Family feud over how to mark Lee Kuan Yew's death spills out online

PM Lee responds to sister's posts that reveal they are 'at odds' on principle

Dr Lee, in an earlier Facebook post, said this picture of an art installation of 4,877 erasers in the likeness of Mr Lee Kuan Yew's image, which was featured on the front page of ST on March 21, had made her wince.
Dr Lee, in an earlier Facebook post, said this picture of an art installation of 4,877 erasers in the likeness of Mr Lee Kuan Yew's image, which was featured on the front page of ST on March 21, had made her wince.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Over the past fortnight, Dr Lee Wei Ling had written on her personal Facebook page about her disagreement with the way the first death anniversary of her father, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, was marked across the country last month.

Yesterday, she made public a series of e-mails on the matter, only to take them down from her Facebook page several hours later.

In the e-mails between her and Straits Times associate editor Ivan Fernandez, who was editing her columns, Dr Lee said she was "at odds" with her brother, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.


Using her brother and the late Mr Lee's initials, Dr Lee wrote to Mr Fernandez: "HL has no qualms abusing his power to hv a commemoration just one year after LKY died, 'least (sic) we forget'.

"If the power that be wants to establish a dynasty, LKY's daughter will not allow LKY's name to be sullied by a dishonorable son."

Dr Lee's post prompted PM Lee to respond on his Facebook page several hours later. He said he was "deeply saddened" by his sister's charge, and added: "The accusations are completely untrue."

Last month, individuals and organisations, including grassroots groups, organised over 100 events to commemorate Singapore's first Prime Minister and remind themselves of his key values.

Yesterday, PM Lee said the Cabinet had discussed how Mr Lee should be remembered, and he advised it be left to ground-up efforts and that these should be kept in proportion and be forward looking.

But Dr Lee, in an earlier Facebook post, said a picture of an art installation of 4,877 erasers in the likeness of Mr Lee Kuan Yew's image, that was featured on the front page of ST on March 21, made her wince.


  • I feel sad to read this. I hope this posting by PM will bring closure to this matter. The children of our first PM should not air any private disagreement in public... Both PM and Dr Lee are highly respected by many Singaporeans. Let us not further diminish this public respect many have for the children of LKY.


    I think Dr Lee is still grieving. Please give her some time to heal. Disagreements between siblings are also common, and people will say hurtful things they may not mean.


    As the Chinese saying goes, "always remember the source of the water you drink from". It is necessary as a tribute for a great leader who has led Singapore to such heights. Not doing anything on the first anniversary would be a great disrespect.


    I have always quite enjoyed Ms Lee's writings but I'm very sorry to say that her conduct in this affair is rather unbecoming and inappropriate, especially when others were named and thus felt forced to publicly stand up for themselves in turn. Maybe, like some have said, she is still grieving for her loss or maybe even depressed... This should have happened behind closed doors and not in the public domain.


    I really think the commemoration was not a big event at all. Ms Lee has failed to understand that LKY does not belong to her alone. He belongs to the people of Singapore. We respect your choice to remember your father in your own quiet way but you certainly CANNOT stop the people from wanting to do more. If your father was not a remarkable and outstanding man, you think the people will remember?


    In principle I can agree with your opinions on not hero-worshipping, because the late LKY would indeed not have wanted that. By the same token, however, difference in opinion in the family should stay within the family...The irony of it all is that the late LKY would...definitely not have wanted us Singaporeans to come to conflict over his death.


    This current issue will die down by itself. Please devote your energies to the welfare and well-being of our people, especially our children. Your energies would bear much greater fruit there.


It prompted her to submit an article on the commemoration to ST, and she said that while the installation was well-meaning, she did not see the need for such commemorations so soon after his death.

Two days later, on March 23, Mr Fernandez replied to Dr Lee with an edited version of her article, slated for publication on March 27.

She said it read well, but she wanted to wait until the day unfolded.

On March 25, Dr Lee submitted another version of her column, with substantial additions, and insisted on it being run unedited or she would post it online.

Mr Fernandez rejected this, saying her paragraphs on how China's Mao Zedong and Britain's Winston Churchill were honoured after their deaths went off on a tangent.

Later that day, Dr Lee posted the article on her Facebook page.

In subsequent postings, she said ST was suppressing her views and denying her freedom of speech.

The paper responded in an editor's note last Tuesday saying her accusations that she was suppressed were unfounded. The paper said her column was being edited, as is done by all professional newspapers, and that it was "not an issue of freedom of expression, but a matter of upholding standards".

This sparked a series of online posts by Dr Lee, who said those who had edited her columns had been "commanded to edit certain issues out, and they are to (sic) timid to disobey, and too embarrassed by their timidness to tell me the truth".

Last Saturday, Mr Fernandez wrote an article in the ST explaining why the paper declined to publish her column. Among other reasons, he revealed that the parts on Churchill and Mao had been plagiarised.

In her Facebook post releasing the e-mail exchange to show that Mr Fernandez did not point out to her that she had plagiarised, she said she had not intended to do so, adding: "I simply forgot to acknowledge the source for information regarding Mao and Churchill."

Responding to her allegations, ST editor Warren Fernandez said yesterday: "Dr Lee's allegations are unfounded. ST had intended to run her commentary and our editors were working with her to get it ready for print. But some concerns arose, including over the plagiarised paragraphs. This was a serious matter, not least as our editors had spoken to her before about the pitfalls of copying material without attribution.

"Dr Lee now says this was unintended, as she 'forgot' to cite her sources, and besides, her end of exposing the Government justified it anyway," he added.

"In addition to this, we found her ultimatum to print her piece unedited or she would go online, totally unacceptable. But before we could discuss this further, she went online, putting an end to any further engagement on the matter."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 11, 2016, with the headline 'Family feud over how to mark LKY's death spills out online'. Subscribe