Ong Pang Boon

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Ong Pang Boon
Native name 王邦文
Born (1929-03-28) 28 March 1929 (age 87)
Kuala Lumpur
Citizenship Singaporean Citizen
Occupation Politician
Political party PAP logo variation.pngPeople's Action Party
Spouse(s) Chan Choy Siong (陈翠嫦)[1]
This is a Chinese name; the family name is Ong.

Ong Pang Boon (Chinese: 王邦文; pinyin: Wáng Bāng Wén; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: Ông Pang-bûn) was a prominent first generation People's Action Party (PAP) politician in Singapore.

Early life and education[edit]

Born in Kuala Lumpur, he was educated in a Chinese primary school, a Confucian middle school, Methodist Boys' School (Kuala Lumpur), and later attained a geography degree at the then University of Malaya in Singapore, the predecessor of the University of Singapore (US)/National University of Singapore (NUS).

Political career[edit]

In 1955, Ong's foray into politics began as a polling agent for Lee Kuan Yew in the 1955 legislative assembly election.

In 1956, Lee wrote to Ong and offered him a job as party organising secretary for the PAP.[2]

He stood for election in the 21 December 1957 for the fully elected City Council of Singapore as a candidate for the Tanjong Pagar ward and was successfully returned and became the Deputy Mayor, the first and only ever till his resignation in April 1959 to contest the first full-elected Legislative Assembly as PAP's candidate for Telok Ayer.

In 1959, he entered the Legislative Assembly as a member for Telok Ayer in the 1959 general elections, a seat he retained till his retirement in 1984. He was subsequently appointed Minister for Home Affairs in the first self-government Cabinet and played a key role to eradicating yellow culture and crime in the Singapore society. His cabinet appointment also made him part of the Internal Security Council which sanctioned Operation Coldstore in 1963.

From 1963 to 1970, Ong took on the highly sensitive Education ministerial portfolio at a time when Chinese language culture and education issues were highly politicized. By increasing the teaching of English in Chinese schools and vice versa, he was instrumental in laying the foundation for the bilingual policy of which Singapore is famed for.

In 1970, Ong became the Labour Minister.

In 1980, he took over as the Environment Minister.

In 1984, he retired from politics to make way for younger leaders. However, he displayed some unhappiness at the pace and manner of how he was sidelined from the political scene. Lee recognised Ong's displeasure in a public letter of appreciation:

“... I agree with you. You also had misgivings (about some newcomers), as had the late Dr Toh Chin Chye, over the speed of self-renewal and the effect it was having on the morale of the old guard MPs.”[3]

Ong is considered as one of the 'Old Guard' - the first generation of leaders of independent Singapore. He is one of its remaining living members, outliving Lee Kuan Yew, along others like Othman Wok, Jek Yeun Thong and Chor Yeok Eng.[4][5]


  1. ^ Koh, Jaime. "Ong Pang Boon". Singapore Infopedia. National Library Board. Retrieved 20 April 2015. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ Lee in Lam and Tan, p.165
  4. ^ "Old Guard pay their last respects". Today. Retrieved 29 March 2015. 
  5. ^ "List of Old Guard at Special Parliamentary Sitting, 26 Mar 2015" (PDF). Remembering Lee Kuan Yew. Singapore Ministry of Communications and Information. Retrieved 29 March 2015. 


  • Lam, Peng Er and Tan, Kevin (Ed.) (2000). Lee's lieutenants : Singapore's old guard. Singapore: Allen & Unwin. ISBN 1-86508-172-8