SINGAPORE: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Wednesday (Jun 14) denied the allegations made by his siblings – Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Lee Wei Ling – and said he was “very disappointed” that they chose to issue a statement publicising 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,” he said in a statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office.
The siblings of PM Lee had earlier on Wednesday issued a public statement saying they have “lost confidence” in their brother and that they “do not trust him”. They also said, based on their interactions, that PM Lee and his wife “harbour political ambitions for their son, Li Hongyi”.
The statement by Dr Lee and Mr Lee, titled “What has happened to Lee Kuan Yew’s values?” was published on their Facebook pages.
“While siblings may have differences, I believe that any such differences should stay in the family. 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,” PM Lee said.
“My siblings’ statement has hurt our father’s legacy.”
OXLEY ROAD HOME ISSUE
A major part of the siblings' statement concerns the plans to demolish the home of their father, the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew.
“Lee Kuan Yew made clear in public and private that he wished that his home at 38 Oxley Road be demolished upon his passing,” they said. They went on to claim that PM Lee has opposed this wish, alleging that he has an incentive to preserve the house “to inherit (Lee Kuan Yew’s) credibility”.
“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,” the statement said.
Before his death on Mar 23, 2015 at the age of 91, Mr Lee Kuan Yew had stated in his will his desire that the house be demolished after his passing, or after Dr Lee - who still stays at the address - has moved out.
Three weeks after his father’s death, PM Lee said in Parliament that he intended to fulfil his father’s wishes and recuse himself from any Government decision made on the house.
In December 2015, the three siblings issued a joint statement saying the two brothers had agreed to donate half the value of Mr Lee Kuan Yew's Oxley Road house to eight charities.
However, Dr Lee and Mr Lee Hsien Yang – who are the joint trustees and executors of their father's will – said in their statement on Wednesday that despite the settlement and PM Lee’s undertakings, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong wrote to inform them in July 2016 that a ministerial committee had been set up to consider options regarding the house and their implications.
In a statement issued later on Wednesday, Cabinet Secretary Tan Kee Yong confirmed that an internal ministerial committee set up by the Cabinet was considering the options for the Oxley Road house.
PM Lee has not been involved in the committee's discussions said Mr Tan. He added that as part of the committee's work it sought the views of Mr Lee Kuan Yew's children to ask if they wished to say anything about the late Mr Lee’s thinking in respect of the Oxley Road home, beyond what had already been stated in public.
“Mr Lee Hsien Loong’s views were sought in his personal capacity, given his position as Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s eldest son and his interest as a beneficiary of the estate,” Mr Tan said.
The committee will list out the different options with regard to the house and the implications, Mr Tan said. “This will help a future Government when a decision needs to be taken about the house.”
He added that the committee had made clear to Dr Lee and Mr Lee Hsien Yang - in response to a query from the two - that the Government had "no intention of doing anything with the house as long as Dr Lee Wei Ling continues to reside there."
Dr Lee and Mr Lee said they “worry for Singapore” and that the situation is such that the latter feels compelled to leave Singapore: “Singapore is and remains my country. I have no desire to leave. Hsien Loong is the only reason for my departure.”
In PM Lee’s response, he said: “I will do my utmost to 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.
“As my siblings know, I am presently overseas on leave with my family. I will consider this matter further after I return this weekend.”
Mr Teo Chee Hean, who is Acting Prime Minister during PM Lee's absence, told the media on the sidelines of an iftar event that the Prime Minister had his "full support".
“I feel very sad about what has happened. I know Hsien Yang very well and PM must be going through a terrible time right now. There are so many issues and problems and challenges that we’re facing now as a country. We need to focus and work on them," he said when asked about the disagreement.