38, OXLEY ROAD DEBATE

PM Lee hopes for reconciliation with siblings

Mr Lee Kuan Yew, Madam Kwa Geok Choo and their three children are seen here on a patrol boat during an outing in 1965. Reflecting how he was told by his father to look after his mother and siblings should anything happen, the Prime Minister said he d
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong
Mr Lee Kuan Yew, Madam Kwa Geok Choo and their three children are seen here on a patrol boat during an outing in 1965. Reflecting how he was told by his father to look after his mother and siblings should anything happen, the Prime Minister said he d
Mr Lee Kuan Yew, Madam Kwa Geok Choo and their three children are seen here on a patrol boat during an outing in 1965. Reflecting how he was told by his father to look after his mother and siblings should anything happen, the Prime Minister said he did not expect that after his parents’ death, tensions would erupt with such grievous consequences. PHOTO: COURTESY OF THE LEE FAMILY

He hopes resentments, grievances won't spill over to next generation

One day, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong hopes to reconcile with his siblings. "It will be a difficult and a long road, but I hope that one day, there will be rapprochement," he said in a speech that had several MPs wiping away tears.

The three children of the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew have been locked in a public feud over the fate of their father's house at 38, Oxley Road.

Since June 14, the younger Lees have kept up a flurry of attacks against their brother, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, in whom they say they have "lost confidence".

Over the course of the two-day debate - which unearthed intimate family matters even as it dug into allegations of abuse of power - several members, including Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong and Nominated MP Chia Yong Yong, had expressed their hope for reconciliation in the family.

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Things took an emotional turn yesterday, when PM Lee recalled the sombre week of mourning that followed his father's death on March 23, 2015.

Voice wavering, he said the most difficult moment for him was when he was delivering his father's eulogy at the state funeral service.

He had recounted then how, when he was about 13, the late Mr Lee had told him: "If anything happens to me, please take care of your mother, and your younger sister and brother."

HOPE FOR THE FUTURE

My father didn't tell me, but he knew his life was in danger. Fortunately, nothing happened to my father then. He brought up the family, and I thought we had a happy family. And he lived a long and full life. Little did I expect that after my parents died, these tensions would erupt with such grievous consequences... So, I hope one day, these passions will subside and we can begin to reconcile.

PRIME MINISTER LEE HSIEN LOONG

Singapore was then part of Malaysia, and was embroiled in a fierce fight with the central government and the communalists.

"My father didn't tell me, but he knew his life was in danger. Fortunately, nothing happened to my father then. He brought up the family, and I thought we had a happy family. And he lived a long and full life," said PM Lee.

"Little did I expect that after my parents died, these tensions would erupt with such grievous consequences and, after so many years, I would be unable to fulfil the role which my father had hoped I would. So, I hope one day, these passions will subside and we can begin to reconcile."

He added that he hoped his siblings would not let their resentments and grievances with one generation spill over to the next.

PM Lee had to once again make his case on his reluctance to take his siblings to court after Workers' Party chief Low Thia Khiang grilled him on this.

"In normal circumstances, I would surely sue because the accusations of abuse of power are so grave. But suing my own brother and sister in court would further besmirch our parents' names," he said.

He stressed that he had, from the start, wished to resolve the dispute privately, without escalating it and resorting to legal recourse.

"I adopted this approach because it involves family, and I was hoping all along to work out an amicable resolution even if that meant compromising some of my own interest," he said.

But when his siblings made public allegations against him, he was forced to respond, he said, adding that this is not a road he wants to go down further if he can help it.

PM Lee said: "At each point, I decided not to try to enforce my full legal rights. My priority was to resolve the matter privately and avoid a collision."

Although he agreed with Mr Low that everything possible should be done to bring the feud to a swift resolution, PM Lee said that going to court will not achieve this.

"It would drag out the process for years, cause further distress to Singaporeans and distract us from the many urgent issues that we must deal with," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 05, 2017, with the headline 'PM Lee hopes for reconciliation with siblings'. Print Edition | Subscribe