Singapore Leaders’ Family Relationships with One Another

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.

Singapore's Top Families

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.

Singapore's Top Families - Political Connections.jpg

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.

Singapore's Top Families - Banking Connections.jpg

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.

Singapore's Top Families - GIC and Temasek Holdings Connections

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.

These Families Rule Singapore final

For the references, you can read Jess C Scott’s blog and my blog.

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24 comments

  1. Vince

    If it feels like I’m trolling, then I shall apologize first. However, I still do not get the point of your post. From the look of it, it feels like you are throwing out something into the air and hoping someone will react into your favour etc.

    Nothing is new or special with your post, and it is definitely not a Singapore only circumstances. Even United States of America has its fair shares of similar issues. In fact, if you could point out a country without the issue of government officials having connections to financial world, please list a few, I am pretty sure there will be people that will consider to migrate there.

    Also, if I get the message of your post right, you are trying to imply that, the less able and the less hardworking people should triumph over those who are more able and more hardworking ones (I use the term able and hardworking because, to achieve what you are implying in your post, you need to have some ability and work hard for them.)

    Apart from the ambiguity of your post and seemingly try to bait reactions from your readers, you still have not fixed your habit of not referencing when you need to.
    Eg. Today, Singaporeans earn the lowest long term returns on their pension funds and have one of the least adequate retirement funds in the world. (Reference please, reliable source too thank you.)

    Personally speaking, instead of wasting time posting these posts, why don’t you start working to achieve your ideals of helping Singaporeans (as you are stated, unless it has been warped to destroying certain organization or individuals out of grudge or whatever). If you want to change a country, work for it, act on it and not be a keyboard warrior like me!

    • Christopher J Brickhill

      The point of the post is, obviously, to show the interconnections between a relatively small number of Singaporeans who hold positions, with significant clout. I do not understand why you make your comment about throwing something in the air and waiting for reactions. Clearly, Roy wants to a) inform others and b) solicit opinions and reactions. Singapore is similar to Indonesia in this respect an totally unlike the US, the UK and the EU, which are democratic countries as opposed to Singapore which is not. It is an oligarchy. The point of family associations is that these individuals did NOT achieve their positions with hard work, and one presumes that they are not particularly able. They achieved their positions because of nepotism and family ties. For example the current PM, LHL. he inherited his job from his father, and clearly lacks anything like a working brain. Similarly, his wife.

      In terms of references, you are trying to bait Roy I think. His statements are true, and are confirmed by many organizations, and are hardly in need of justification. Those with an adequate awareness will see that these statements are true. However, you may want to consult the many studies undertaken by the World Bank, a few by the IMF and of course there is Amnesty. If you need help here in navigating these websites, I and willing to show you what a ten year old is able to do. Just to be perfectly clear, Singapore has no pension fund. It manages (poorly to say the least) the individual contributions, and the individuals, upon retirement receive only what they have put in. Please compare with the UK, the EU and the US. Individuals do make significant contributions, how the state in each case contributes significant amounts. When you add on disability for those unfortunate enough to become disabled before retirement age, the fact that widows continue to receive benefits, etc., you can see how Singapore performs. The truth is, it does not, and all this while paying the PM and and his cronies salaries of 4 to 5 times the salaries of the equivalent salaries in the countries I have mentioned. It’s what you call crony capitalism.

      My view is that is people like you whose attitude has to change and not Roy’s. He has taken the time to point out a few of Singapore’s disgraceful gaps, while you sit back and criticize in what would seem to be a completely brain dead state of mind. Or are you simply a Singaporean who had suffered the misfortune of being “educated” in the Singapore school and university system? Work for Sngpore? Yes, please do.

      • The Oracle

        I haven’t been here for a while but I see Roy is peddling his usual web of half truths, innuendos, and outright lies.

        You say Singapore is totally unlike the US, UK and EU – and I assume you are implying that Singapore is worse – but you are so very wrong:
        US: 1) The Kennedy’s are just one example of a multi-generation political family that everybody would know. 2) It is also a democracy dominated by money – such as political donations from the rich and powerful (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_activities_of_the_Koch_brothers for one example).
        UK: Look at the Royal family and all their relatives who still dominate many aspects of that class-ridden society.
        EU: Look at various royal families, old-money rich, mafias, etc. that go back much further than in Singapore and who have dominated or influenced the politics in their various countries.

        Roy is selective with the truth at best – his references are very often his own articles that are full of inaccuracies and half-truths (or, being more charitable, highly selective interpretations of data from other sources). He has been caught out so many times before but he just repeats and re-posts the same old rubbish again and again – I assume he believes if he says it often enough some people will believe it is true.

      • Christopher J Brickhill

        Oracle,

        You are also a fool I guess. You claim that Roy is lying, kindly provide examples.

        You say that Singapore is like the US, the EU and the UK. No, do not be stupid. You have missed the point completely. I did not make any claim about wealth and politics. What Roy is implicitly saying, and what i am making clear is that the rulers of Singapore obtain their influence and positions, more often than not by family connections. The Kenedies did not. They might have had the funds to make election easier, and this I do not dispute, but they still had to be elected, by a fair an honest election process, not by being related to a number of others. The Kenedies, the Fords, the Cintons, the Reagan, the Carters, etc. are all unrelated.

        The British and other European families are explicitly non poltical. If you dispute this, then please provide examples of political influence.

        I have indeed come across stupid people, people that exaggerate, lie, misrepresent, etc., but you take the cake my friend.

        Please do not make these accusations against Roy unless you can provide me with explicit examples. I will not sue you as the abominable Singapore PAP government would do by exploiting the corrupt and hijacked courts, but I will demand that you justify your remarks, or take them back.

    • Vince

      Still better than, No-one-win Communist Style though…
      One thing people should steer away from is imposing other countries system onto another. Every different country has its history and cultures, what might be norm to certain countries might not be acceptable to another countries norm. When you are comparing a country system to another, do be aware how history and cultures have shaped them to what they are now.

      Is Meritocracy Singapore PAP style good or bad? I have no idea since there is nothing else to compare with, if there isn’t any how would anyone judge it is bad or good though..

      • Christopher J Brickhill

        What stupid remarks. You are repeating what the PAP says.It is true that history shapes, but what is also true is that we value human rights, democracy and education. So you may want to consider how things work in the civilized world.

        Singapore a meritocracy! Do not be crazy, it is anything but a meritocracy. It is a classic example of an oligarchy.

      • Hari

        You are a fool Vince. Roy had the courage to stand up and fight for truth. He is not just doing it for himself. He is doing for all of us. He has been trashed for it. There is a high cost to this as well. He is made to pay to the PM of singapore. He lost his job and all for what? Asking the right questions?
        I think you like rest of the foolish Singaporeans, you know the 70%, spoiled brats, think the same. Ignorance is not BLISS! Roy is revealing to us the nature of our political system and how it is governed. I don’t hate PAP, I sure do hate the fact that they keep Singaporeans in the dark regarding how our money is being used and where it is going. If you don’t care about it, some of us do. Are you trying to tell us that LHL became PM without the influence of his father? I mean come on! Everyone in Singapore know that and so does LHL himself. So let’s not kid ourselves here. Are you so naive that you think meritocracy is in place? Learn to appreciate the risk others take to expose the truth. You didn’t do it. Roy is doing it, huge risk on his part. Nobody will employ him now. Do you have that problem? I thought So! So shut up and let us work towards real progress.

      • Christopher J Brickhill

        Well said. I hope there are more like you Hari, and yes, Vince, you are a real fool, the likes of which are rare!

  2. Xmen

    Thank you for the research. I’m sure it is of interest to many people and organizations. Perhaps it should be published on Wikipedia.

  3. Christopher J Brickhill

    Vince, no one is ignoring the history and culture of Singapore as you suggest. You clearly cannot read. What is being said is that there are principles over and above culture and history. The UN implemented the Declaration of Human Rights in the late 1940s as an overriding principle for all countries, partly incentivized by the actions of Nazi Germany. Similarly, there are motivations for democracy.

    Singapore a democracy? Do not be Neaderthal. Singaporeans vote yes, but so do North Koreans and Russians. Singaporeans may vote only for PAP approved candidates, the opposition parties cannot use newspapers of television to state their views and individuals are subject to the compliant courts if they make statements in opposition to the PAP, and you cannot be an opposition candidate for parliament. it’s pathetic and wrong.

    Singapore a socialist regime. I cannot believe that you write this. Singapore is a righting capitalist country which explicity eschews socialist aims and goals. You need to change your brain and then learn quite a lot.

    • Corrupt

      Your comments section doesn’t allow to delete or to edit. I re-read my comment and realized there was a genuine typo error. What I meant was “I am surprised by the findings. They are inevitably NOT corrupt”. Your “findings” were falsified and misleading to say the least. Closing down this blog is the best option for you.

  4. Boggled

    Given that majority of the local Chinese population of Singapore are most likely descendants from a minority of China immigrants, I don’t think it’s difficult for many of our leaders to be related to one another in some ways. Perhaps if we dig deeper into our Chinese roots, a lot of us might even be surprisingly related to one of some of the people in the chart!
    Anyway, why the obvious missing non-Chinese presidents and deputy prime minister? Oh! And where’s our Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong by the way?

    • Christopher J Brickhill

      No Boogle, you are quite wrong. The population of Singapore 70 years ago was between 1 to 2 million. Lets be conservative and say its 1 million. Let’s say that the pool of related people is a conservative 100. Then the number of ways you can pick 100 from 1 million is 1,000,000!/(100! * 999,000!) (=A), a very large number indeed. Similarly the number of individuals related to each other is the sum of (A-N)!/(N! * (A-3)!) for N=3 to A. This is a very small number, thus, you claim in incorrect

  5. Christopher J Brickhill

    No you are wri=ong again, and its not 6 steps its 4, nad has to do with friends and being introduced, not family membership. Are you questioning my maths? Or more likely, you do not understand what I am sayiing.

  6. Christopher J Brickhill

    Hilfri: You ask so what? What it means is that the PAP and the specific elected officials are awarded on the basis of nepotism, which is a disgrace. Powerful position should be awarded on ability, not, for example by being the son of a prime minister. LHL is incompetent, partly because he has a brain the size of a flea, and partly because he is secure in his ridiculous $2 million salary. The people have not accepted because the election process is unfair and loaded and the schooling available brainwashes students.

    His father, Lee Kuan Yew was a monster, a disingenuous dictator who bled Singapore dry, forcing 85% of the population to exist in sub-standard public housing that has to be paid for with retirement savings. Singapore is not a democracy.or to put it another way, based on a scared and brainwashed electorate is as much a democracy as is North Korea.

    Democracies, as in the US and UK do not appoint high office holder as does Singapore. Yes, both the Bushes, father and son, were presidents and in the Us there have been a couple of other cases in the past 200 years, but 900 legislators are elected, so this s not salient. David Cameron has no close relative in the Commons as far as I know, nor did Gordon Brown, nor Tony Blair. Th closest we get today are the Churchill’s, but it is Winston’s grandson who was an elected member of the Commons. I sure I have missed a couple, but I believe that research will show little evidence for nepotism in the EU, UK, US, Australia, NZ, Japan and so on.

    • Christopher J Brickhill

      Its obvious my friend. It reeks of nepotism, fraud, collusion and corruption. Then again, in singapore we are used to that with a PAP government

  7. Singapore Citizen Mr. Teo En Ming (Zhang Enming)

    OFFICIAL COMPLAINT AGAINST THE SINGAPORE GOVERNMENT FOR ALLEGEDLY FALSIFYING TEO EN MING’S MEDICAL RECORDS

    Mr. Teo En Ming (Zhang Enming)
    Singapore Citizen
    TARGETED INDIVIDUAL (TI)
    Mr. Teo En Ming (Zhang Enming) @ sgvideoman is Persecuted, Targeted, Blacklisted, and Condemned by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and the Singapore Government
    10 July 2016 Sunday Singapore Time

  8. Singapore Citizen Mr. Teo En Ming (Zhang Enming)

    ***SUBTLE*** DENIAL OF MEDICAL TREATMENT BY THE SINGAPORE GOVERNMENT FOR MR. TEO EN MING (ZHANG ENMING)

    Mr. Teo En Ming (Zhang Enming)
    Singapore Citizen
    TARGETED INDIVIDUAL (TI)
    Mr. Teo En Ming (Zhang Enming) @ sgvideoman is Persecuted, Targeted, Blacklisted, and Condemned by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and the Singapore Government
    10 July 2016 Sunday Singapore Time

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