Lee family spat: Many concerned about fallout

38 Oxley Road, home of the late former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew.
38 Oxley Road, home of the late former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

People worry about S'pore's reputation, but some say claims of abuse must be addressed

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 over the past week.

But as accusations continue to fly between the children of the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew, a majority of the 100 people polled by The Straits 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 that 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.

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But the remaining people polled said that given PM Lee's position, even personal matters must get a public airing. They want him to address Dr Lee Wei Ling and Mr Lee Hsien Yang's allegations about his abuse of power.

The family dispute spilled into public view in the wee hours of last Wednesday, when the two younger siblings issued statements on Facebook accusing PM Lee of going against their father'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: "I 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.

NOT THE R IGHT WAY

This should be discussed in private. Don't air dirty laundry in public.

RETIRED SUPERVISOR MOHAMMED ISHAK

ADDRESS ISSUES RAISED

Now it's in the public domain, they owe us accountability.

STUDENT BARNABAS TEONG

Amid the exchanges, retired supervisor Mohammed Ishak, 68, and IT consultant Ravi Parthasarathy, 55, said they hoped the family would choose to resolve the issues privately instead.

Said Mr Mohammed: "I'm very sad that this is happening. For all the great things that Mr Lee Kuan Yew had done, and with me belonging to the pioneer generation, I'm shaken. This should be discussed in private. Don't air dirty laundry in public."

Retiree Sim Jui Gek, 72, added: "It casts a pall over family values which are so important for those of my generation."

Many were also concerned about the international attention the spat has garnered.

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."

Communications associate Rachel Yong, 24, said especially damaging are the accusations about PM Lee abusing his position.

Dr Lee and Mr Lee Hsien Yang had said in their statement that they feared organs of state being used against them.

 

Ms Yong wondered if it may give pause to foreign investors, adding: "With so many things to worry about - global trade war, terrorism, the Singapore economy and weak labour market - we really don't need this family dispute to destabilise the country."

But financial consultant Rosette Alcantara, 37, felt Singapore's stability would not be affected. "I think it's more of the late Mr Lee's family being affected since this country has been very stable for many years."

There were also those who agreed with the dispute being brought to light, such as teacher Michelle Bakelmun, 45, and housewife Bee Cheng, 51, who felt the issues raised, such as misuse of power, must be addressed.

Agreeing, student Barnabas Teong, 21, said: "Now it's in the public domain, they owe us accountability."

Financial adviser Heng Wei Lian, 32, referring to an internal ministerial committee set up by Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean to consider options for the house, said: "And because a ministerial committee has been set up, it's not really private."

DPM Teo has said the committee is not "secret" as charged by Dr Lee and Mr Lee Hsien Yang, and is not unlike other committees set up to consider specific issues affecting Singapore.

Some, like housewife Sharon Goh, 51, hope the issue will not divide the country. She 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."

• Additional reporting by Revathi Valluvar, Lee Si Xuan and Ng Wei Kai

 

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 19, 2017, with the headline 'Lee family spat: Many concerned about fallout'. Print Edition | Subscribe