SINGAPORE - The public spat between Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his siblings over their father’s will and the fate of the original family home at 38, Oxley Road has kept tongues wagging this past week.
But as accusations continue to fly between the children of the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew, more than half the 100 people polled by The Sunday Times are urging the family to take the fight offline.
About 80 of those interviewed over the past two days said they see the feud as a family matter which should not be thrashed out on Facebook or the news media.
They called for a stop to the airing of the dispute in public, concerned that Singapore’s reputation may take a beating.
But the remaining 20 polled said allegations made by Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Lee Wei Ling about abuse of power against their brother must be addressed, and that given PM Lee’s position, even personal matters must get a public airing.
The family dispute spilled into public view in the wee hours of Wednesday morning, when Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Lee issued statements on Facebook accusing PM Lee of going against Mr Lee’s wish to have the Oxley Road home demolished.
They accused PM Lee and his wife Ho Ching of wanting the house preserved for their own political gain – a claim PM Lee refuted, saying he will “do my utmost to continue to do right by my parents”.
Over the past week, as conflicting accounts and personal e-mail exchanges emerged, questions also surfaced about the validity of Mr Lee’s last will.
Amid the exchanges, retired supervisor Mohammed Ishak, 68, said he hoped the family will choose to resolve the issues privately instead.
“I’m very sad that this is happening. For all the great things that Mr Lee Kuan Yew has done, and with me belonging to the pioneer generation, I’m shaken,” he said. “This should be discussed in private. Don’t air dirty laundry in public.”
Many were also concerned about the international attention the spat has garnered. Communications associate Rachel Yong, 24, felt the fight could damage Singapore’s reputation. She cited, in particular, accusations Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Lee made about PM Lee allegedly abusing his position.
Administrative manager Lisa Ng, 59, said: “I used to be quite proud of our country’s reputation. Now, I don’t know how to explain what is happening to foreign friends.”
While marketing executive Eqtaffaq Saddam Hussain Gudam Hussain, 22, found the episode entertaining at first, he has grown tired of it. “I feel a bit embarrassed because other countries are publicising this. We depend on our political reputation for our economy.”
Dr Lee and Mr Lee Hsien Yang said in their statements that they “felt threatened by Hsien Loong’s misuse of his position and influence over the Singapore government and its agencies to drive his personal agenda”.
Housewife Bee Cheng, 51, said the accusation meant that what lay behind the family feud had to be brought to light.
Financial adviser Heng Wei Lian, 32, agreed: “If there’s really an abuse of power, it should be looked into. And because a ministerial committee has been set up, it’s not really private.”
But housewife Sharon Goh, 51, said: “Singaporeans must stay united and be supportive of Singapore itself, and let the matter resolve itself rather than being pessimistic and letting it polarise them.”