Unraveling the Enigma: The Mysterious Disappearance of the Men-in-White in March 2015

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They were always there for as long as I could remember. One or two of them would come to our house almost every week to talk to my dad, and neighbours. They asked him what issues he might have regarding anything really. Whatever my dad raised, they would promise to do something about it and come back to him with some answers. They always returned. Most times, my dad seemed quite happy with whatever actions reportedly taken.

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I grew up accustomed to see them around the community. On some occasions, they would wear their all-white signature shirts and pants, or skirts for the ladies. Later, a book would be written about these Men-in-White, or MIW, members of the People’s Action Party (PAP) who formed the government of Singapore since 1959. The book Men In White: The Untold Stories Of Singapore’s Ruling Political Party chronicles the PAP’s struggles during its early years, its eventual rise to power and current success, and is an easy fascinating read which guarantees to spark the readers’ imagination.

Illustration by www.carousell.sg


On 23 March 2015, Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s first Prime Minister (1965–1990) and Minister Mentor (MM) till 2011, and the Founder of modern Singapore passed away at the age of 91 years old.

During the following National Mourning Week (23–29 March 2015), I did not see any MIW.

Indeed, where did the MIW go as the nation engulfed in sorrow and grief? He was one of the Founders of the PAP, and the longest Secretary-General of the Party of MIWs; their Grandmaster, their Paramount Leader, their Mentor, Advisor and General of Generals who led the MIW from victory to victory at every general election battle after battle over the past 50 years!

Did the MIW scatter upon the death of their first leader Lee Kuan Yew? Lee’s son, Hsien Loong, in 2015 was the 3rd Prime Minister, after PM Goh Chok Tong. Were the MIW so devastated by the loss of MM Lee that they became dissipated, disorganised and disappeared?

I investigated the strange disappearance of the ubiquitous Men-in-White members of the PAP rank and file. Here’s my first-hand Exposé Report on the missing MIW.

The first discovery was that the MIW did not disappear during the National Mourning Week. It was such a relief and comfort. Yes, their PAP Branches remained opened as per their weekly schedule from Monday to Friday. Yes, the MIW were there as usual serving the residents who came to see them. However deep their sorrows and grief over the death of Lee, the MIW remembered that the weekly Meet-the-People Session (MPS) were instituted personally by Lee Kuan Yew to connect the PAP to the people regularly. This Mission continues relentlessly even as MM Lee rested in state at the Istana’s Sri Temasek and Parliament House.

The people’s issues and grievances have to be heard; their petitions to appropriate government bodies advocated, and they have to be assured of being represented, so that the masses’ confidence in the “Party of the People” be always reinforced and sustained. For the MIW, the PAP is always there to help lift up the poor, assist in the healing of the sick and the protection of the weak. Overall, the continuing Mission of the MIW is to assure, ensure and create the greatest benefits, the greater good, for the largest number of Singaporeans for a more secure future and better society for them, their children and their children’s children.

During the National Mourning Week period (23–29 March 2015), the MIW were in fact everywhere, somewhere and anywhere the observance activities were taking place. And then some.

The MIW were there among the people queuing up to 6–10 hours along Clarke Quay, UOB Plaza, One Fullerton and the Cavenagh Bridge on Wednesday, as well as the Padang over the entire Mourning Week. As always, the MIW enjoy no special privileges, priority or special shorter queue, and they also help to ferry the old and elderly as well as distribute water to the people in the queue.

No, we did not see the MIW in their customary white attires.

The Men-in-White had joined common cause with the people-in-black, united in the common painful sorrow of the death of the People’s Champion. They were indistinguishable. Dressed mentally in common black, the MIW and people entwined in painful grief as they comfort one another to make the transition easier to bear. The pain grew deep and unbearable to be intolerable at times during the funeral procession on Sunday, 29 March 2015.

Together, they were one; united in loss, side-by-side as one people, facing tomorrow as one nation and reaching beyond their grasp towards realizing the fuller vision of the remarkably extraordinary man who took us on the road of no return arriving at the Metropolis which he promised, and which he has now entrusted and bequeathed to us all — MIW and people — to be One People and One Nation forever.


The Mystery solved — the MIW did not disappear during the National Mourning Week (23–29 March 2015).

They are always with us and never left us under any circumstances. In times like the mourning and passing of our Father of the Nation, it is refreshing to know that MM Lee has left behind his MIW to guide, comfort and lead Singapore through whatever challenges and prospects await us. We shall know that MM Lee is always with us, his legacies are our foundation and his words of wisdom our pillars, as long as the Men-In-White are around.

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