Two days ago, I put up some charts on the families that rule Singapore.
Here are the simplified versions.
In the chart below, you can see how Singapore’s leaders are related to one another, and how their relationships extend back to the 1800s.
Teo Lee, on the top left, lived from 1833 to 1899. Ang Choon Seng, on the top right, lived from 1805 to 1852. Singapore’s current deputy prime minister, Teo Chee Hean (bottom left) is Teo Lee’s descendant. Tony Tan (bottom right), the previous deputy prime minister and the current president, is the descendant of Ang Choon Seng.
In this next chart, you can see the political connections (highlighted in orange). These families take up 2 positions as prime ministers, 2 as deputy prime ministers, 2 as presidents and 2 as ministers. (Note that these are only the known connections.)
But not only that, their ancestors also held political leadership positions. Lee Choon Guan, Tan Jiak Kim and Kwa Siew Tee were also Municipal Commissioners. Wee Theam Seng’s brother, Wee Theam Tew (not mentioned here), was also a Municipal Commissioner. Tan Keong Saik was also elected to the Municipal Commission. Lee Choon Guan and Tan Jiak Kim also sat on the Legislative Council.
Together, they held the majority of the positions for Municipal Commissioners that Straits Chinese held. Municipal Commissioners oversaw local urban affairs in Singapore. The Legislative Council was responsible for enacting laws in Singapore.
Today, their descendants hold leadership positions in the Singapore government.
The chart below shows you the banking connections (highlighted in green). Note that the highlighted people are all connected to the OCBC Bank and its predecessors, and they all lived during the same era and after.
OCBC was formed from the merger of three banks – Chinese Commercial Bank (1912), Ho Hong Bank (1917) and Oversea-Chinese Bank (1919).
Lim Nee Soon was the Oversea-Chinese Bank’s chairman and the Chinese Commercial Bank’s vice-chairman. Lee Kong Chian was also a vice-chairman and Tan Jiak Kim, a director, at the Chinese Commercial Bank. Lee Choon Guan was the Chinese Commercial Bank’s chairman. He was also a shareholder of the Ho Hong Bank. Wee Theam Seng was the Chinese Commercial Bank’s manager.
Wee Theam Seng and Teo Beng Wan were both OCBC’s senior bankers. Kwa Siew Tee and Tan Cheng Siong were OCBC general managers. Tan Kah Kee played an influential role at OCBC.
Tan Chin Tuan, Lee Kong Chian, Teo Cheng Guan and Tony Tan were OCBC chairmen. Tan Chin Tuan was also its managing director and Tony Tan was its CEO. Lee Kong Chian’s son, Lee Seng Wee (not mentioned here), was also a chairman, and his grandson, Warren Lee Tih Shih (also not mentioned here) is also a director.
In the chart below, you can see the GIC and Temasek Holdings connections (highlighted in blue). The positions are also listed. (GIC and Temasek Holdings are the two government investment firms.)
Again, they all hold top positions.
Lee Kuan Yew and Lee Hsien Loong (was) and is the GIC’s chairmen. Goh Keng Swee and Tony Tan were both GIC’s deputy chairmen. Tony Tan was also the executive director.
Lim Kim San and Teo Chee Hean (was) and is the GIC’s directors.
Ho Ching is Temasek Holding’s current CEO and Lim Boon Heng is its current chairman.
Singaporeans’ Central Provident Fund (CPF) pension funds are invested by the GIC and Temasek Holdings.
Today, Singaporeans earn the lowest long term returns on their pension funds and have one of the least adequate retirement funds in the world.
GIC and Temasek Holdings have become one of the richest sovereign wealth funds in the world, at 8th and 11th respectively (at the time of writing), on the back of Singaporeans’ CPF pension funds.
If you want to see the full charts, you can go to my previous article.
Note that these are only the known connections as much of the information is not available online.
These charts give you a sense of the closeness of the family networks in Singapore’s political leadership and its close links with the OCBC Bank. Most of them also hold top political and banking positions.
Not only that, these few families have been holding key positions in government and the financial sector in Singapore since the late 1800s, which means that there hasn’t been a break in their dominance for more than 100 years (or 130 years). Singapore’s independence from the British in 1965 did not usher in a new era in politics, but rather a continuity in these families holding on to key leadership positions. What independence did bring was that these families no longer had to work under the British.
Most of these families are Straits Chinese (or Peranakan), which formed the Straits Chinese British Association in 1900 (now known as the Peranakan Association) where Tan Jiak Kim was the president and Wee Theam Yew, a founding member. Lee Choon Guan was also a president. They were also active in the General Chinese Trade Affairs Association known today as the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce & Industry.