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  World   Asia  15 Jun 2017  Singapore First Family’s private feud goes public

Singapore First Family’s private feud goes public

Published : Jun 15, 2017, 3:25 am IST
Updated : Jun 15, 2017, 3:25 am IST

The siblings also said that the Prime Minister and his wife “harbour political ambitions for their son, Li Hongyi.”

Lee Hsien Loong
 Lee Hsien Loong

Singapore: Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s younger brother and sister said on Wednesday they have lost confidence in the nation’s leader and fear “the use of the organs of the state against us.”

“We are concerned that the system has few checks and balances to prevent the abuse of government. We feel big brother omnipresent,” Lee Wei Ling and Lee Hsien Yang said in a joint news release and an accompanying six-page statement issued at 2 am Singapore time.

As a result, Lee Hsien Yang and his wife, Lee Suet Fern, would be leaving Singapore. “I have no desire to leave. Hsien Loong is the only reason for my departure,” he said.

“We feel hugely uncomfortable and closely monitored in our own country,” they said, in a rare public display of discord at the top of a city state that usually keeps such matters behind closed doors.

In a statement, the Prime Minister denied the allegations made by his siblings, and said he was very disappointed that they have chosen to publicise private family matters.

“While siblings may have differences, I believe that any such differences should stay in the family,” added Lee, who is overseas on holiday with his family.

At the heart of the family dispute is whether a house in which their father, Lee Kuan Yew, lived most of his life should be demolished. He was the first Prime Minister of Singapore and ruled the country for three decades with an iron hand, transforming the city-state from a relatively poor British colony into one of the world’s wealthiest and most stable societies.

Before he died in 2015, the founding father of modern Singapore made it public that he wanted the house, a humbly furnished home with retro furniture near the bustling Orchard shopping district, demolished.

But the Prime Minister’s siblings claim that he and his wife, Ho Ching, had opposed the wish, to “milk Lee Kuan Yew’s legacy for their own political purposes”. They claimed that the preservation of the house would enhance their brother’s political capital.

The siblings also said that the Prime Minister and his wife “harbour political ambitions for their son, Li Hongyi.”

In his statement, Prime Minister Lee said he and his wife, who is chief executive of state investment firm Temasek Holdings (which had global assets worth $180 billion as of March 2016), “especially” denied the allegation that they had political ambitions for their son, saying it was “absurd”.

Though the siblings provided no specific evidence of action by the Singapore government against them, Hsien Yang said in an interview, “There are many ways that messages get sent to people to make them feel unwelcome and I have received many messages. Not from my brother because we communicate via lawyers.”  

The Prime Minister’s son, Li Hongyi, who previously worked for Google as a product manager and studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, currently works for a state technology agency.

Tags: lee hsien loong, temasek holdings