Lee Family Dirty Linen Washed in Public, PM Apologises

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Played out like a Hong Kong family drama series, the finale of the Lee family feud seems to be in sight after a convoluted web of events unravelled at rapid fire speed, culminating with the PM’s apology yesterday.

 

Chronology of Lee Family Saga

Jun 14, 2:00 am

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s sister, Lee Wei Ling, and brother, Lee Hsien Yang, released a statement online fraught with resentment and damning allegations.

  • They were disturbed by the character, conduct, motives and leadership of the PM and his wife, the influence of the first lady on government, and the PM harbouring political ambitions for his son Li Hongyi.
  • They felt hugely uncomfortable and closely monitored, and feared the use of state organs against them to the extent that Hsien Yang and his lawyer wife, Lee Suet-Fern, were compelled to flee the country.
  • They do not trust the PM as a brother or a leader, having lost confidence in him.
  • They claimed the PM abused his position to drive his personal agenda.
  • They alleged the PM was milking his father’s legacy for political purposes

Central to the six-page statement was the dispute over the fate of the family home. They claimed their late father, Lee Kuan Yew, wanted it demolished upon his death as he was against monuments and self-aggrandising, while the PM wanted to preserve the house to inherit a tangible monument to his father’s authority.

Jun 14, 9:41 am

The PM immediately fired back, slamming them on Facebook, saying he was very disappointed his siblings had chosen to issue a statement publicising private family matters. He added that he was deeply saddened by the unfortunate allegations.

Jun 15, 12:19 am 

Wei Ling, a top neurosurgeon, uploaded a new post, hitting out against the ministerial committee convened to weigh the options for the family house which was a private family matter.

She claimed the committee was set up with the PM’s consent and approval to get his way on the house, refuting the PM’s assertion that he was not involved in the committee.

Jun 15, 1:18 am

Wei Ling uploaded another post, saying the issue was more than just the status of the family house.

“If it were merely a family affair, we would not have taken it public”, she said, after the Singapore media portrayed the issue as a family feud.

She also lashed out at the PM and his wife, saying they were “finally showing their true colours” and that they were unsuitable as PM and PM’s wife.

Jun 15, 9:10 pm

In response, the PM’s lawyers released an edited summary of what he told the ministerial committee in his statutory declarations about Kuan Yew’s will.

Kuan Yew had seven wills. The first six were prepared by their cousin Kwa Kim Li, a lawyer at Lee & Lee, the firm co-founded by Kuan Yew and his wife. The final will was prepared by Suet-Fern’s law firm.

In the sixth version, Wei Ling was given an extra share of the estate while in the final version the estate was equally divided among the three siblings.

The house demolition clause was in the first to fourth versions but not in the fifth and sixth, and included again in the final version.

PM Lee raised questions about the role of Hsien Yang and Suet-Fern in preparing the final version of the will.

He disclosed Wei Ling once held grave suspicions that the removal of her extra share was instigated by Hsien Yang and his wife.

He also questioned the re-insertion of the demolition clause into the final will.

“There is no evidence that Mr Lee even knew that the demolition clause had been re-inserted into the last will,” he stated.

AFP/Getty Images

Where the warring siblings previously communicated via their lawyers, being not on talking terms, they now traded blows over Facebook.

June 15, 4:04 pm

Hsien Yang posted that a statement the PM made in Parliament contradicted the statutory declarations he made to the ministerial committee.

Jun 15, 9:25 pm

In this post, Hsien Yang accused the PM of lying to Parliament and under oath.

He also said, in response to the PM questioning his and his wife’s role in preparing the final will, that his wife’s firm assisted with the will at their father’s request.

Jun 15, 9:33 pm

In response to the PM questioning the demolition clause and the allegation that there was no evidence their father even knew it had been re-inserted, Hsien Yang published the said clause, complete with Kuan Yew’s signature at the bottom.

Jun 15, 10:16 pm

Calling the PM’s wordy rebuttal dishonest and mischievous, Wei Ling said he selectively used quotes from her and took them out of context to suggest that Hsien Yang and Suet-Fern were trying to cheat her out of her extra share.

She claimed she had repeatedly made clear to the PM and his wife that there was no duplicity by her younger brother and his wife.

Jun 16, 7:32 am

The PM had also alleged that his siblings had not responded to the committee’s questions about how the last will was prepared and the role his wife and her firm played in preparing the will.

Hsien Yang called it a lie, claiming they had replied on Feb 28 that the final will was not drafted by his wife’s firm.

Jun 16, 1:05 pm

Hsien Yang elaborated that the final will was drafted by Kwa Kim Li and his wife had merely assisted in drafting a paragraph as directed by Kuan Yew, and when he was satisfied, he asked Kwa to insert it into his will.

Jun 16

Kwa Kim Li denied preparing the final will.

Jun 16

Suet-Fern stepped down as managing partner but will continue to helm the firm’s international leadership team and spend time between Singapore and Hong Kong.

Third Generation

Along the way, the third generation jumped into the fray.

“For what it is worth, I really have no interest in politics,” Li Hongyi, the PM’s son, wrote in a Facebook post.

Hsien Yang’s son, Li Shengwu, wrote two short posts.

In the first one, he denounced his uncle with the same sentiments as his father and aunt.

In the subsequent post, he wrote, “Not only do I intend never to go into politics, I believe that it would be bad for Singapore if any third-generation Lee went into politics. The country must be bigger than one family.”

Apology

Yesterday, PM Lee issued a statement, apologising to Singaporeans for the dispute between him and his siblings.

He said he deeply regrets that the dispute has affected the country’s reputation and Singaporeans’ confidence in the government, adding that the matter will not distract him and his cabinet from governing the island state.

He also said that he will make a ministerial statement to refute the allegations when Parliament sits on Jul 3.

Finale

With that, it is hoped that the Lee family fracas is coming to an end as it had gotten Singaporeans fretting, with leaders urging the siblings to close the ugly chapter of the saga.

Reportedly, the mainland Chinese have been gloating over the feud, taking to social media to vent about the “anti-China” administration.

Elsewhere, after the initial gripping revelations, interest on the spat has waned as it progressed into a childish and tedious mud fight.

That there is a lot of bad blood that runs deep in the family is obvious and resolving the issues is best done with dignity, in private, perhaps with an arbitrator.

You would think that is a no-brainer for professionals in high offices, no?