PAP candidate Ong Ye Kung is not letting his funny name, stern face stop him

Ong Ye Kung is making a political comeback: Rebooted, reinvigorated and ready to serve.

By Martino Tan |Belmont Lay | July 7, 2014

This is Part 2 of a two-part interview. You can read Part 1 here.

Former Aljunied GRC PAP candidate Ong Ye Kung appears to always do things the hard way.

The 44-year old father of two did not participate in the 2006 General Election when the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) romped home with 66.6% of the votes and 82 out of 84 seats.

He finally entered politics during GE 2011. And we all know what happened.

To compound matters further, this unconventional PAP politician is born with a stern face.

In Part 1 of the interview, Ong explained why he was making the rounds in Sembawang.

Today, asked the remaining burning questions: His electoral defeat and how the experience shaped him and was failure the only thing missing from his perfect political CV?



1. Will you be finished if you lose in your next election?

Ye Kung: Bill Clinton, Margaret Thatcher, Winston Churchill, Barack Obama — they have all lost before. Mr Low Thia Kiang also lost, before he moved to Hougang and won. Abraham Lincoln lost eight times in various elections before he won, became US President, and change the course of US history.

It’s about perseverance, and how people and society will eventually gauge you. I do not believe, and hope that Singapore is not a society that will only honor and celebrate success, and write off those who encounter setbacks.


2. You said that your 2011 General Election loss in Aljunied was your “biggest professional setback to date”. What did you learn from the defeat?

Ye Kung: One failure is not final. It is the courage to overcome setbacks that defines us.


3. Is this the reason why you still agreed to speak with an online publication such as even though you were whacked left, right and centre the last time you were featured in Yahoo! News?

Ye Kung: Yes. Fact is who is to say what is true and what isn’t when there is so much online sources of information these days. Anyone can be a reporter and able to post whatever they like to but, ultimately, each reader have to be responsible for assuming what is accurate.

 Source: Yahoo News

4. Cool. So, will you do GE 2011 all over again? What would you have done differently?

Ye Kung: Yes I will, but I will not be so task-oriented and place winning and losing at the center.

Sometimes how things turn out can be beyond your control. But the process of contesting an election itself is an exciting, once in a lifetime experience, and what you take out of it is within your control. It’s a lesson not in politics but in the way we journey through life.


5. So, why were you so coy when asked to run in GE 2006? You chose to sit it out because of your dad? What’s up with that?

Ye Kung: My father was a Barisan Socialis MP, elected in 1963, Bukit Panjang. When I was asked to run as a PAP candidate in 2006, he was the first person I consulted. He gave his blessings like a father would for his son.

In the end I decided to give it more time and chose to sit out. Instead, I went on to WDA (Workforce Development Agency), to NTUC, did what I wanted and had no regrets.


6. You are one of the few potential candidates with both public and private sector experience. How would this experience contribute to your role in politics? If elected, are there any pet topics you would advocate?

Ye Kung: I have worked for three very different sectors — public, private and the labour movement.

The public sector puts emphasis on policies, systems, processes, and their consistency in application.

For the private sector, it is based on enterprise, delivery and results.

In the labour movement, it is all about relationship and trust. A great organisation keeps all three as cornerstones.

I think at this point in history, one issue most nations need to grapple with is the trade-off between globalisation for growth versus its culture and identity. A Government can do certain things to drive growth and measure the results, but it is difficult to strengthen the identity and measure the results.

Strengthening the public sector to be more enterprising, building relationships and trust with stakeholders, is another issue I have always been interested in.


7. Okay, I think we lost a few readers there as well. To the politically clueless and for the benefit of Gen Y and Z who do not know you and don’t care, can you describe yourself in a 140 characters?

Ye Kung: Love @StarWars #football #rock #mountains & my family. Enjoy learning interesting things that ppl do. Life’s short, do what counts.


8. Do you still keep in touch with ex-Foreign Minister George Yeo? What did you learn from him?

Ye Kung: Yes, the ex-Aljunied team meets up for makan. Mr Yeo has a deep sense of history. He taught me by knowing the past, we understand the future. George_Yeo

Source: George Yeo Facebook 

9. Tell us more about your two daughters, who are 12 and 14 this year.

Ye Kung: One is a teenager, and the other about to be one. They both have a mind of their own and will be more independent sooner than later. I have to learn to be their friend instead of treating them like my little girls.


10. In a 2011 interview, you said that you made your bed for your daughters. Are you still making the beds for them now?

Ye Kung: My purpose was to show them that they should make their own beds and for that matter, wash the dishes and tidy up their rooms too. It’s a matter of basic personal responsibility.

Today they make their own beds, cook their own instant noodles (they eat more than just instant noodles of course) and clean up after. It worked.


11. You mentioned in an SMU talk series that if you have three hours left, you will do a selfie video and ask people to be kinder. You will also “go for a run and die while running”. What would you like your epitaph to be?

Ye Kung: A loving husband who was the soul mate to his wife. (Though not the most romantic.) A funny father who was a friend to his children. A reliable friend to count on. A person who tries to do the right things.


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About Martino Tan

Martino’s parents named him after an Italian priest, Vatican's 1st ambassador to S’pore. He's inspired by the lives of Robert Kennedy & D. Bonhoeffer, the words of G.Orwell & T.Sorensen, & the music of the Beatles.

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