Ong Ye Kung's father once a member of the opposition party - other politicians who followed in their fathers' footsteps

Ong Ye Kung's father once a member of the opposition party - other politicians who followed in their fathers' footsteps
Education Minister Ong Ye Kung, Minister for Social and Family Development and Second Minister in the Ministry of National Development Desmond Lee
PHOTO: The New Paper, ST

A 2017 analysis by The New York Times showed that sons, on average, are 2.7 times more likely than the rest of the population to have the same job as their fathers.

The statistics seem to apply to some of our politicians too, whose career choices are likely inspired by their dads, who previously took on significant roles in shaping Singapore.

As the general election (GE) to elect members for the 14th Parliament of Singapore looms, what many may not know is that among the familiar faces, some have carved out a career in the realm of politics following in their father's (or even spouse's) footsteps.

Here's a look at who they are:

Lee Hsien Loong (Prime Minister)

Father: Lee Kuan Yew (Former Prime Minister)


Our Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Singapore's founding father, Lee Kuan Yew, need no introduction. Lee Hsien Loong, the eldest son of Lee Kuan Yew, won his first election in 1984, and had served as the Minister for Trade and Industry, Minister for Finance and Deputy Prime Minister before becoming Singapore's Prime Minister since 2004.

Lee Kuan Yew co-founded the People's Action Party (PAP). He was the first Prime Minister of Singapore from 1959 to 1990, and continued to serve as Senior Minister until 2004 and Minister Mentor until 2011. 

Ong Ye Kung (Minister for Education)

Father: Ong Lian Teng (Former politician from Barisan Sosialis)


Before Ong Ye Kung became a Minister for Education in 2018, he served in the Ministry of Communications from 1993 to 1999, then went on to the Ministry of Trade and Industry from 2000 to 2003.

From 2002 to 2004, Ong was the Principal Private Secretary to Lee Hsien Loong, who was then the Deputy Prime Minister.

Ong was approached in 2006 to contest under PAP but decided to sit out of it after sensing his father's reservations. His father, Ong Lian Teng, was one of the 13 members of the now-defunct Baisan Socialis party, and a Member of Parliament for Bukit Panjang from 1963 to 1968.

The elder Ong eventually gave his son his blessing to enter politics before passing on in 2009. In 2011, Ong Ye Kung contested in the Aljunied group representation constituency (GRC) and was defeated by the Workers' Party. It would be the first time in history that PAP lost an election in a GRC. 

In 2015, he contested as a PAP candidate in Sembawang GRC; his team won and he became a Member of Parliament (MP). 

Desmond Lee (Minister for Social and Family Development and Second Minister in the Ministry of National Development)

Father: Lee Yock Suan (Former PAP politician and MP)


Desmond Lee is the current Minister for Social and Family Development and Second Minister in the Ministry of National Development. Lee has also been an MP since 2011, representing Jurong GRC.

At just 43 years old, Lee is the youngest minister in Singapore's current Cabinet. A lawyer by training, Lee has been a Deputy Public Prosecutor in the Criminal Justice Division of the Attorney-General's Chambers, served as Deputy Director of the Legal Branch at Singapore's Ministry of Health and more before following in his father's footstep by entering politics.

His father, Lee Yock Suan, a former member of the PAP, was an MP from 1980 to 2006 and served in the Cabinet from 1987 to 2004.

Kenneth Jeyaretnam (Secretary-General of the Reform Party)

Father: Joshua Benjamin Jeyaretnam, J. B. Jeyaretnam or J.B.J. (Former leader of the Workers' Party and Reform Party)


Kenneth Jeyaretnam, the elder son of the late opposition politician, J.B. Jeyaretnam, is the Secretary-General of the Reform Party.

J.B.J was the first opposition politician to win a seat in Parliament in 1981, after the Independence of Singapore. He left the Workers' Party in 2001 and was declared bankrupt from failing to pay creditors for damages incurred from several defamation suits brought against him by PAP leaders. 

On 2007, he was discharged from bankruptcy and started the Reform Party in 2008. Three months later, he died of heart failure. 

Kenneth, a banker, took on an active role in politics after his father's death and joined the Reform Party on April 10, 2009.

Spouses, too

But it's not just sons and fathers. Sometimes, spouses get roped in too.

Lina Chiam (Singapore People's Party)

Husband: Chiam See Tong (Former leader of Singapore People’s Party)


Lina Loh, better known in the political area as Lina Chiam, is the wife of former opposition MP Chiam See Tong. She became a politician after her husband decided to forgo the Potong Pasir Single Member Constituency (SMC) in the 2011 GE, but she lost the seat to the PAP. However, she was qualified for a seat in the Parliament as a Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP).

In the 2015 general elections, Lina again lost in the contest for the Potong Pasir SMC; she did not return as NCMP.

Chiam See Tong founded the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) in 1980 and left to join the Singapore People's Party (SPP) before the 1997 general election. He then spearheaded the formation of Singapore Democratic Alliance (SDA) and became its chairman from 2001 to 2011.

In 2011, he withdrew SPP from the SDA grouping, and contested under SPP, which was the same year that his wife joined the party.

In June 2020, SPP unveiled its candidate line-up for the upcoming election which, for the first time in history, will not have its former chief or his wife. Chiam remains a party member while his wife is part of SPP's central executive committee.

READ ALSO: Will we see more women in the upcoming Singapore GE than in 2015?

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