In a live call-in programme on MediaCorp Radio’s Capital 95.8FM last month (May 19), Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong told listeners in Mandarin that “half the leadership team has already emerged. In the last General Election, we brought in many new people, including a few ministers.”

He added that “in the next election, we hope to bring in another batch of new people, including candidates who can be office-holders.”

If PM Lee was referring to the four newly minted Ministers — Heng Swee Keat, Chan Chun Sing, Tan Chuan-Jin and Lawrence Wong — as half of the next generation of political leadership, we could soon see the introduction of at least four more potential Ministers in the next General Election.

Therefore, we have the Straits Times to thank for outing these potential Ministers yesterday:

Talk is that those from the top government ranks who may take the plunge include Chief Defence Force Ng Chee Meng, 47, Chief of Navy Lai Chung Han, 42, Chief Guards Officer Melvyn Ong, 40, and second permanent secretary of the Ministry of Trade of Industry Chee Hong Tat, 42, who was formerly principal private secretary (PPS) to then Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew.

Another former PPS to Mr Lee, current Changi Airport Group (CAG) chief executive Lee Seow Hiang, 45, may also decided to take up the call to join the Government. “PAP firming up its line-up?”

– The Straits Times, 6 June 2015.

 

Who are these potential Ministers?

If we include Aljunied GRC 2011 candidate Ong Ye Kung, who was also tipped for a ministerial role last GE, there will be six potential minister-material candidates standing in the upcoming elections.

They have two things in common: 1) they spent at least a decade in civil service and are, or have been, senior civil servants (Generals or Principal Private Secretaries to PM/MM); and 2) they are all Chinese men in their forties.

Unfortunately, they appear less diverse than some of the earlier cohorts:

The 2001 cohort, dubbed the “Super Seven” for the seven political office-holders appointed immediately after GE, had a mix of candidates of different races from the civil service and the private sector.

MP Before Politics
Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam Chief Executive, Monetary Authority of Singapore
National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Trade and Industry
Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen Oncologist, Mount Elizabeth Hospital
Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan Chief Executive Officer, Singapore General Hospital
Former transport minister Raymond Lim Managing Director, DBS Securities Singapore Pte Ltd
MP Cedric Foo Senior Vice-President (West Asia/Africa), Singapore Airlines
The late Balaji Sadasivan Neurosurgeon, Gleneagles Hospital
Health Minister Gan Kim Yong CEO and President of NatSteel

 

The 2006 cohort contained a female Minister in Grace Fu.

MP Before Politics
Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew Chief Executive Officer, Housing and Development Board (HDB)
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Grace Fu Chief Executive Officer, PSA South East Asia and Japan
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office S. Iswaran Senior Vice President/Managing Director at Temasek Holdings Pte Ltd

 

Let’s examine the careers of the ex/current Generals and the Principal Private Secretaries tipped for possible ministerial glory and observe how their formative and career experiences resemble the current cabinet: 

 

1. Ng Chee Meng, 47, Chief Defence Force, MINDEF

Ng-Chee-Meng_Chief_Defence_Force

Ng was appointed Chief of Defence Force on 27 March 2013. He joined the SAF in December 1986, was awarded the SAF Overseas Training Award (Graduating) in 1987 and was the top student in the Singapore Command and Staff College in 1999. In 2002, he was awarded the SAF Postgraduate Award.

A fighter pilot by vocation, Lieutenant General Ng held various key command and staff appointments over 28 years of service. His last appointment was the Chief of Air Force.

Ng currently sits on the Boards of Singapore Technologies Engineering, Defence Science and Technology Agency, and Jurong Town Corporation.

You can read his full profile on the MINDEF website.

This means he: 

1. Spent a large part of his career in the SAF, similar to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, Ministers Lim Hng Kiang, Lim Swee Say, Lui Tuck Yew, Chan Chun Sing and Tan Chuan-Jin.

2. Studied in the same school as Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew: Both completed a Master of Arts in international relations at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University.

3. Other claim to fame:

The Ng brothers are one of Singapore’s “all-star” military families, with all three brothers wearing at least two stars on their uniform before.

Major General
Source: MINDEF website

In 2014, Ng’s elder brother, Major-General (NS) Ng Chee Khern, was the number two civil servant at MINDEF, while Ng’s younger brother, Ng Chee Peng, was the Chief of Navy.

 

2. Lai Chung Han, 42, Chief of Navy, MINDEF

Lai_Chung_Han_Chief_of_Navy

Lai is a President’s and SAF Overseas Scholar, holds a Bachelor of Arts (Economics) from Cambridge University, and a Master in Public Administration from Harvard University.

He has previously served as commanding officer of the RSS Valiant and 188 Squadron, as well as the navy’s fleet commander, before becoming deputy secretary of policy at MINDEF in September 2012.

This means he: 

1. Spent a large part of his career in the SAF, similar to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, Ministers Lim Hng Kiang, Lim Swee Say, Lui Tuck Yew, Chan Chun Sing and Tan Chuan-Jin.

2. Studied in the same universities as Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Minister Lim Hng Kiang: Spent his undergraduate years in Cambridge University and his postgraduate in Harvard.

3. Is the successor to Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean (1991-1992) Minister Lui Tuck Yew (1999 to 2003) as Chief of Navy.

4. Was a President’s Scholar, just like Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, Ministers Lim Hng Kiang, Vivian Balakrishnan, and Chan Chun Sing.

5. Other claim to fame:

Lai was in the news recently for encouraging women to join the navy with navy adopting more family-friendly policies:

“If you look at our numbers, going forward if we don’t recruit more women, we can’t man all our positions, Channel NewsAsia.” [Emphasis our own] #sopunny

 

3. Lee Seow Hiang, 45, Chief Executive Officer, Changi Airport Group

Lee_Seow_Hiang

Lee is CEO of Changi Airport Group. Prior to this, he was Deputy Director-General (Operations) of the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore.

He is concurrently Deputy Chairman of Changi Airports International Pte Ltd, a Director of SMRT Corporation Limited and Board Member of the Agency for Integrated Care Pte Ltd.

He is also a member of the Advisory Board to the joint IATA-NTU Advanced Management Program (AMP) and the joint Executive MBA degree in Aviation Management.

From 1989 to 2005, Mr Lee held various appointments in the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) and the Ministry of Defence, with his last appointment being Deputy Head of Air Operations in HQ RSAF. From 2005 to 2008, he was the Principal Private Secretary to Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew in the Prime Minister’s Office.

You can read his full profile on the Changi Airport Group website

This means he: 

1. Spent a large part of his career in the SAF, similar to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, Ministers Lim Hng Kiang, Lim Swee Say, Lui Tuck Yew, Chan Chun Sing and Tan Chuan-Jin.

2. Was a Principal Private Secretary to the late Lee Kuan Yew, like Education Minister Heng Swee Keat. 

3. Studied in the same universities as Minister Chan Chun Sing: Spent his undergraduate years in Cambridge University and his postgraduate in Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

4. Was a President’s Scholar, just like Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, Ministers Lim Hng Kiang, Vivian Balakrishnan, and Chan Chun Sing.

 

4. Melvyn Ong Su Kiat, 40, Chief Guards Officer, MINDEF

Melvyn_Ong_CGO
Source: Singapore Army Facebook

Ong, joined the SAF on 25 January 1994. He has held various command and staff positions in the SAF, notably as Head of Personnel Development Branch (PDB) in G1-Army during the formulation of the recent SAF HR Schemes, and Head of the Joint Plans and Transformation Department. Ong was also Singapore’s Contingent Commander for our earthquake relief efforts in Christchurch, New Zealand in 2011.

Ong currently sits on the Board of SPRING Singapore.

This means he: 

1. Spent a large part of his career in the SAF, similar to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, Ministers Lim Hng Kiang, Lim Swee Say, Lui Tuck Yew, Chan Chun Sing and Tan Chuan-Jin.

2. Has organised a National Day Parade just like Minister Tan Chuan-Jin: He is the Chairman of NDP 2015 Executive Committtee.

 

5. Chee Hong Tat, 42, Second Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Trade and Industry

Chee_Hong_Tat

Chee was appointed Second Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) on 1 Dec 2014. At MTI, Chee leads the Ministry’s work in the areas of entrepreneurship and enterprise development, competition policy and consumer protection, tourism, land resource planning and international trade policies and agreements.

Chee was the Chief Executive at the Energy Market Authority from 2011 to 2014 and prior to that, he was the Principal Private Secretary to Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew from 2008 to 2011.

Chee studied at the University of California at Berkeley on an Overseas Merit Scholarship. He obtained a Masters of Business Administration from the University of Adelaide in 2006, and was awarded the Newmont Australia Prize for Most Outstanding MBA Graduate.

You can read his full profile on the MTI website.

This means he: 

1. Was a Principal Private Secretary to the late Lee Kuan Yew, like Education Minister Heng Swee Keat. 

2. Took over Culture, Community and Youth Minister Lawrence Wong as Chief Executive at the Energy Market Authority in 2011.

3. Other claim to fame:

He was one of the eight pallbearers who sent the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew off from Sri Temasek, Istana.

 

6. Ong Ye Kung, 45, Director of Group Strategy, Keppel Corporation

Ong_Ye_Kung_Keppel

Ong is the Director of Group Strategy at Keppel Corporation.

Prior to that, he was the Deputy Secretary-General of National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), the Chief Executive of the Singapore Workforce Development Agency and was the Deputy Chief Negotiator for the US-Singapore Free Trade Agreement. He currently sits in the Board of Alexander Health Pte Ltd. He also serves as Chairman of the NTUC Employment and Employability Institute.

Ong obtained First Class Honours in Economics from the University of London, London School of Economics and Political Science (UK), and an MBA from the Institute of Management Development, Lausanne, Switzerland.

This means he: 

1. Was a Principal Private Secretary to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, and handed over his responsibilities to Culture, Community and Youth Minister Lawrence Wong in 2005.

2. Took the same university course as Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam and Social and Family Development Minister Tan Chuan-Jin: Studied Economics at the London School of Economics.

3. Other claim to fame: 

Son of Barisan Sosialis MP Ong Lian Teng.

Part of the Aljunied GRC team that lost to Workers’ Party in GE 2011.

Mothership.sg poll – Give us your take:

 

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