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Singapore PM's siblings accuse him of abusing power

Press Trust of India  |  Singapore 

A feud between Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his siblings has come out in the open, exposing deep divisions in the first family after they accused the of abusing power and exploiting the legacy of Lee Kuan Yew, the founding leader of the city-state.

Prime Minister's brother Lee Hsien Yang said in a statement that he was leaving Singapore, citing the Hsien Loong as the sole reason for his departure.

"Since the passing of our father (Lee Kuan Yew) in 2015, we have felt threatened by Hsien Loong's misuse of his position and influence over the and its agencies to drive his personal agenda," the statement issued by Hsien Yang and his sister Wei Ling said.

In the statement, entitled 'What Has Happened to Lee Kuan Yew's Values?', Hsien Yang said that he, his wife, and his sister Wei Ling feared "the use of the organs of state" against them.

The two siblings have accused their brother Lee Hsien Loong, 65, of nurturing political ambitions for his son, Li Hongyi, who works as a consultant for a agency.

"If Hsien Loong is prepared to act thus against us, his younger sister and brother, both contributing members of Singapore's establishment, to advance his personal agenda, we worry for We question whether able leaders with independent political legitimacy will be side-lined to ensure Hsien Loong's grip on power remains unchallenged," the statement said.

Instead of demolishing Kuan Yew's house as the former leader desired, the Prime Minister has sought to make the residence his personal home -- a move that would enhance his political capital, the statement read.

Singapore's founding father Kuan Yew wanted the family home, a bungalow in the Orchard district, to be demolished after his death as he was averse to it becoming a monument.

The Prime Minister and his wife Ho Ching - CEO of Temasek Holdings, Singapore's USD 196 billion sovereign wealth fund - also harbored political ambitions for their son Li Hongyi, the statement said.

The Prime Minister, presently overseas on leave with his family, has denied allegations made by his siblings and said he was "very disappointed" that they chose to issue a statement publicising private family matters.

"Ho Ching and I deny these allegations, especially the absurd claim that I have political ambitions for my son," Lee said in a statement posted by the Prime Minister's Office on his page.

"I am deeply saddened by the unfortunate allegations that they have made. Ho Ching (my wife) and I deny these allegations, especially the absurd claims that I have political ambitions for my son," Lee said.

"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," the Prime Minister said.

"My siblings' statement has hurt our father's legacy," he said.

He said he would do his utmost to continue to do right by his parents. At the same time, he would continue serving Singaporeans "honestly" and to the best of his ability.

"In particular that means upholding meritocracy, which is a fundamental value of our society," the Prime Minister said.

The 65-year-old Prime Minister had previously said in the parliament that he intended to fulfil his father's wishes and recuse himself from any decision made on the house.

The feud in Singapore's first family became public last year after the prime minister's sister accused him of abusing his political power over anniversary commemorations for the death of the elder Lee.

The family rift is a rare display of public acrimony at the top of the tightly-controlled city-state, where the boundaries of free speech are vigorously policed.

Founded in 1954, the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) has governed since Singapore's independence in 1965.

Under Kuan Yew's leadership, the former British colony transformed into a first world nation but numerous international organisations, including Human Rights Watch, have rebuked the government for strict censorship laws.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Wed, June 14 2017. 13:57 IST