PM Lee saddened by siblings' allegations

He denies charges and will consider matter further after he returns from overseas leave

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong speaking at the official opening of the inaugural Singapore International Cyber Week. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has refuted allegations by his siblings that he had misused his power in relation to their late father's house, saying he was disappointed and sad they had chosen to air a private family matter in public.

"I am deeply saddened by the unfortunate allegations that they have made. Ho Ching and I deny these allegations, especially the absurd claim that I have political ambitions for my son," PM Lee said in response to a six-page statement his two siblings issued yesterday.

Dr Lee Wei Ling and Mr Lee Hsien Yang had said they had lost confidence in their brother, PM Lee, adding that they feared the use of state organs against them.

Mr Lee Hsien Yang said he and his wife Suet Fern felt compelled to leave Singapore "for the foreseeable future" because of this.

Titled "What has happened to Lee Kuan Yew's values?", their statement is the latest development in a long-running dispute over the demolition of their father's house at 38, Oxley Road.

The two siblings are joint executors and trustees of the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew's estate, and have pushed for the Government to honour his wish, as stated in his will, for the house to be pulled down.

They alleged that PM Lee and his wife wanted the house preserved for their own political gain, adding that the PM had abused his position to drive his personal agenda. They further alleged Mrs Lee had outsized influence and power that went beyond her role as the PM's wife.

PM 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."

He added: "My siblings' statement has hurt our father's legacy."

After the statement was publicised on the duo's Facebook pages around 2am, it was widely shared online and picked up by media.

The news also sparked talk in the legal fraternity about possible changes at law firm Morgan Lewis Stamford, at which Mrs Lee Suet Fern is managing partner.

Last year, Dr Lee had also called PM Lee a "dishonourable son" in a Facebook post, because of their disagreement over the house.

This time, she and Mr Lee Hsien Yang said PM Lee and his wife had opposed their father's wish for the house to be pulled down, as "the preservation of the house would enhance his political capital".

In December 2015, PM Lee had said in a joint statement with his siblings that he hoped their father's wish would be honoured, adding that he would recuse himself from all government decisions on the house. The Government also said it would not make any decision on the house as long as Dr Lee resided there.

Mr Lee Hsien Yang told The Straits Times that PM Lee had not kept his promise, citing the formation of a ministerial committee on the house. To him, this was a sign of PM Lee's interference.

But Cabinet Secretary Tan Kee Yong said in a statement the committee was formed to consider options for the house and their implications.

He also said PM Lee "has not been involved in Cabinet's discussions concerning this committee. As he had previously stated, he has recused himself from all government decisions (on) the house."

The committee was also looking into how the late Mr Lee's will was prepared, and the role Mrs Lee Suet Fern and lawyers in her legal firm played in preparing it, Mr Tan said.

The two siblings also alleged PM Lee and his wife harbour political ambitions for their son Hongyi. PM Lee called it an "absurd claim".

He said: "I will do my utmost to continue to do right by my parents. At the same time, I will continue serving Singaporeans honestly and to the best of my ability. In particular, that means upholding meritocracy, which is a fundamental value of our society."

He ended his statement saying: "As my siblings know, I am presently overseas on leave with my family. I will consider this matter further after I return this weekend."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 15, 2017, with the headline PM Lee saddened by siblings' allegations. Subscribe