Kwa: Family Tree (Government Positions)

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A Kwa family tree, showing some family members and their titles / positions. Links with verification and additional info below.

Thanks to several diligent netizens for contributing to this post.

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KWA GEOK CHOO:

Kwa Geok Choo (“Mrs. LKY”) was married to Lee Kuan Yew for 63 years.

Kwa was the co-founder of Lee and Lee law firm. She participated in drafting the PAP party’s constitution and gave a speech on radio urging women to vote for the PAP in the upcoming elections.

ANTI-CLOCKWISE DIRECTION (from top left corner):

1. Kwa Kim Li is a niece of Kwa Geok Choo. Kwa Kim Li is a director at Mapletree Commercial Trust (a GLC and unit of Singapore sovereign wealth fund Temasek Holdings Pte. Ltd.’s property arm, Mapletree Investments).

2. Kwa Chong Seng, Public Service Commission (PSC) Member and former Temasek Holdings chairman, is a nephew of Kwa Geok Choo.

According to Wikipedia, Singapore’s Constitution, and PSC’s 2012 Annual Report:

The Public Service Commission (PSC) is constituted under Part IX of the Constitution of Singapore and its constitutional role is to appoint, confirm, promote, transfer, dismiss and exercise disciplinary control over public officers in Singapore.

The PSC also retains two key non-constitutional roles. It considers the suitability of candidates for appointment as Chief Executive Officers of Statutory Boards; it is also responsible for the planning and administration of scholarships provided by the Government of Singapore.

3. Kwa Chong Guan, chairman of the National Archives, is a nephew of Kwa Geok Choo. Read more about his influential titles at the end of this post on the National Heritage Board.

4. Kwa Soon Bee, former Permanent Secretary for Health and Director of Medical Services, is a brother of Kwa Geok Choo.

5. Kwa Soon Chuan was the first local appointed to the Colonial Administration. He is a brother of Kwa Geok Choo.

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Kwa Soon Chuan’s titles. Source: ST / NLB, 5 Jan 1977

Kwa Soon Chuan’s spouse is Ivy Lim Seok Cheng (daughter of Lim Chong Pang). Ivy Lim’s link to Teo Chee Hean is through Teo Chee Hean’s great grand aunt (Teo Choon Lian), who was married to Ivy Lim’s great grandfather (Lim Peng Nguan; spouse of Teo Choon Lian). So Ivy Lim and Teo Chee Hean would address each other as 表姐, 表弟. In English, “cousin.”

6. Yong Nyuk Lin, Minister for Education in PAP’s first cabinet, is a brother-in-law of Kwa Geok Choo. His spouse is Kwa Geok Lan, elder sister of Kwa Geok Choo (Mrs. LKY).

7. Earnest Lau was the principal of ACS. His mother was Madam Yong Soong Moy, Headmistress of Geylang Methodist Girls’ School (1930s), and his father was Reverend Edward Sing Lau (Ee Sing), Pastor of Telok Ayer Chinese Methodist Church (1929-1930), Geylang English Methodist Church (1930-1951) and Straits Chinese Methodist Church (1952-1963). Earnest Lau’s spouse is Kwa Geok Lian, sister of Kwa Geok Choo.

8. According to a couple of thorough online comments, Kwa Chong Teck, Senior Advisor at National Dental Centre Singapore, is the brother of Kwa Chong Seng.

ADDITIONAL INFO:

This blog post takes a look at Kwa Geok Choo (the “Dragon Lady”) through the perspective of Peranakan culture.

Mrs. LKY: “The Dragon Lady”

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A look at Kwa Geok Choo (Mrs. Lee Kuan Yew) through the perspective of Peranakan culture.

This post is presented in 12 sections:

1. Peranakan Roots + Family Background
2. The Dragon Lady
3. Kwa Geok Choo’s Gold Coin Necklace
4. Images of Gold Coin Necklace
5. Peranakan Culture: General Info
6. Peranakan Culture: A Hidden Matriarchy
7. Peranakan Culture: Phoenix Symbol
8. Peranakan Culture: Females
9. Lee Kuan Yew on Kwa Geok Choo
10. Kwa Geok Choo: Intellect and Capabilities
11. Kwa Geok Choo: State Funeral
12. Kwa Geok Choo: Political Legacy

* * *

1. PERANAKAN ROOTS + Family Background

1) Madam Kwa and her husband, the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew, both Peranakans, are featured in the Great Peranakans — Fifty Remarkable Lives exhibition.

Source: The Straits Times (2015)

2) . . .born to a well-to-do family, studied law as a Queen’s Scholar in England’s Cambridge University, [and] remained a deeply private person.

Source: Philly.com

2. THE DRAGON LADY

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Mrs and Mr LKY | Image from HerWorld

“Dragon Lady”: A woman of somewhat sinister glamour often perceived as wielding ruthless or corrupt power. (Dictionary.com)

Kwa Geok Choo was described as a “proverbial dragon lady” by a former senior correspondent for The Straits Times.

Francis Seow also referred to Kwa Geok Choo as a dragon lady (short version below; click here for the full-length interview):

Transcript:

The whole structure of government, from the time [Lee Kuan Yew] took office, to the present day, has been designed in such a way that his son will succeed him. And the son has succeeded him, you know?

Now in order to preserve that legacy that he has passed on now to his son, all the troublemakers have to be run out of town, to use an American expression. Behind all this grand scheme of things is. . .the word I’m looking for is. . .The Dragon Lady.

Lee Kuan Yew’s wife. She’s the one with the overweening ambition for her son to take over. She is the one who has been advising Lee Kuan Yew what to do, how to do it, etc.

Many people don’t know this.

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Dowager Empress Cixi.

But I’m telling you today, the power behind the throne is the dowager. The dragon lady, if you like. And she is very smart! That is why all these guys have to get out of the way, and they had to be ruined. Or like me, driven out of the country. If I were to go back, I would go straight from the aeroplane to jail.

— Interview with Francis Seow (former solicitor-general of Singapore)

3. KWA GEOK CHOO’S GOLD COIN NECKLACE

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Kwa Geok Choo’s gold coin necklace.

1) A nyonya and her jewellery are never apart. . . the display of opulence was not just a statement of wealth but also spoke volumes of their shrewdness and austerity.

Source: A Nyonya and Her Jewellery

2) For the 25th anniversary of Lee & Lee law firm in 1980, the firm’s partners had two gold coins specially made for the two senior partners, Mrs Lee Kuan Yew and Mr Dennis Lee.

Unbeknownst to them, Mrs Lee had a chain made for the coin, and would wear it as a necklace on special occasions and at formal functions.

Long after she left the firm, partners would glimpse the gold coin around her neck when her image appeared on TV or in newspaper pictures.

She was appearing at those formal functions as the wife of Singapore’s founding father. But the gold coin around her neck was a reminder that she was also a trailblazing legal luminary in her own right.

Source: Straits Times

4. IMAGES of KWA GEOK CHOO’s GOLD COIN NECKLACE

5. PERANAKAN CULTURE: General Info

1) The Baba Culture is one that is unique to the early settlers along the Straits of Malacca. Since the 17th Century, Chinese traders arrived and lived along these coastal lands bringing with them their wealth of wares, customs, traditions and religions from the south of China.

The off-springs of these ‘locally born Straits Chinese’ were called Peranakan Baba (or Nyonya for womenfolk).

With the arrival of the Europeans in the 18th Century to this part of the world, the Babas were quick to adapt to the changing environment. They became the compradors or ‘go-betweens’ for the Europeans and the locals. Many Baba men held office and important positions in the Portuguese, Dutch & British governments and they rose in status & stature to become successful businessmen who even took on leadership roles in society.

Source: The Main Wayang Company

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President Yusof Ishak with Mrs. LKY’s Parents, Kwa Siew Tee (left) and Wee Yew Neo (right), 1968. | Image from NAS

  • Note: Kwa Geok Choo’s father, Kwa Siew Tee, had several leadership roles (he was one of the founders of the OCBC Bank which he served as General Manager from 1935 to 1945, the Municipal Commissioner of the Colony of Singapore in 1947 and Public Service Commissioner in 1953). (Source: PDF download)

2) Peranakans were bilingual, speaking English as well as their dialect of Baba Malay, and embraced influences from various religions including Buddhism, Taoism, ancestral worship and Christianity.

Source: Five facts about Asia’s unique Peranakans

6. PERANAKAN CULTURE: “A Hidden Matriarchy”

“Matriarch”: A woman who controls a family, group, or government. (Dictionary.com)

1) “While the males are out working to support the family, it is the females that preside the household. A hidden matriarchy, the Nyonya wives rule the household with an iron fist, managing and directing the day to day activities of the household and also controlling the funds in the family.”

Source: Women in the Peranakan Family

2) As someone who married into a Chinese/Peranakan family, [KMN’s] family does hold fast to one Perankan tradition: a powerful matriarchy. The women plan the gatherings, steer the families, and in my observations, usually have the first (and last) say on many matters of importance.

Source: I Married Into a Matriarchy

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Source: ST

3) Chris reminded me that Peranakan families are ‘outwardly patriarchal and internally matriarchal’. Of course! Look at the Little Nyonya, scheming matrons obviously reigned over the households, pretending to be subservient to weak-minded husbands on the surface. Chris, who is Baba by the way and should be awarded some authority on the subject by way of relation, attests to the *fact* that the average Baba man is weaker than the Nyonya woman.

Source: Baba Bling: The Peranakan Museum

4) The portraits of matriarchs displayed above Peranakan Chinese altars in Malacca indicate the powerful position of the matriarch in ruling over the family. These Nyonyas came across as assertive, even bossy as they rose to the position as matriarchs in charge of running an extended family under one household. A mature Baba with great status and influence in the society would have to submit to an uncompromising mother at home.

Source: China Media Research: Analyzing the Little Nyonya

7. PERANAKAN CULTURE: Phoenix Symbol

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What appears to be a “Phoenix” motif on Mrs. LKY’s cheongsam. The bird has a crest of feathers on its head.

1) [Kelvin Pow] explains that the Peranakan culture is matriarchal, hence the phoenix rather than the dragon is the preferred embellishment in its decorative arts.

“I think it is very important that we retain our heritage. I think it is also important for people, especially younger Singaporeans to understand their culture and where they came from.”

Source: ST Jobs — House of Antiques

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Nyonya porcelain featuring a phoenix motif, at the Peranakan Museum.

2) A typical motif used in nyonya porcelain ware is the Phoenix, a symbol of the matriarchal infrastructure of a Peranakan household.

Source: On the Trail of the Phoenix

3) The images above show the Peranakan traditional wedding costume donned on the bride. The geometric layering around her neck is the phoenix collar to symbolise the power of the feminine phoenix in Peranakan society.

Source: lonelytravelog (Peranakan Museum + Phoenix Collar)

8. PERANAKAN CULTURE: Females

a) Young Women

In contrast to her sheltered teenage years, the married Nyonya was given relatively more freedom. It was as if she had served her time, and was now qualified to manage a household and take care of herself.

As she gained more confidence in her dealings with her neighbours, friends and counterparts, her role was likened to that of the strong-willed managing director of a corporation. She controlled almost everything that happened at home.

In public, however, it was the husband who was seen to be the number one person.

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Image from BBC / Getty

b) Keeping it within the Family

In the early days, the younger members of the community married among themselves. This desire to remain within the community was so strong that it was common for people to marry their relatives, even their cousins. The only restriction imposed involved unions between paternal cousins.

c) Colourful Metaphors

Be warned that Peranakans have a way with words. Eavesdrop on two Nyonyas having an animated conversation, and you will be in for a linguistic experience that is hard to forget.

Source: Asiapac Books (Gateway to Peranakan Culture)

d) Cooking + Sewing

“Peranakan families are matriarchal, though the nonya’s role is often seen as supportive to the husband – women are often expected to cook and sew well.”

Source: FRV Bali: Peranakan Museum SG

“She was a skilful knitter, and knitted us sweaters to stay warm, one after another.”

Source: Lee Hsien Loong on Mrs Lee Kuan Yew

9. LEE KUAN YEW on KWA GEOK CHOO

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1) “Without her, I would be a different man, with a different life.”
Lee Kuan Yew

2) “. . .a discerning judge of character. She would tell me whether she would trust that man or not. And often she is right.”

Source: Straits Times

3) “My great advantage was I have a wife who could be a sole breadwinner and bring the children up. That was my insurance policy.”

Source: LKY: The Man and His Ideas, Page 235

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Lee Kuan Yew and Kwa Geok Choo. Image: ST

4) “. . .[she’s my] tower of strength.”

Source: Philly.com

5) “Over the years I’ve been a kept man. My wife keeps the family.”

Source: Lee Kuan Yew in Parliament, 1985

6) Lee Kuan Yew discussed the possibility of euthanasia with his doctors and family in his final years as he struggled with illness and mourned the death of his wife.

Associate professor Michael Barr, who has studied and published on Singapore, said Lee had been left lost and distraught following the death of his wife, Kwa Geok Choo, in 2010, to whom he had been married for 60 years.

Source: South China Morning Post

10. KWA GEOK CHOO’S INTELLECT and CAPABILITIES

1) The late Madam Kwa, wife of Singapore’s former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, was undoubtedly an excellent Peranakan woman, steel clothed in velvet, as Peranakan women were known to be!

Source: Passage Magazine by FOM.sg (PDF download)

2) Mrs Lee Kuan Yew was the firm’s ‘intellectual mind‘, while Mr Dennis Lee took care of the business side of things.

Mrs Lee’s personality, according to one prominent lawyer who declined to be named, is best summed up in the way she always dressed impeccably in a cheongsam to work, but would change into rubber flip-flops once there.

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White cheongsam worn by Kwa Geok Choo. Image: Peranakan Museum.

‘When we heard her walk around in the flip-flops, I would joke that that is power,’ he said. ‘Power in rubber flip-flops.’

Source: Straits Times

3) In 1940, Geok Choo entered Raffles College where, to Kuan Yew’s consternation, she beat him in the English and Economics examinations.

They married while in Cambridge, and graduated together with first class honours degrees in 1949. Geok Choo did it in two years; he in three. She was the first woman in Malaya to get a first class honours law degree.

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Lee Kuan Yew and his wife, Kwa Geok Choo in 1968. Photo: Benson Lo

Though she opted to stay in the political background and play the role of supportive wife, she was a founding member of the People’s Action Party (PAP). She was highly skilled in legal draftmanship, helping to draft the PAP Constitution, and later the crucial provisions that guaranteed Singapore’s continued water supply when Singapore separated from Malaysia.

Source: Singapore Women’s Hall of Fame

4) Standing proudly atop its box on the third floor of the Peranakan Museum, the barrister’s wig that belonged to the late Madam Kwa Geok Choo (21 December 1920 – 2 October 2010) is very much a tribute not only to its erstwhile owner, but also to the era’s fledgling coterie of able Peranakan women.

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Kwa Geok Choo’s barrister’s wig.

Source: Passage Magazine by FOM.sg (PDF download)

5) Known for her attention to detail, Kwa Geok Choo once interrupted the taping of an interview to touch up [Lee Kuan Yew’s] hair and makeup.

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Source: Straits Times

11. KWA GEOK CHOO: STATE FUNERAL

From the Press Statement from the PM’s office on the passing of Mrs. Lee Kuan Yew:

The family requests that no obituaries and no wreaths or flowers to be sent. All donations will go to the National Neuroscience Institute (NNI) Health Research Endowment Fund.

Kwa Geok Choo was given a heroine’s funeral:

The glass-encased brown coffin of Kwa Geok Choo, who died aged 89 on Saturday after a long illness, was transported to a suburban crematorium on a ceremonial gun carriage normally reserved for state and military funerals.

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Casket of Mrs. LKY

The government said the usage of a ceremonial gun carriage “is in recognition of her exceptional and unique contributions to Singapore for more than five decades, beginning before Singapore became independent.”

12. KWA GEOK CHOO: POLITICAL LEGACY

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Mr. and Mrs. Lee Kuan Yew. Image: CNA

Her political legacy runs deep.

In 1959, she delivered her first and only party political broadcast during the general election that year, urging women to vote for the PAP. She was the only English-speaking woman in the party who had the requisite firmness and conviction for the broadcast.

‘I have been proof-reading and sometimes correcting [Lee Kuan Yew’s] speeches from his earliest 1950 speech to the Malayan Forum in London,’ she told The Straits Times in 1998.

The early history of the People’s Action Party (PAP) also bears the stamp of her involvement.

‘Who else would have drafted that Constitution for them?’ she said. ‘My husband doesn’t draft things. He was an advocate; he was a court lawyer.’

Drafting the rules of a society, by contrast, was her speciality.

Source: Straits Times

MORE INFO:

This blog post has a family tree of Kwa Geok Choo’s relatives holding government positions in Singapore.

National Heritage Board

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1. STOLEN ARTIFACTS?

The Asian Civilisations Museum (ACM) is one of the National Museums of Singapore under the National Heritage Board.

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A photo of the 1,000-year-old bronze sculpture of Uma Parmeshvari stolen from a temple in Tamil Nadu and sold to the Asian Civilisations Museum in Singapore. Source: The Hindu

On 6 December 2013, TRE broke the news that a 1,000-year idol stolen from India was in the possession of ACM.

“The 1,000-year-old Uma Parmeshvari bronze sculpture was stolen from a temple in the Ariyalur district of Tamil Nadu in 2005 or 2006 before being smuggled to Art Of The Past, owned by disgraced art dealer Subhash Kapoor. Kapoor sold the idol to ACM for US$650,000 in February 2007.

According to chasingaphrodite.com, a blog dedicated to the hunt for looted antiquities in the world’s museums, Kapoor’s contact in Singapore is ACM’s senior curator Dr Gauri Krishnan. The blog is written and maintained by Jason Felch, an award-winning investigative reporter with the Los Angeles Times.”
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“Singapore’s Asian Civilizations Museum bought more than $1 million of art from disgraced Manhattan antiquities dealer Subhash Kapoor, according to business records from Kapoor’s Art of the Past gallery.”
Chasing Aphrodite

2. ART AND MONEY LAUNDERING

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Art dealer Yves Bouvier, a Singapore permanent resident. Source: ST

Prominent Swiss businessman and art dealer Yves Bouvier, who is under investigation in Monaco for fraud and money laundering, is a Singapore permanent resident. He was accused by Russian billionaire and art collector Dmitry Rybolovlev of inflating the prices of works by master artists such as Pablo Picasso and Vincent Van Gogh.

Bouvier owns a company that ships and stores art for the wealthy, and has majority stakes in freeports — warehouses for the rich to store art and other valuables — including one in Singapore.

Lawyers and art dealers familiar with the discussions say the case could expand well beyond Bouvier and reach into the top galleries and billionaire collectors in New York, London and Hong Kong. It could widen to involve not only undisclosed mark-ups by dealers, but also tax fraud, global money laundering and possible bribery. 

“This is just the beginning,” said one prominent art lawyer in New York who asked not to be named. “There will be a lot of big dealers and collectors involved.”

3. PAMELIA LEE and Tang Dynasty Ship / Shipwreck Treasure

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Pamelia Lee; sister-in-law of LKY. Image from Challenge.gov.sg

In 2004, as Senior Consultant to the Singapore Tourism Board, Mrs Pamelia Lee (a sister-in-law of Lee Kuan Yew) handled the acquisition of a 9th Century shipwreck treasure of over 53,000 artifacts, known as the “Tang Shipwreck Treasures: Singapore’s Maritime Collection.”

Trafficking Culture, a website run by the University of Glasgow, focuses on understanding the international trade in illicit cultural objects.

From a 2012 article on Trafficking Culture:

. . .the Indonesian government turned to commercial salvaging company Seabed Explorations, led by German director Tilman Walterfang.

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Tilman Walterfang, founder and owner of Seabed Explorations NZ Ltd. with Mrs. Pamelia Lee during one of her many visits to Seabed Explorations New Zealand.

Walterfang sold the collection for $32 million USD in 2005 to the Sentosa Leisure Group, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Sentosa Development Corporation, an entity established by the government of Singapore. The Sentosa Development Corporation established a long-term loan agreement with the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) and that same year, the STB teamed up with the Asian Civilizations Museum in Singapore to display highlights from the collection in an exhibition titled, ‘Tang Treasures from the Sea’.

In 2007, the director of the Smithsonian Institution’s Freer/Sackler Galleries was approached by Singapore Tourism Board’s Pamelia Lee about organizing an exhibition of the shipwreck and putting together a book.

. . .This news sparked an internal debate within the Smithsonian, [when] archaeologists in other museum departments heard that an exhibition of unscientifically excavated, commercially exploited artefact was so far along.

Source: Trafficking Culture

This screenshot mentions some financial numbers re: the Tang Shipwreck Treasure.

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Financial Statements, Notes (2013). Source: NHB.

Last paragraph: “During the current financial year, 53,227 heritage materials of the Tang Shipwreck Treasure were transferred from the Singapore Tourism Board to the Board. The heritage materials were valued by an external valuer on a class basis and was valued at SGD$75,020,166  (US$60,392,985) in June 2012. These are recorded as part of heritage capital reserve.”

  • Reader Tip: I remember those days, lots of rumours Pamelia Lee made a lot of comission from this. I noticed a lot of the Lee or Kwa family members used to be ex-directors in the National Heritage Board too.

4. BOARD MEMBERS in NATIONAL HERITAGE BOARD

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NHB Board Members (PDF; 2013)

I. Some board members include (from 2013 document):

II. Mini FAMILY TREE Image

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5. NOTE ABOUT MR. KWA CHONG GUAN:

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Kwa Chong Guan; a nephew of Kwa Geok Choo (Mrs. LKY)

Kwa Chong Guan, a nephew of the late Mrs. Lee Kuan Yew, is a Member of the National Heritage Board and current chairman of the National Archives Advisory Committee. He is also a board member of the National Library Board, and chairs the Acquisition Sub-committee of the Asian Civilisations Board.

From the website of The National Archives of Singapore:

“The National Archives of Singapore (NAS) is the keeper of records of national or historical significance. The records acquired by NAS come from both public agencies and private sources. Records in various mediums and formats are safeguarded and preserved.

The immensely rich collection continues to grow as NAS fulfils its mission to actively acquire records that will serve as the corporate memory of the Government and the social memory of our people. This memory allows current and future generations of Singaporeans to understand our different cultures, explore our common heritage and appreciate who we are and how we became a nation.”
National Archives of Singapore (Our Roles)

With academics warning of the “power of the Singapore state in constraining [history],” one wonders just how much of the National Archives is made to keep in line with “the well-rehearsed official state narrative.”

Offshore Banking / Money Laundering

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* Thanks to a reader for submitting this blog post topic.

1. WHAT IS MONEY LAUNDERING and HOW DOES IT WORK?

According to Investopedia:

[An offshore bank is] located or based outside of one’s national boundaries. A company may legitimately move offshore for the purpose of tax avoidance or to enjoy relaxed regulations. Offshore financial institutions can also be used for illicit purposes such as money laundering and tax evasion.

According to legal-dictionary, money laundering “allows criminals to transform illegally obtained gain into seemingly legitimate funds.”

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Money Laundering is the process of taking ‘dirty’ funds and converting it into ‘clean’ funds | Image from KYC Map

According to A Beginner’s Guide To Money Laundering:

Let’s say you [want] to hide a massive bribe. First, you must convert it into another currency without the government knowing. The easiest way to do this is to contact [an agent] who will give you casino chips for your cash, minus fees of up to 20%.

Take the chips to a friendly, cooperative casino, or, for extra safety, take them to a lawyer specializing in offshore laundering. Meanwhile, the casino will mix your chips with those from legitimate gamblers, and its accountants will book your $1 million as paid-out winnings.

Your bank or lawyer must wire-transfer the funds in such a way that the money crosses multiple borders, to frustrate detection or confiscation. For instance, the money might end up in a US trust managed by a shell company in Grand Cayman, owned by another trust in Guernsey with an account in Luxembourg managed by a Swiss or Caribbean or Singaporean banker who doesn’t know who the owner is.

2. “CORRUPTION” and PORTCULLIS TRUSTNET

As concerns grow about the wealth of corporate oligarchs, government officials and their families, some Chinese have braved the government’s anger by raising questions about corruption.

“How can you fight corruption if you don’t even dare to disclose your personal assets?” New Citizens Movement’s founder, legal advocate and activist Xu Zhiyong, wrote last spring.

The government arrested Xu and detained more than 20 other members of the group, indicting some for “disturbing public order” or “illegal assembly,” charges frequently used to silence dissidents.

The files [from this report] come from two offshore firms — Singapore-based Portcullis TrustNet and BVI-based Commonwealth Trust Limited — that help clients create offshore companies, trusts and bank accounts.

Source: Leaked Records Reveal Offshore Holdings of China’s Elite

3. MONEY LAUNDERING IN SINGAPORE

ICIJ is an investigative journalism website which focuses on issues like cross-border crime, corruption, and the accountability of power.

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Singapore Skyline Banking District

From one of their articles on offshore banking in Singapore:

More than 100 customer consultants at Deutsche Bank Singapore helped create or manage 309 offshore entities for its customers in the British Virgin Islands and other tax havens, according to secret records obtained by the news organizations.

Most of the companies carry fantasy names like “Thrilling Returns Incorporated,” “Amazing Opportunity Limited” or “Market Dollar Group Limited.” Public sources don’t show any business activities for most of these companies. Deutsche Bank registered the entities with the help of Portcullis TrustNet, an offshore services provider headquartered in Singapore.

Deutsche Bank’s private banking operations ranked No. 6 among the world’s largest private banks, increasing their assets under management from $180 billion in 2005 to $367 billion in 2010.

Source: ICIJ

From John Harding’s website [John Harding was the former Deputy Assistant Commissioner for Singapore’s Inland Revenue Department (IRAS)]:

Yeo Cheow Tong is a member of the investment team of Tembusu Partners. Yeo was given his retirement pay in a lump sum in order to pay off his debts to bankers and not embarrass the Singapore government.

The Trembusa fund has been awarded Pioneer Status with zero-rated tax incentive for both the fund and the fund management company. The fund has also qualified under the Global Investor Programme by EDB, where foreign investors with S$1.5 million investment into the fund may apply for Permanent Resident Status in Singapore.

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Lim Hwee Hwa: Former Minister and current director at Tembusu Partners.

Andy Lim, who also runs Money World, has been banned from entering China due to money laundering activities of his firm. He has also been charged in court in the Fiji Islands. And here is the BIG CONNECTION with the Singapore Government that is making it all happen. Andy Lim’s wife is Lim Hwee Hua (former minister). Lim Hwee Hua was making nearly four times as much as President Obama, but this is not enough for the crooked lady. She has set up her husband, Andy, to run a scam investment company, where, as an investor, you can get residence in Singapore.

P.S. Lim Hwee Hua is currently a director at Tembusu Partners.

Source: YeoCheowTong.com

On an art scandal that could expose mass fraud in the global art market:

Lawyers and art dealers familiar with the discussions say the case could expand well beyond Bouvier and reach into the top galleries and billionaire collectors in New York, London and Hong Kong. It could widen to involve not only undisclosed mark-ups by dealers, but also tax fraud, global money laundering and possible bribery. 

“This is just the beginning,” said one prominent art lawyer in New York who asked not to be named. “There will be a lot of big dealers and collectors involved.”

Source: CNBC

On 1MDB bank accounts:

Singapore police have started investigations into money laundering on two bank accounts linked to 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) in the island republic. Earlier this year, MAS said it was in touch with Malaysian regulators after Putrajaya said 1MDB had redeemed US$1.1 billion from the Cayman Islands and parked it in the Singapore unit of Swiss private bank BSI.

Source: The Malaysian Insider

4. SINGAPOREANS in ICIJ’S “OFFSHORE LEAKS”

This is a list of names from Singapore who have offshore companies and trusts.

One is former army general, LT-Gen Ng Jui Ping.

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LT-Gen Ng Jui Ping: Offshore Leaks Database. Offshore Service Provider: Portcullis Trustnet (refer to Sections 2 & 3 above).

5. SINGAPORE & BURMA GOVERNMENT

a) For its part, Temasek does not respond to questions about its activities in Burma.

A Singaporean diplomat to Burma, Matthew Sim, says “many successful Myanmar businessmen have opened shell companies” in Singapore “with little or no staff, used to keep funds overseas.”

Sim may be referring to junta cronies such as Tay Za and the druglord Lo Hsing Han. Lo controls a heroin empire and one of Burma’s biggest companies, Asia World, which the US Drug Enforcement Agency describes as a front for his drug trafficking.

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Lo Hsing Han or Law Sit Han (1935 – 2013): Burmese drug trafficker and major business tycoon.

Singapore is the Lo family’s window to the world, a base for controlling several companies. Lo’s son Steven, who has been denied a visa to the US because of his drug links, is married to a Singaporean, Cecilia Ng. A former US assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, Robert Gelbard, has said half of Singapore’s investment in Burma has been “tied to the family of narco-trafficker Lo Hsing Han.”

Dissident groups say the trade-off for Tay Za’s government business contracts in Burma is to fund junta leaders’ medical trips to Singapore.

Source: Sydney Morning Herald

b) Jelson Garcia, Asia Program Manager with the Banking Information Center (BIC), said World Bank, ADB and International Monetary Fund (IMF) officials informed him last year that Burma’s government held up to $11 billion in several Singaporean bank accounts.

In 2009, the US-based non-profit organization Earth Rights International (ERI) reported that the then ruling junta had excluded almost $5 billion in revenues — generated from the Yadana Gas project operated by oil giants Total and Chevron — from the country’s national budget.  These funds, the group found after an investigation, had been placed in two Singapore-based banks — the Overseas Chinese Banking Corporation and DBS Group — which functioned as “offshore repositories.” The banks have denied the allegations.

Source: The Irrawaddy

c) Singapore’s economic linkage with Burma is one of the most vital factors for the survival of Burma’s military regime,” says Professor Mya Maung, a Burmese economist based in Boston. This link, he continues, is also central to “the expansion of the heroin trade.”

Singapore has achieved the distinction of being the Burmese junta’s number one business partner — both largest trading partner and largest foreign investor. The close political, economic, and military relationship between the two countries facilitates the weaving of millions of narco-dollars into the legitimate world economy.

Source: Covert Action Quarterly

6. SINGAPORE / DIRTY MONEY

a) Singapore’s national pension system resembles the mother of all Ponzi schemes which is about to implode.

The PAP is aware of the widespread perception that CPF resembles a Ponzi scheme but has not been able convince Singaporeans otherwise. Instead, it has continued to conceal important information from the public.

Source: Phillip Ang

b) The days of banging a million bucks into a secret account in Singapore are over. . .the ability to move corrupt funds overseas is a large part of what makes grand corruption possible.

Source: Global Witness

c) Historically, why are there so many alleged “illegal” monies linked to Singapore?

Source: All Singapore Stuff

7. PM LEE HSIEN LOONG’S COMMENTS on BILLIONAIRES

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“If I can get another 10 billionaires to move to Singapore and set up their base here, my Gini coefficient will get worse but I think Singaporeans will be better off.”
— LHL, 2013

8. VIDEO ON HOW OFFSHORE BANKING WORKS:

The ICIJ Offshore Leaks Database cracks open the impenetrable world of offshore tax havens. Users can look through more than 100,000 secret companies, trusts and funds created in offshore locales such as the British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Cook Islands and Singapore.

PAP Internet Brigade (IB)

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I wrote this post as:

1) Some people are still unaware of the “PAP IB” ;
2) A FB friend recently commented that the “PAP IB is now out in full force” re: the upcoming elections; and
3) Another friend recently got into an online argument on FB with a stranger on conservative vs. liberal politics, which got very bad until said friend deleted the entire thread.

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From a 2007 article in The Straits Times:

The People’s Action Party (PAP) is mounting a quiet counter-insurgency against its online critics.

It has members going into Internet forums and blogs to rebut anti-establishment views and putting up postings anonymously.

According to The Online Citizen:

The 50 Cent Party are the Internet commentators employed by the government of the People’s Republic of China or the Communist Party.

Their key function was to post comments on various Internet message boards, expressing a favourable opinion towards party policies, in an attempt to shape and sway public opinion.

[In Singapore], the counter-insurgency group is popularly known as the “Internet Brigade” or “IB” for short.

The man behind the PAP Internet Brigade is self-styled “moderate” Singaporean Jason Chua Chin Seng.

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Jason Chua.

Some other excerpts from TOC’s excellent 3-part series on PAP Internet Brigade:

You will notice a group of individuals throwing attacks at the opposition party within minutes of the posting and with clear signs of an organised angle of attack. These are also people commonly found frequenting anti-opposition/pro-PAP fanpages such as Fabrications About The PAP (FAP) and Fabrications Led By Opposition Parties (FLOP).

This is clearly not the behaviour of common citizens who are expressing their opinions, but a deliberate attempt to mud-sling the political opposition and sway the opinion of the common folks online. By flooding a forum with comments as soon as possible, IBs aim to command the conversation through sheer number of posts.

To be fair, no one is stopping supporters of the PAP from expressing their views in public forums. Decisive and deliberate astro-turfing by IBs, on the other hand, prevents the public and policy makers alike from understanding ground sentiments. The PAP is actually not doing the government any favours by allowing this to happen.

More importantly, members of the public need to be aware of the presence of such entities so that they would not be misled on issues and matters in Singapore. Being aware of the Internet Brigade would allow us to take a step back from their vitriol and focus on the social discussions that can help shape Singapore the way it should be.

You can read all three articles in the series here:

While the PAP Internet Brigade responds quickly to opportunities to denigrate the opposition, PM Lee Hsien Loong has been known to block less-than-glowing comments from being posted on his Facebook page (which, incidentally, brings to mind PM Lee talking at length about “Batman, Superman, Tarzan, and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” during an #AskPMLee QnA, instead of providing “solid answers” to hard questions).

PM Lee once said that he stays positive online by being “flame-proof.” Perhaps it is this same quality which allows him to ignore the severity of the Singapore government’s long history of authoritarian rule.

If the PM can block or ignore less-than-savoury comments, there’s no reason why the rest of us shouldn’t feel free to block and/or ignore aggressive cyber-bullying types of online comments, whether they’re written by PAP IB’s or members of the public who have a different view.

I only came to know of the PAP IB’s existence earlier this year. I’ve rarely gotten into online arguments which centre around politics, because I prefer to allocate my time and energy to more sane, relaxing, and constructive matters (like research, reading, or socio-political blogging…).

Occasionally I do respond to a seemingly aggressive or hostile comment left on a Facebook post. I usually keep my responses short, around 1-2 sentences at maximum. Sometimes I add a link to an article that objectively backs up whatever it is I’d like to express, so that other people who happen to read the comment later can click on the link for more info if they so desire.

When it comes to reasoning and clarity of thought, perhaps Tan Wah Piow said it best:

Read carefully, and think slowly.

I am also reminded of this Tarot card, which is an interesting symbol to think about when you’re considering whether it’s worth it to engage in a debate/argument.

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Temperance.

Joan Bunning explains the meaning of this card as follows:

Being temperate:

  • Showing moderation
  • Mitigating a harsh position
  • Reaching a compromise

Maintaining balance:

  • Achieving equilibrium
  • Recognizing all sides
  • Feeling centered and secure

Experiencing health:

  • Renewing energy and vigor
  • Enjoying well-being
  • Recovering

Combining forces:

  • Joining with others
  • Creating synthesis
  • Getting it all together

Elitism Quotes (PAP)

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Small collection of quotes by PAP Ministers etc. on the “aristocracy mentality.” Thanks to readers for contributing some of these :)

1. “Without a natural aristocracy. . .society will lose out.”
— Lee Hsien Loong, 2015

2. “I don’t respond to anything on The Real Singapore, which is a Facebook page and website written by morons, commented on by morons, and read and shared by morons.”
— Calvin Cheng, 2014

3. “The problem today is that PAP is a bit too elitist. . .they don’t feel for the people; overall, there is a lack of empathy.”
— Ngiam Tong Dow, 2013

4. “Maybe it made lesser mortals envious and they thought maybe he was a little bit boastful.”
— Charles Chong, MP (on senior civil servant Tan Yong Soon’s S$46,000 five-week course at a prestigious French cooking school)

5. “I feel my own angst riding with the common people. But I suppose it’s good to get the feel from the ground every now and then, to connect with the peasantry.”
PAP Supporter and former Law Society employee, Nicholas-Seth Leong on his second MRT trip in 2012

6. “Please, get out of my elite uncaring face.”
— Wee Shu Min, scholar-daughter of former MP Wee Siew Kim

7. “Remember your place in society before you engage in political debate… Debate cannot generate into a free-for-all where no distinction is made between the senior and junior party… You must make distinctions – What is high, what is low, what is above, what is below, and then within this, we can have a debate, we can have a discussion… people should not take on those in authority as ‘equals’.”
— Former Foreign Minister George Yeo (1994)

8. “They (top civil servants) get paid more, they’re highly educated, and they have bigger egos, bigger than any government employees I’ve met anywhere else in the world. It’s not good or bad, but they consider themselves superior to almost any government employee in the world.”
— Renowned executive coach Marshall Goldsmith on civil servants’ ego in Singapore (2011)

TanChooLeng

9. “$600,000 a year is peanuts.”
— Mrs. Goh Chok Tong (2004)

gohchoktong

Source: FB

10. “We are our own check. The integrity of our leaders, of our MPs. That’s where the check comes from. . .not this seductive lie of check and balance.”
— Goh Chok Tong, 26 August 2015

11. “I didn’t ask for it. That was the rate for the job, that’s what I accepted. You don’t like the rate, I can’t help it.”
President Nathan who doesn’t feel he needs to defend his high salary which was criticised extensively online. (The Sunday Times, 7 Aug 2011)

12. “I don’t think that there should be a cap on the number of directorship that a person can hold.”
— PAP MP John Chen who held 8 directorships

13. “It’s not for the money because some of the companies pay me as little as $10,000 a year.”
— PAP MP Wang Kai Yuen who held 11 directorships

14. “One evening, I drove to Little India and it was pitch dark but not because there was no light, but because there were too many Indians around.”
— Former PAP MP Mr Choo Wee Khiang, in a speech in Parliament in 1992

15. “Smaller Medisave means you’re lazy and work less.”
Khaw Boon Wan (2013)

16. “There’s no ladder to climb when the top rung is reserved for people with a certain name.”
— Forbes (2009)

17. “The elite’s privileged position in decision-making and exclusive formulation of organisational policies will only serve to reflect the elite’s self-interests instead of that of the masses.”
— Classical elite theorist Robert Michels, via Soh Yi Da

18. “Our funds are accountable to the government. I would not believe that transparency is everything.”
— PM Lee Hsien Loong, The Telegraph UK

19. “As an anti-PAP retired civil servant, I can tell you that all the PAP media events are staged with great care. Every photo opportunity is meticulously planned. As a former government press officer told me, we must manipulate the message.”
TRE Comment

20. “We are same — same but different.”
— Lim Swee Say via Teo Chee Hean (2015)

21. “The reality as societies developed is that leaders often come from the same social circles, educational backgrounds and even family trees.”
— Lee Kuan Yew, 2011

22. We decide what is right. Never mind what the people think.”
— Lee Kuan Yew, 1987

23. “In short, the elite.”
— Lee Kuan Yew, 1966

elite_meaning

Google search for meaning of “Elite”

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For more PAP ministers’ quotes, check out the following resources:

1) Top 30 Quotes from the Ivory Tower (TOC)

2) Photo Album (Martyn See)

3) Great PAP Quotes (Comment saved by Chris Ho)

4) Infamous Quotes by SG Leaders (AskMeLah)

The Over-Hyped National Day Rally

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* Blog post by former ISD director Mr. Yoong Siew Wah, who blogs at SG Recalcitrant. Originally posted on TR Emeritus.

There was a publicity overdrive on PM Lee Hsien Loong’s National Day Rally as it was obvious he was anxious that his Sermon on the Mount would reach as wide an audience as possible. As it turned out it was nothing more than a captive audience comprising mainly PAP minister, MPs, grassroots leaders, PAP supporters and a sprinkling of students, who listened in awesome attention to his so called exquisite oratory.

The Workers’ Party MPs very wisely gave the Rally a miss as it would have put them in an untenable position having to endorse the electioneering effort and excessive extolment of the late Lee Kuan Yew which they anticipated would be a feature of the Rally speech. They instead organised a dinner for their supporters to celebrate Singapore’s Golden Jubilee. Other opposition parties had also organised separate social events on that day.

The attendees at the Rally were a captive audience and PM Lee was at his best in mesmerizing his audience with his absorbing narrative on what social and political problems Singapore was facing and the Government’s efforts in overcoming them. He was seen to be in his element when he delivered his speech with such finesse that he had the audience applauding from time to time whenever he made a significant point.

It would have been a consummation of his oratory if he had refrained from extolling ad nauseam the so-called virtues of his late father Lee Kuan Yew and turning the Rally into an electioneering stunt calling for the election of the PAP team in the general election.

Of course the attendees by their very nature would be the PAP’s loyal electors. But how widely this will percolate down to the electorate will be a million-dollar question.

The PAP has the distinct advantage in its early announcement of its candidates for the general election and the fawning write-ups by a subservient press. The opposition has not disclosed its complete line-ups but the Workers’ Party will be defending its incumbent constituencies. So everything seems to be ready except the announcement of an election date by PM Lee which is thought to be likely in early September (update: September 11). The biggest PAP casualty so far seems to be the Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew who is portrayed as resigning to take the rap (引 咎辞聀)for the SMRT breakdowns. Ministers Lim Swee Say and Vivian Balakhrishnan who were given commendable mention by PM Lee in his Rally speech may have their work cut out in defending their seats because of their poor esteem with the electors.

PM Lee has said in his Rally speech that the coming general election is a critical one and that the PAP is going all out to win the election. He thinks the ground is favourable to the PAP for the general election to be called. This hustings may turn out to be a watershed election.

— Yoong Siew Wah / Singapore Recalcitrant

* Mr. Yoong Siew Wah was the director of Singapore’s Internal Security Department from 1971 to 1974. Before that, he was the director of the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB). Mr Yoong is now retired and blogs at singaporerecalcitrant.blogspot.com.

* Stay educated with some excerpts by Mr. Yoong (Part 1 and Part 2).