World Economy

In rare feud, Singapore PM Lee under attack by his siblings

Key Points
  • The younger siblings of Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong have accused him of abusing power in a public statement.
  • The PM, currently on leave, has denied the allegations.

A rare feud between Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his siblings has publicized the deep divisions weighing on the island-nation's first family.

In an explosive statement on Wednesday, Lee Wei Ling and Lee Hsien Yang — the PM's younger sister and brother, respectively — accused their elder brother of abusing power and exploiting their father's legacy for political gain.

The city-state's first PM and father to all three siblings, Lee Kuan Yew (LKY) passed away in March 2015.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore
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"Since the passing of LKY, we have felt threatened by Hsien Loong's misuse of his position and influence over the Singapore government and its agencies to drive his personal agenda," Wei Ling and Hsien Yang said.

Wei Ling has long been a vocal critic of PM Lee — last year, she denounced him for using LKY's one-year death anniversary as a political tool in a series of Facebook posts — but Hsien Yang, chairman of the country's Civil Aviation Authority, has steered clear of public family spats until now.

In their statement, widely carried on social media and local newspaper the Straits Times, the siblings expressed fear that state organs would be used against them. Hsien Yang said he was leaving Singapore, citing the PM as the sole reason for his departure.

"If Hsien Loong is prepared to act thus against us, both contributing members of Singapore's establishment, to advance his personal agenda, we worry for Singapore."

Instead of demolishing LKY's house as the former leader desired, the PM has sought to make the residence his personal home — a move that would enhance his political capital, the siblings continued.

The PM and his wife Ho Ching — CEO of Temasek Holdings, Singapore's $196 billion sovereign wealth fund — also harbored political ambitions for their son Li Hongyi, the statement said.

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"What has been distressing are the lengths to which Hsien Loong and Ho Ching have gone and are willing to go to get what they want."

The PM, presently overseas on leave with his family, has responded in a statement of his own — "Ho Ching and I deny these allegations, especially the absurd claim that I have political ambitions for my son."

He also expressed disappointment over Wei Ling and Hsien Yang's decision to publicize private family matters and said he would consider the matter further upon returning to the city-state this weekend.

Founded in 1954, the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) has governed since Singapore's independence in 1965. Under LKY's leadership, the former British colony transformed into a first world nation but numerous international organizations, including Human Rights Watch, have rebuked the government for strict censorship laws.