Singaporeans are profoundly perturbed that a private dispute involving Mr Lee Kuan Yew's estate has been turned into an issue of national proportions - because of serious allegations about an "abuse of power" made by members of the Lee family. Ordinarily, the terms of a will would be significant to only an inner circle of family members. In most cultures, it would be bad form to pry, just as it would be unseemly for those with interests under a will to turn a family squabble into Facebook campaigns. Indeed, with Mr Lee and his wife having espoused the importance of family ties over their lifetime, it is heart-wrenching to behold the way his family is being torn asunder by his will.
In the case of Mr Lee, the nation too has to bear the wretchedness of seeing his legacy besmirched by accusations made by, of all people, his own children. He had long fretted that thelabours of a pioneer generation of leaders and Singaporeans might be undone by a rogue government, or incompetent or corrupt leaders. He surely must never have contemplated the possibility that any of his own family members might feature in any such a sad scenario.
The allegations that have been made are serious ones, at once personal and political in nature. They call into question the integrity of key members of the Government. The Prime Minister, a ministerial committee and organs of the State have all been dragged into the feud. Sweeping and unsubstantiated statements were made about dishonesty, spying, threats, abuse of power and fears over the "future of Singapore". Unsurprisingly, these have been reported widely by international media and have become fodder for assorted bloggers. Bewildered citizens would ask if the determination to tear down a single ageing house should be done with a wrecking ball that harms the entire country. It is no ordinary house, having borne witness to the struggles of the nation's founding fathers. While most would want to honour Mr Lee's wishes that it be torn down after his passing, many might wonder at the manner in which his children are now seeking to honour those wishes. While Mr Lee was unwavering in not wanting the house turned into a monument, he also seemed to recognise that government processes to weigh his wishes against the national interest of preserving a part of its heritage could not be summarily set aside if Singapore was serious about upholding the rule of law.
The charges must be addressed fully by the Government. It has chosen to do so in Parliament, just as how the air was cleared by Mr Lee himself in 1996 over the Hotel Properties saga. In like manner, there must now be an open discussion of the accusations made. Singaporeans will want to get to the bottom of this mess in the hope that a self-inflicted wound might be healed.