PM's wife apologises for monkey post

Photo reposted to Facebook from Twitter appeared without caption and 'could be misunderstood'

Mrs Lee, describing herself as a "Twitter newbie", said she had been playing around with Twitter and did not realise it "reposts pictures without captions".
Mrs Lee, describing herself as a "Twitter newbie", said she had been playing around with Twitter and did not realise it "reposts pictures without captions".ST FILE PHOTO

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's wife Ho Ching took to Facebook yesterday and offered her "embarrassed apologies" for a post on Sunday which had the social media world buzzing.

The post was a photo of a macaque at Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park in Japan making a rude gesture. It came amid public criticisms by PM Lee's sister, Dr Lee Wei Ling, on how their father Lee Kuan Yew's first death anniversary had been commemorated.

Describing herself as a "Twitter newbie", Mrs Lee said in yesterday's Facebook post that she had been playing around with Twitter "trying out different buttons, seeing what can or cannot be done". Twitter allows users to share content to Facebook.

Added Mrs Lee: "Discovered Twitter reposts pictures without captions, and unfortunately one of the pictures could be misunderstood on its own. Took down as soon as a friend alerted me."

Not long after Mrs Lee's post of the picture went up, Dr Lee posted on her Facebook some e-mail correspondence between her and a Straits Times editor over a column she wrote on the commemoration of the first death anniversary of her father, and which the paper did not publish. Mr Lee Kuan Yew died on March 23 last year, aged 91.

In the e-mail exchanges, Dr Lee said she was "at odds on a matter of principle" with her brother, PM Lee. She said he had no qualms abusing his power to have a commemoration just a year after the death and also that PM Lee wanted to "establish a dynasty". She also called him a "dishonorable son".

PM Lee posted on Facebook later that day to say he was "deeply saddened" by his sister's charge and that the accusations were completely untrue. He said the Cabinet discussed how to mark Mr Lee's death, and decided it should be left to ground-up efforts. He also said he had advised that "groups should keep their observances in proportion, and focused on the future".

"The idea that I should wish to establish a dynasty makes even less sense. Meritocracy is a fundamental value of our society, and neither I, the PAP, nor the Singapore public would tolerate any such attempt," he said in his Facebook post.

In her Facebook post yesterday, Mrs Lee said: "There are enough troubles in the world. Far from adding oil to fires, I would prefer we try to solve and resolve problems, among friends, within families and between neighbours."

Without referring to the disagreement in the family, she added: "We grieve in different ways, and should leave space for each of us to come to terms with our loss. Grieving is especially hard when tears come at unexpected moments.

"I respect and deeply appreciate the many heartfelt commemorations, and understand those who prefer a more stoic approach.

"Hopefully, the passage of time will help heal. Many thanks too for all the kind wishes, sound advice and generous thoughts."

The Wall Street Journal contacted Dr Lee by phone yesterday and in a report on its website last night quoted her as saying that the dispute "is a Singaporean matter" and "I always try to stick by the truth and that's all I'm going to say".

•Additional reporting by Pearl Lee

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 12, 2016, with the headline 'PM's wife apologises for monkey post'. Print Edition | Subscribe