Ong Eng Guan

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Ong Eng Guan
Minister of National Development (Singapore)
In office
5 June 1959 – 20 June 1960
Prime MinisterLee Kuan Yew
Preceded byOffice created
Succeeded byToh Chin Chye (acting)
Member of the Legislative Assembly
for Hong Lim
In office
1 July 1959 – July 1965 (resigned)
Preceded byConstituency created for 30 May 1959 general election for the Legislative Assembly
Succeeded byLee Khoon Choy
Majority11.2% (1,277)
Personal details
Died2008 (aged 83)
Political partyPeople's Action Party
United People's Party

Ong Eng Guan (Chinese: 王永元; pinyin: Wáng Yǒng Yuán; 1925 in Malacca, Malaya – 2008) was a Hokkien Singaporean politician. An anti-communist, he was a Chinese-educated orator who was one of the pioneer members of the People's Action Party (PAP). Ong was well-known among the Chinese community in Singapore. He was elected to the City Council of Singapore and became to date the first and only duly elected mayor of Singapore in the 21 December 1957 fully elected City Council Election, after the PAP won 13 out of 32 City Council seats. Ong's anti-colonial stance shocked the British government and every City Council meetings then were considered entertainment for the spectators there.

Ong continued to run the City Council from December 1957 till April 1959 when he resigned to contest in the first fully elected Legislative Assembly and subsequently the PAP gained control of the Legislative Assembly in 1959, when Ong was appointed Singapore's first ever National Development Minister and the new Singapore government began assuming functions of the council. Ong was unhappy with Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew and his cabinet for a variety of issues, including the abolition of the City Council. In June 1960 Ong tabled 16 resolutions to the Central Executive Committee that challenged the party leadership, after which he was sacked from the cabinet and expelled from the PAP.[1][2] Later he resigned from the Legislative Assembly, forcing the government to hold by-elections. Ong stood as an independent and he won the Hong Lim by-election defeating PAP candidate Jek Yeun Thong, which proved a blow to the PAP for the leaders had campaigned non-stop for Jek but Ong was too popular in the Chinese community and so Jek lost the elections. During the 1963 elections, Ong formed the United People's Party (UPP) to contest it but lost heavily winning only one out of 46 seats the party contested, the only seat was won by Ong himself. He quit the Assembly[3] and retired from public life in June 1965 citing infrequent sitting of the Legislative Assembly as the reason. According to news reports in 2012, Ong died in 2008 at the age of 83.[4]

In the new book launched in 2009 titled "Men In White", it was revealed for the first time that in choosing who was to be the first prime minister of Singapore by the PAP central executive committee, Ong lost to Lee Kuan Yew by just one deciding vote which was cast by Toh Chin Chye.[5]


  1. ^ "Ong: The Full Story". The Straits Times. 21 June 1960. p. 1.
  2. ^ "Ong Eng Guan Shock". The Straits Times. 20 June 1960. p. 1.
  3. ^ "Mr. Ong Quits The Assembly". The Straits Times. 17 June 1965. p. 1.
  4. ^
  5. ^ Sonny Yap; Richard Lim; Weng Kam Leong (2009). Men in White: The Untold Story of Singapore's Ruling Political Party. Singapore Press Holdings. ISBN 978-981-4266-24-6.