Outgoing Chief of Defence Force Ng Chee Meng to enter politics

Tipped to stand as a PAP candidate, he will be highest-ranking officer to join ruling party

Lieutenant- General Ng Chee Meng, the outgoing Chief of Defence Force, with his wife Michelle after his final flight on the F-5 last week. The father of two, who took a few months to decide on whether he wanted to enter politics, believes he has the
Lieutenant- General Ng Chee Meng, the outgoing Chief of Defence Force, with his wife Michelle after his final flight on the F-5 last week. The father of two, who took a few months to decide on whether he wanted to enter politics, believes he has the right leadership and organisation skills to serve in a new capacity if called upon to do so.PHOTO: REPUBLIC OF SINGAPORE AIR FORCE

Outgoing Chief of Defence Force Ng Chee Meng has confirmed that he will enter politics, pledging that he will consult widely, listen and have the humility to seek the best ideas from people.

Lieutenant-General Ng revealed his plans in a media interview yesterday before a full-regalia parade during which he handed over command to Major-General Perry Lim.

He said: "I have decided with the blessings of my family to step forward... to serve the Singapore where I grew up, giving me all the opportunities through our meritocratic system, which is not something that I've seen in many parts of the world.

"I'm indebted to Singapore and grateful for the opportunities."

LG Ng, 47, who is married with two daughters, said he holds closely to his heart the spirit of "yin shui si yuan" - the Chinese saying for remembering one's roots.

  • Playful boy who had happy childhood

  • Growing up in a family of five boys, Lieutenant-General Ng Chee Meng considered himself the naughtiest of the lot.

    "I had a happy childhood and was very playful.

    "My other brothers used to be more serious and studious," he told The Straits Times.

    LG Ng is often associated with two of his brothers who, like him, served in the Singapore Armed Forces.

    Older brother Chee Khern, 48, was the former air force chief and now Permanent Secretary (Defence Development), while younger brother Chee Peng, 45, stepped down as the navy chief last year and is now chief executive of the CPF Board. Both men had bagged the President's Scholarship.

    LG Ng, 47, was awarded the Singapore Armed Forces Overseas Training Award.

    While his journey started out differently from that of his two siblings, LG Ng went on to be a top gun in the air force as well as the head honcho of the SAF.

    As a three-star general, he will be the highest-ranking officer to enter politics.

    But politics was far from the outgoing defence chief's mind.

    He said: "I had three options: Go back to the administrative service, join the private sector or set up social enterprise and provide social services.

    "I never thought of politics... and was surprised when I was approached," said LG Ng, who volunteered in the Ang Mo Kio Family Service Centre for five years from 2009.

    LG Ng hopes to be part of the "good politics and good leadership" that are "essential for Singapore and for all of us to have a brighter future".

    He does not feel pressured when compared to former military men who are now in the Government, adding: "The responsibilities will be more front and centre than worrying about my reputation."

    Jermyn Chow

"When we have some success, take care of the rest. Make sure that we can create the same opportunities, if not better opportunities, for others and future generations to succeed," said LG Ng, who stepped down from the top military post after serving for 29 years.

Sources believe LG Ng will stand as a People's Action Party candidate and has the potential to become an office-holder. They say he is likely to be fielded alongside Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean in the Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC.

Speaking separately to The Straits Times, the former air force chief said his family had concerns about being in the public eye and he took "two to three months" to make a decision. LG Ng added: "Ultimately my family gave me their blessings and I can continue my duty and service to the country."

If LG Ng does stand for the PAP in an election, widely tipped to be held next month, the three-star general will be the highest-ranking Singapore Armed Forces officer in the party.

For the 2011 election, labour chief and former army chief Chan Chun Sing stepped down as a major-general (two-star) while Social and Family Development Minister Tan Chuan-Jin retired as a brigadier- general (one-star) to join the PAP.

LG Ng said that he will enter politics with "eyes wide open", adding: "I'm well prepared after being in the SAF for so long. I think I have the leadership and organisation skills to add value if I'm called to serve in a new capacity."

Even with several former military officers in Government, LG Ng said each has his own views and group-think can be minimised.

He said he will continue to speak his mind and "do what is right". As defence chief, he recently led preparations for the Golden Jubilee National Day Parade and the state funeral of Singapore's founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew.

He said the way Singaporeans united during the week of mourning for Mr Lee will be "an important and critical ingredient in our next lap together as Singaporeans".

Recapping his two years and eight months at its helm, LG Ng said the SAF is now in the "advanced stages" of its modernisation drive, adding: "I'm full of confidence in the next generation of commanders. They will carry on with the work. It was never about a single person in the SAF. We are always a command team."

In the speech he made at the parade, he said: "To all of you, my comrades in the SAF: You are the main source of my confidence, the strength of the SAF."

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen yesterday thanked LG Ng for his leadership in a Facebook post, adding: "As a fighter pilot, a proven leader who advanced to helm the entire SAF, I am confident that he will do well in all he undertakes. As he did in the SAF, he has the ability to take Singapore further."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 19, 2015, with the headline 'Outgoing defence chief to enter politics'. Subscribe