[UPDATED 10:40am 14 June 2017: Added Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s statement denying the allegations and other details.]
The siblings of Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong have issued a statement of “no confidence” against their brother, saying that they felt threatened by his pursuit of a personal agenda over their father’s home on 38 Oxley Road.
In response on Facebook, the city-state’s leader said he was “disappointed” his siblings issued a statement on private family matters and denied the allegations stated therein.
Lee Hsien Yang and Lee Wei Ling, the second son and daughter, respectively, of Singapore’s first prime minister, the late Lee Kuan Yew, made the open statement through their Facebook accounts in the early hours of Wednesday (14 June).
In the statement, the siblings expressed fear that “organs of the state” would be used against them and Lee Hsein Yang’s wife, Suet Fern. Lee Kuan Yew’s youngest son said he felt “compelled to leave” Singapore “for the foreseeable future”.
“This is the country that my father, Lee Kuan Yew, loved and built. It has been home for my entire life. Singapore is and remains my country. I have no desire to leave. Hsien Loong is the only reason for my departure,” the statement quoted Lee Hsien Yang.
The siblings noted that their brother’s “popularity is inextricably linked to Lee Kuan Yew’s legacy”, and they believe that he and his wife, Ho Ching, want to use the legacy for political purposes.
“We also believe, based on our interactions, that they harbour political ambitions for their son, Li Hongyi,” they added.
In Lee Hsien Loong’s response on Facebook, however, he said, “Ho Ching and I deny these allegations, especially the absurd claim that I have political ambitions for my son.”
Both Lee siblings said that the statement was “by no means a criticism of the Government of Singapore”, as they see “many upright leaders of quality and integrity throughout the public service”.
However, they declared, “We do not trust Hsien Loong and have lost confidence in him.”
The statement went on to recount details of the siblings’ dispute with their brother on Lee Kuan Yew’s house at 38 Oxley Road, which the late statesman had wanted demolished after his death, and stated so in his will.
“Indeed, his opposition to monuments was so strong that he had made clear that even if the house were gazetted (against his wishes), it should only be open to his children and their descendants,” the statement said.
They said the elder Lee and Ho Ching had opposed Lee Kuan Yew’s wish to demolish the house even when he was alive, and that they had “expressed plans to move with their family into the house as soon as possible after Lee Kuan Yew’s passing”.
“This move would have strengthened Hsien Loong’s inherited mandate for himself and his family. Moreover, even if Hsien Loong did not live at 38 Oxley Road, the preservation of the house would enhance his political capital,” Lee Hsien Yang and Lee Wei Ling said in the statement.
The siblings also called their brother’s assertion that Lee Kuan Yew would “accept any decision by the Government to preserve 38 Oxley Road” a “play on words” which was “nonsensical”.
“Lee Kuan Yew accepted, as he had to, that the Government had the power to preserve 38 Oxley Road against his wishes. But this does not mean that he wanted 38 Oxley Road preserved,” the statement said.
Lee Hsien Yang and Lee Wei Ling said it “is not difficult to see that 38 Oxley Road should be demolished”, adding that there is “full alignment between Lee Kuan Yew’s final wish and the people of Singapore”.
“We are private citizens with no political ambitions. We have nothing to gain from the demolition of 38 Oxley Road, other than the knowledge that we have honoured our father’s last wish. Hsien Loong has everything to gain from preserving 38 Oxley Road – he need only ignore his father’s will and values,” the statement said.
In closing, the two Lee siblings said, “The values of Lee Kuan Yew are being eroded by his own son. Our father placed our country and his people first, not his personal popularity or private agendas. We are very sad that we have been pushed to this. We feel hugely uncomfortable and closely monitored in our own country. We do not trust Hsien Loong as a brother or as a leader. We have lost confidence in him.”