Is he the 4G leader with the killer instinct?

Photo: youtube screen-grab

By Augustine Low

Of the three men reportedly in the running to be the next PM, Ong Ye Kung is the one least talked about and widely seen as least favourite.

He has two things on his resume which set him apart from every other cabinet Minister and 4G leader: he has experienced the bitter taste of defeat at an election and he is the son of a leftist.

Ong was in the PAP’s Aljunied GRC team which suffered a devastating defeat at the hands of the Workers’ Party – marking the first every GRC loss by the PAP. Ong witnessed up close the inglorious end to the Ministerial careers of George Yeo, Lim Hwee Hua and Zainal Abidin Rasheed, all three retiring from politics after the elections.

There is yet another aspect to Ong’s background which makes him stand out from his colleagues. His father Ong Lian Teng was one of 13 Barisan Socialis legislative representatives elected in the 1963 GE.

So Ong has lived through a baptism of fire and high drama and has “jumped ship” from his father. Put together, they may not be bad credentials to boast of because it can be argued that his resolve has been toughened and his mettle and strength of character tested.

But it could have been much sweeter – imagine if Ong had made a comeback for the 2015 GE by helming a team to take on the WP at Aljunied GRC (which was there for the taking). Instead Ong entered Parliament through the backdoor – he was fielded in one of the safest of GRCs for the PAP, the Sembawang GRC.

On paper, Ong is significantly behind in terms of exposure and profile when compared with Heng Swee Keat and Chan Chun Sing. But as Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) and Second Minister for Defence, he is in the thick of two key ministries. He was also Chief Executive of the Workforce Development Agency and Deputy Chief Negotiator for the Singapore-US Free Trade Agreement.

Ong has a very staunch advocate and champion in Prof Tommy Koh, arguably Singapore’s most illustrious diplomat. Last January, Prof Koh told a conference that from his experience working with him, “I have the highest respect for Minister Ong and regard him as credible and the leading candidate to be our next prime minister.”

Those remarks more than anything suddenly shifted the spotlight to Ong because Prof Koh is known to be astute in judgement and judicious in his choice of words. Just over a month ago, Prof Koh again set tongues wagging with a Facebook post of a photo of himself with Ong and the telling endorsement: “He has both high IQ and EQ. He is charismatic and an eloquent speaker. He has good leadership qualities and is very likeable. He is a man of integrity.”

Ong has a stoic, steely focus and set views about what works for the country and the PAP. He has said that one-party rule is the best way for a small country like Singapore to succeed. An indication perhaps that he would be prepared to do what’s necessary to shore up the power and dominance of the PAP.

He is also sharp-tongued – recently chastising MP Louis Lim for saying that public officers dare not speak up for fear of getting into trouble. Ong, who spearheads public innovation efforts, warned against “generalisations that tar the entire (public) service” and rounded it off in a caustic tone: “So I say to Mr Louis Ng, be part of the change, be part of the change . . .” The MP was stung. He beat a hasty retreat, assuring that he would be careful about making generalisations in future.

If made PM, Ong would have beaten the odds, surging ahead of more fancied and more high profile candidates in Heng Swee Keat and Chan Chun Sing. He is not to be counted out – yet.

There’s something about Ong which speaks volumes. To get a grip on it, let’s turn to celebrated manga artist Hiroyu Oku who said: “The killer instinct is not perceived by words, but by look.”

Ong Ye Kung has the look of one who is cool, calm, composed – and calculated. He is more caustic and more unnerving than any other 4G politician. He is to be underestimated at one’s peril.


  1. Call it any way you want but nobody trusts Ministers from the PAP camp! They have sold their trust for some cheap half-truths, no truths, and a full measure of arrogance! Doesn’t make a difference if its Heng, or Chan or Ong. They are all cut from the same cloth, same print, same threat -pardon the pun! Nothing will change. We will be governed to our doom with the PAP’s constipated, self -serving, kiausu, doublespeak, paranoid, clueless, greater than thou arrogance!

    We need a clean slate to navigate from impending doom, not a regurgitated, recycled, stale, unimaginative, gutless, opague, grossly incompetent bad paper cutout clones

  2. There is not a single PAP that is not ministerial material much worse PM material. All those mentioned in the running including the current PM can be found at the bottom of the rubbish heap.

    Sinkapore is doomed and the current PAP is responsible.

  3. I have all along believe that he is the chosen one by PAP. He ought to have been Minister after GE2011 & he would have 2 full terms with portfolio, if not for the shock loss in Aljunied. I suspect why lhl is holding on from stepping down is to buy time for Ong to accumulate the required time for his Ministerial portfolio.

  4. Actually. We need a government who starts focussing on the Singaporean man in the streets. Instead on trying to achieve smart nation status that benefits the rich and foreigners. If they can rule with the heart again; the Singaporean dream can return. We feel so neglected!

  5. Tommy Koh is nothing more than a law academic. Beyond that, his view on world politics and running the country is limited. Basically he is a lemming to the old man. Sinkies should research back to his past speeches when he was Singapore’s ambassador to US and UN. A support from him does not weigh much.

    Ong’s notable policy announcement is a great disappointment, which is to continue the cap of locals to university at around 20%, in this era of globalisation and knowledge economy. His career history revolves around the PAP establishment and has no other independent venture of his own. This shows he is rather thin in ability of running or turning around the ailing country. In short, he is just another extension of PAP policy, voting for him is to vote for more of the same.

    • You sounds like a great MAN! Not a single soul can match your expectation! What credential you have? You must have more than Tommy Koh that Singaporean are not aware??
      You standing for election next GE? Or may be you can pull a team with great international exposure and credentials to fight against PAP. I love to vote you and see how you bring Singapore Forward!!!
      Can give some thinkers of your thought, don’t give the craps of political bias ideas….real ideas in this “era of globalisation and knowledge economy” to ratchet Singapore a knot further up! Singapore is hungry for one with real ability to lead, you also need people to support you, don’t put everyone down and left you alone fighting the world lah!

    • Once co-opted, i think almost impossible to vote nay. What to do..? LHL decides ministers’ performance bonus and influences progression. and wife HC holds the fort that influences GLC career hopes. The minimum any PAP mp can do is abstain when PAP GenSec (ie. LHL) opens it up. Even then, an MP do so at the risk of his/her career prospects. hehehe.. macam like secret society. No?

  6. It is futile of Vincent Low, a past shittytimes reporter, to raise any test balloons on existing PAP candidates, which are basically the creators of current huge mess and not any good for future of Singapore.
    Any hope of better future should not be from amongst the PAP jokers.

  7. This gong guy still holding on to outdated view of autocratic one party rule is best for sg. The current mess is the sole creation of Pappies without any checks.
    He wants to control number of graduates and their salaries.
    Keeping low does not always imply killer instincts, likely more of self preservation.

    • Do you still hold deal to your communism view and doctrine? That’s why you called him a traitor?
      You likely to be banished to small village to work and strengthen your mind in the old Chian. But mind you your commitment to the old communist party view has no place in the new China.

  8. He was the one who said we need less graduates and more diplomas. If you are not a graduate at the current climate, you are likely not given the opportunity to hold any leadership or managerial appointments, which the consequence is very obvious. he was also one of those who lost together with George Yeo. If he is the anointed one, then he should stand on his own and not hide behind GRC blanket. I personally thinks he is not.

  9. The only instinct all of them has is the kissass instinct.
    The moment their pink master appears, all of them get down on their knees and start kissing his ass.

    Sorry my bad. I forgot there’s another one. Filch and siphon as much as possible before the curtains come down then they can live like kings in the country of their choice whilst the people are left to deal with the tragedy that unfolds.

  10. Singapore under the leadership of GCT and LHL we have seen how Singapore has been deteriorating. Many of PAP policies have backfired and irreversible. For instance two family, graduates marrying graduates, Monetizing your HDB, GRC (The intention is to parachute unpopular and unpleasant PAP candidate into Parliament) just to name a few. Imagine our Ministers are paid more than world leaders from the UK, Australia, China and so on. Many old building have been

  11. Whether it’s Heng,Chan or Ong the sugarcane machine will continue to work hard. They will squueze slowly but surely all that you have. We are the sugarcane. So 70% you want to continue with this and be squeezed till you sre dry?

  12. Ant politician who favours a 1 party state and will do anything to preserve it is unfit to govern.
    The population has just bitterly learnt that voting to lessen the trauma (aka Lee Kwan yew’s death) was the most imprudent and contrary to their interest decision they’ve made so far. They won’t let that happen. again

      • Dog bohlampar only bark behind…….
        Brave man stand in the front…..
        Right or wrong, someone has to make decision and steer for Singapore!
        You have good brain, stand up and lead with bothlampar!
        A barking dog has bohlampar!

  13. if we are given a choice, i think most singaporean will vote THARMAN to be the next PM. we do not need a killer to be the next PM. Who do we want to kill at the first place. this fellow is dangerous, he is both cunning and slimy

  14. I suspect the reason he lost in Kaki Bukit of the Aljunied GRC is because the old folks in the constituency see him as a dishonourable son.
    Let me explain. In an interview with MSM during GE 2011 he talked about how he was approached by PAP in GE 2006 but decided not to accept because of his father’s opposition. When asked if his father now agreed to his PAP candidacy, he said YES. We now know that his father Ong Lian Teng died in June 2009!
    After the loss in GE2011, he was offered a job with NTUC to serve the people in another way. In Nov 2012, he quit as deputy Secretary General. In Jan 2013, it was reported that he joined Keppel Corp. So much for the desire to serve the people!
    He is no doubt eloquent; having served as Press Secretary for the PM and later PPS. And he made good use of his relationship with the journalists to get maximum publicity sometimes to the detriment of his cabinet colleagues.
    I give you an example. Recently he was given press coverage of an event for new textbooks for pre-school children; saying that the new textbooks give more local contents. One would have thought that the Minister to announce this would be the other Minister of Education Ng Chee Meng who is Minister of Education (Schools). But Mr Ong took the limelight with the excuse that the text books were compiled by the Confucius Institute staff!
    I give you another example. On a Sunday in 2015 after Cabinet was announced, he did a walk-about in Sembawang. He seized the opportunity to tell the journalists how the Education ministry would allow Singaporeans to study where their passion flows. Next day, the Education Ministry issued a statement to say that the Ministry is run by TWO ministers!

  15. “So Ong has lived through a baptism of fire and high drama and has “jumped ship” from his father. Put together, they may not be bad credentials to boast of because it can be argued that his resolve has been toughened and his mettle and strength of character tested.”


  16. Do what needs to be done people(non-tourists). Vote for the balance in the next election. You have more than enough material from the past to study the irrational fears of fools that vote for their own doom through the paradoxical belief of self-protection.

    The fools I am referring to are those that were raised here since birth or a very young age with no other place to go to.

    The tourists that will come and go to Singapore hotel (be they a convert to PRs or even the Singaporean ICs holder to gain the benefits) should be assumed to not vote for the right choice, thus the only sensible play left is to vote wisely, fellow true blue Singaporeans. Either that or vote with your slippers haha.

  17. not a filial son, just like that puthu boy who evaded ns.
    what fire? lost one election? no big deal.
    I don’t see he has a brain of his own. power hungry clown who wants one party dominance.
    killer instinct? more like a nasty fela.
    why didn’t he just admit it – that civil serpents are afraid to speak up?
    calm? stoic? more like a 2 face smiling tiger.
    done nothing significant.