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Singapore's PM opens himself up to debate amid abuse of power claims

  • Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has urged lawmakers to "vigorously" question him about a public family dispute at the next parliament sitting on July 3.
  • Last week, the PM's siblings accused him of abusing power and taking advantage of their late father's legacy.

In the latest saga of the family feud dominating Singaporean politics, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has announced he will be answering questions in parliament to clear the air amid abuse of power allegations.

Nearly a week after his siblings publicly denounced him for engaging in dynasty politics, the PM has urged all members of parliament to "vigorously" question him and his cabinet colleagues about the matter at the next parliament sitting on July 3.

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong greets guests during an official visit to the White House on August 2, 2016.
Pete Marovich | Pool | Getty Images
Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong greets guests during an official visit to the White House on August 2, 2016.

In a video message on Monday, the PM said he would lift the party whip for the Q&A session — a move aimed at facilitating freer expression among members of parliament. Ahead of the questions, he is expected to deliver a ministerial statement to refute the "baseless" accusations made by his siblings.

He expressed hope that this "full, public airing" in parliament would "dispel any doubts that have been planted."

In a fiery statement last Wednesday, Lee Wei Ling and Lee Hsien Yang — the PM's younger sister and brother, respectively — claimed their elder brother was exploiting the legacy of Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore's founding father and parent to all three siblings, for political gain. Hsien Yang also announced he would be leaving the country, citing the PM as the sole reason.

The family dispute has affected Singapore's reputation and citizens' confidence in government, the PM declared on Monday.

Given the gravity of the situation, analysts weren't surprised by the decision to deal with the matter in parliament.

"The PM had to do something about this amid fears it could impact investor confidence and the economy," said Mustafa Izzuddin, a fellow at the ISEAS–Yusof Ishak Institute, a Singapore-based think tank. "There is a social compact that exists between government and people so when situations threaten to break the compact, action is needed."

Lee Kuan Yew's personal residence appears to be the key source of contention between the siblings, according to Wei Ling and Hsien Yang's statement. The siblings say the PM used his position to influence a ministerial committee overlooking Lee Kuan Yew's home — allegations that will be "dealt with openly and refuted on July 3," the PM said on Monday.

"My father left the property at 38 Oxley Road to me as part of my equal share of his estate, but my siblings were not happy about this," the PM explained. After unsuccessfully trying to transfer the property to his sister, the house was then sold to his brother and the proceeds were donated to charity, the PM continued.