The fallout over the Lee family feud is a “serious distraction” to the government, with Cabinet members “unnecessarily drawn” into what is essentially a family dispute, said Workers’ Party chief Low Thia Khiang on Monday (3 July).
“This saga is distracting the government, distracting Singaporeans, and distracting the international audience and damaging the Singapore brand,” said the de facto opposition leader, who was speaking in Parliament.
“The government should set an example and needs to maintain its dignity in the face of insults to its integrity. It should not get involved in Facebook brawls for the whole world to see.”
The Aljunied GRC Member of Parliament was speaking after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong delivered a Ministerial Statement in response to allegations of abuse of power by his siblings Wei Ling and Hsien Yang. PM Lee called his siblings’ claims “entirely baseless” and also explained why he had decided not to sue them.
Low noted that the Lee siblings had made “vague allegations” in the public domain based on “scattered evidence”. He added, “Making allegations that appear to be calculated to undermine the PM’s authority does not make for constructive politics in Singapore. It is a reckless thing to do, and I do not see how it is in the national interest.”
However, he added that the government had also contributed to the “squabble”. Low said, “It does not help that the Prime Minister and some of his colleagues have responded in kind on Facebook and even making counter allegations on the motives and character of the other party.”
Low was referring to various ministers who have weighed in online on the dispute, including Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam and Senior Minister of State for Law Indranee Rajah.
Settle the matter in court
Low urged PM Lee to settle the dispute with his siblings in court, calling it the proper forum to address their “serious allegations”. He noted, “Individuals who make less serious allegations that undermine the reputation and authority of the PM and Cabinet ministers have been brought to task for libel. There is no reason why this time it should be different because it comes from the Lee family.”
There is a need to “make a bright red line” and to push the dispute back into the private domain, said Low. He noted that the timing of the dispute was unfortunate, given the “serious challenges” Singapore is facing, such as a “self-centred” America and a more assertive China. There are also “troubling cases” of self-radicalisation surfacing at home, as well as the recent continuous MRT breakdowns.
“The government needs to move on…this is not Korean drama show, it is a serious matter because it affects the credibility of our entire country.”
Low charged that it was the government’s delay in acting on the matter of 38 Oxley Road that had led to this “sorry state of affairs” and questioned the need for the Ministerial Committee.
“The Government clearly has the power to act decisively in the national interest. What further deliberations does the Committee intend to make and how much more time does it need to come to a decision?”
“End this saga now. Singaporeans are embarrassed,” concluded Low.
– additional reporting by Hannah Teoh and Wan Ting Koh