Scholar, civil servant and man of many hats: 5 things about ex-WP MP Leon Perera, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

Scholar, civil servant and man of many hats: 5 things about ex-WP MP Leon Perera

This article is more than 12 months old

Workers’ Party MP Leon Perera has resigned from the party, barely a term after he was elected as part of the opposition party’s Aljunied GRC team in 2020.

The 53-year-old stepped down on Wednesday after his affair with fellow WP member Nicole Seah was exposed on Monday, when a video began circulating online.

The video, which showed him stroking her hand at a restaurant, set tongues wagging, with sources telling The Straits Times that the affair had gone on for some time. Also, WP leaders were informed of the inappropriate relationship in early 2021, but Mr Perera denied it when questioned.

Here is what you need to know about the married father of two.

1. Stellar academic performer

Before he became a Public Service Commission scholar, Mr Perera studied at Anglo-Chinese School and subsequently Hwa Chong Junior College.

He spent his undergraduate years at the University of Oxford, where he graduated from Exeter College – the university’s fourth-oldest college – with a double first-class honours degree in philosophy, politics and economics. 

He was awarded the Gibbs Prize in politics – an award given to undergraduates who demonstrate outstanding performance – in 1992, his final year at Oxford.

2. Former civil servant

Following his graduation, Mr Perera joined the public service in 1992, working in the Economic Development Board (EDB). 

As a senior officer in the statutory board’s International Business Development Division, he was involved in policy planning that supported the Republic’s regional investments.

He later became the assistant head of the EDB’s Enterprise Development Division, and assisted in the growth of large Singaporean companies in the service sector, which spanned several industries.

He served most of his bond and told ST in a 2015 interview that he “liquidated the final part, which is a small portion”, without elaborating further.

3. Man of many hats

After his stint in the public service, Mr Perera headed the consulting arm of a private company.

Then, in 2000, he co-founded his own – Spire Research and Consulting, which specialises in research and consultancy for global emerging markets.

He was its chief executive until 2021, and saw the business expand to more than 100 cities across the world. He currently sits as its chairman.

Besides his professional endeavours, he also volunteered, including with a family service centre and several non-profit organisations.

Mr Perera (right) with fellow party member Gerald Giam (centre) in September 2015. Mr Perera made his political debut during the 2015 General Election, when he was part of the WP’s East Coast GRC team. PHOTO: ST FILE

He was previously a committee member with local human rights group Maruah and served on the board of the Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics.

In 2016, he stepped down as an adviser to socio-political site The Independent, which was then being investigated for violating election advertising rules. He was not involved in the operating of the site.

4. Political milestones

Initially a volunteer with the WP in early 2013, Mr Perera became a full-fledged party member half a year later.

He joined on the belief that more people are needed to build a more responsible opposition, he told ST in 2015.

During the 2015 General Election, he was one of WP’s candidates for East Coast GRC, although they lost against the incumbent People’s Action Party, receiving 39.27 per cent of the vote.

Mr Perera (left) during the Workers’ Party’s unveiling of new candidates for the 2015 General Election. PHOTO: ST FILE

Despite that, he became a Non-Constituency MP (NCMP), as they had received the third-highest percentage of votes among unelected opposition candidates.

Following that election, Mr Perera was co-opted into the party’s Central Executive Council, its top decision-making body, and earmarked for the next generation of leaders.

In June 2016, he was appointed the deputy chair of WP’s media team, and in April 2018, concurrently became president of the party’s youth wing.

He made his political breakthrough in the 2020 General Election, when he was part of the team that retained Aljunied GRC, making him a full-fledged MP for the residents in the Serangoon division.

The following year, he was promoted to the head of WP’s media team, while leadership of the youth wing passed over to Ms Nicole Seah.

5. Private about family

Mr Perera seldom talks about his family publicly.

He met his wife Carol, who is three years younger than him, through a mutual friend, and got married in 2003.

“She is my life coach and we co-create many ideas, decisions and approaches to things,” he was quoted as saying in 2020 in a photo essay by local photojournalist Edwin Koo.

She is a former civil servant and gave up her career in 2005 when their daughter was born.

He also has a son, who is now in his teens.

On June 22, he shared on Instagram that he had “a little celebration dinner” to mark the Dragon Boat Festival, in a rare post that mentioned his family.

Mr Leon Perera shared about this year's Dragon Boat Festival in a rare post mentioning his family, whom he is very private about. PHOTO: LEON PERERA/INSTAGRAM

The dinner was also a family get-together before the school term resumed the following week, said Mr Perera, who reminisced about his children’s younger days.

“It almost seems like yesterday when we were watching movies like Frozen and The Incredibles repeatedly! 

“As tired parents, we would pick up toys strewn all over the floor in exasperation... but looking back now, what would we give to have those moments back again!”