fong.

Ng Teng Fong’s family has close ties to the governments of Singapore, Hong Kong and China (Source: PDF document). The Ngs have enjoyed a close relationship with Lee Kuan Yew.

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