“At the same time, I will continue serving Singaporeans honestly and to the best of my ability. In particular that means upholding meritocracy, which is a fundamental value of our society.”
An open feud among the family of Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong deepened Wednesday after the premier’s two younger siblings said they feared for their safety because they felt their elder brother was using state organs to harass them.
The premier immediately fired back, slamming his siblings for issuing a statement “publicising private family matters”. The Lees are the children of Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s revered founding prime minister who died aged 91 in 2015 after a political career spanning over five decades.
The two younger siblings Lee Hsien Yang and Lee Wei Ling in their online statement early Wednesday had said the harassment they were facing was so grave that “Hsien Yang feels compelled to leave Singapore”.
“Since the passing of Lee Kuan Yew, on 23 March 2015, we have felt threatened by Hsien
Loong’s misuse of his position and influence over the Singapore government and its agencies to drive his personal agenda,” the two younger siblings said in a Facebook statement.
“We feel big brother omnipresent. We fear the use of the organs of state against us and Hsien Yang’s wife, Suet Fern,” they said in the six-page statement. It was titled “What has happened to Lee Kuan Yew’s values?”
Lee Wei Ling is a top neurosurgeon, while her brother, Lee Hsien Yang is a former military general who has held various corporate portfolios including a 12-year stint as chief executive of SingTel. He is currently chairman of the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore.
The premier said he was “deeply saddened by the unfortunate allegations that they have made.”
“While siblings may have differences, I believe that any such differences should stay in the family…My siblings’ statement has hurt our father’s legacy,” he said.
“Since my father’s passing in March 2015, as the eldest son I have tried my best to resolve the issues among us within the family, out of respect for our parents.”
He added: “As my siblings know, I am presently overseas on leave with my family. I will consider this matter further after I return this weekend.”
The feuding comes almost a year after Lee Wei Ling took to Facebook last April to accuse her brother of abusing his power and forming a political dynasty.
Her social media comments criticising her brother after their father’s death have given rise to intense public debate about a split in the Lee family, which remains widely respected in the tiny Southeast Asian city state.
The elder Lee is widely recognised as the architect of Singapore’s meteoric rise from developing status to one of Asia’s most affluent cities within one generation. He however faced criticism for his strongman governance style during his 31 year tenure as prime minister from 1959 to 1990.
Lee Hsien Loong took over as premier from the elder Lee’s successor Goh Chok Tong in 2004.
The current premier has largely avoided sparring with his sister in public.
After her comments last year, he said was “deeply saddened”. “The accusations are completely untrue,” he said at the time. Lee’s office told This Week in Asia it was preparing a response to this morning statement by his siblings.
The two siblings, the executors of the elder Lee’s will, said in their statement that they felt their brother wants to go against their father’s expressed wishes on the fate of the family home after his death.
Lee in his will had ordered it to be demolished soon after his death or after Lee Wei Ling, who was living with her father for years, moved out.
The younger siblings said that instead of following through with the will, the premier was planning to preserve the house as that “would enhance his political capital”. They said the preservation of the house would allow the premier to “inherit a tangible monument to Lee Kuan Yew’s authority”.
“We are private citizens with no political ambitions. We have nothing to gain from the demolition of 38 Oxley Road [Lee Kuan Yew’s home], other than the knowledge that we have honoured our father’s last wish,” the two younger Lee siblings said.
Premier Lee has previously said he had“recused himself from all government decisions” involving the house, and personally wanted his father’s wishes to be honoured.
Lee, who led Singapore to a crushing election victory in a 2015 general election held months after his father’s death, is seen by observers as widely popular because of his convivial nature and extensive use of social media. The ruling People’s Action Party holds 83 out of 89 parliamentary seats.
In his statement on Wednesday Lee said “I will do my utmost to continue to do right by my parents.”