Founding father’s legacy exposes rift in Singapore

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Singapore, June 18 (IANS) The last will of Lee Kuan Yew, the founding father of modern Singapore, has led to an intriguing case of sibling rivalry: his firstborn son, the current Prime Minister of the city-state, stands accused of abuse of power by his relatives.

Kuan Yew, who became the head of newly-independent Singapore in 1965, had requested that upon his death the family house located in 38 Oxley Street be demolished and the money raised through the sale of the land be donated to charitable organisations, reports Efe News.

Built 200 years ago by a Jewish merchant and acquired by the politician in 1945, the walls of the home witnessed several important moments in the history of the nation such as the meeting of Kuan Yew and his acolytes during the struggle for independence from the British (1963) and the subsequent separation from Malaysia (1965).

However, two years after the death of the revered ruler in March 2015, the house remains standing.

The deceased leader’s younger children, Lee Hsien Yang and Lee Wei Ling, wrote an open letter to their older brother, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. It was published on Wednesday.

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Titled “What has happened to Lee Kuan Yew’s values?”, it revealed the estrangement and deep rift within the family.

“The values of Lee Kuan Yew’s are being eroded by his own son. Our father placed our country and his people first, not his personal popularity or private agendas,” the two brothers said in the letter.

Since then, the now-public dispute between Lee’s children has led to a crossfire of Facebook messages detailing the family’s inner quarrels, which possibly started back in 2011.

Hsien Loong refuted the allegation with a 4,000-word statement in which he expressed “serious doubts” whether his father was properly advised on the changes made to his last will and alleged that he was unaware of what he was signing.

Wei Ling, the youngest of the siblings, counter-attacked by publishing a series of private emails and denounced the “lies and deceits” of Loong and his wife Ho Ching, the director of state-owned investment company Temasek.

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“The most important point I want to put across is if the PM can misuse his official power to abuse his siblings who can fight back, what else can he do to ordinary citizens?” wrote Wei Ling.

“Hsien Loong and Ho Ching are finally showing their true colors. I think these colors show them unsuitable as PM and most certainly as PM’s wife,” she added.

According to her, Hsien Loong intended to live in their father’s house and exploit his legacy in order to establish a dynasty through the Prime Minister’s son, Li Hongyi, who would become the future leader of Singapore.

Hsien Yang, the middle of the three siblings, announced his decision to self-exile from the city-state.

He also published a photograph of the extract where Kuan Yew requests the “immediate destruction” of his property upon his death carrying his signature.

“We feel hugely uncomfortable and closely monitored in our own country,” said the siblings in their letter. We do not trust Hsien Loong as a brother or as a leader. We have lost confidence in him,” they added.

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Hsien Loong, who is set to remain outside the country until Monday, also made counter accusations against Hsien Yang’s wife.

Kuan Yew ruled Singapore without interruption before, during and after independence; a 31-year period spanning from 1959 until 1990.

His firstborn, Hsien Loong, followed in his father’s footsteps by being appointed Prime Minister in 2004.

He renewed his mandate for five years the second time in the 2015 elections, which he convened six months earlier than scheduled following the death of Kuan Yew.

The Popular Action Party, which was founded by Kuan Yew, has governed the country uninterrupted since independence, achieved its best result in the years following a campaign in which Hsien Loong linked his administration to his father’s legacy.

Criticism of the government is not common in Singapore – one of the countries with highest per-capita income in the world – but the media is subjected to strict and wide-ranging censorship.



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