Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong publicly denounced by siblings
Posted June 14
The brother and sister of Singaporean premier Lee Hsien Loong have taken the extraordinary step of publicly questioning his leadership and motives in a statement released Wednesday.
"Lee Wei Ling and Lee Hsien Yang, the younger children of Singapore's founding prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew, are disturbed by the character, conduct, motives and leadership of their brother, Lee Hsien Loong, and the role of his wife, Ho Ching," the statement says.
The statement accuses their brother, who took the reins of power over a decade after their father retired, of "misuse of his position and influence over the Singapore government to drive his personal agenda."
Lee Hsien Yang will leave Singapore for the foreseeable future, the statement adds, fearing "the use of the organs of state against us," and Hsien Yang's wife, Suet Fern.
"Singapore is and remains my country," Hsien Yang said in the joint statement. "I have no desire to leave. Hsien Loong is the only reason for my departure."
It is the second time the feud has been made public -- the two younger children also accused the prime minister of abusing his power in 2016, in the run-up to the first anniversary of their father's death.
Southeast Asian dynasty
The younger siblings say their brother's path was smoothed by the family's patriarch, and founder of the city-state, who is revered in Singapore.
The Lee family looms large over Singapore's establishment, and the internal strife, while not unknown, will come as a shock due to the public manner in which it has been aired. The authoritarian city-state, which won its independence from Malaysia in the 1960s, has very strict laws regarding free speech and the media.
While the elder Lee was lauded for his economic accomplishments, he also created a Singapore bound by stringent laws and regulations that dictated most, if not all, aspects of society -- including media and political freedoms, censorship and even the selling of chewing gum.
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Lee Kuan Yew, who is credited with turning Singapore from a resource-poor colonial trading post into one of the world's most successful economies, died in 2015. He served as leader from 1959 to 1990, making him the longest-serving Prime Minister in history.
The younger Lee became the country's third prime minister in 2004. He most recently won reelection in a landslide in 2015.
"Nobody ever doubted that Lee Kuan Yew always held the best interests of Singapore and Singaporeans at heart. He was authentic and spoke his mind. The same cannot be said for our brother, Lee Hsien Loong and his wife, Ho Ching," the joint statement reads.
"We believe, unfortunately, that Hsien Loong is driven by a desire for power and personal popularity. His popularity is inextricably linked to Lee Kuan Yew's legacy."
The two younger Lees also accuse their brother of ignoring their father's wishes by not demolishing his home, a bungalow in the upscale Orchard district, after his death.
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The statement shines a light onto the influence the prime minister's wife, who is also Chief Executive of Temasek, Singapore's investment fund, is perceived to hold.
"Singapore has no such thing as the wife of the prime minister being a 'first lady,'" the statement says, drawing comparisons between Ho Ching's role and that of their mother during Lee Kuan Yew's long premiership.
"During those many years, his wife (our mother) consistently avoided the limelight, remaining his stalwart supporter and advisor in private.
"The contrast between her and Ho Ching could not be more stark. While Ho Ching holds no elected or official position in government, her influence is pervasive, and extends well beyond her job purview."
The statement also alleges that the prime minister and his wife are grooming their son, Li Hongyi, for power.
In a short statement posted on his Facebook account, Lee Hsien Loong said he was "disappointed" his siblings had chosen to attack him publicly.
"I am very disappointed that my siblings have chosen to issue a statement publicizing private family matters. I am deeply saddened by the unfortunate allegations that they have made.
"Ho Ching and I deny these allegations, especially the absurd claim that I have political ambitions for my son."
His response says the statement from his younger brother and sister "hurts (Lee Kuan Yew's) legacy," and that he would "continue to do right by my parents."
"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."
The prime minister said he would address the issue more fully on his return from an overseas trip.