Singapore PM apologises for family feud’s effect on country’s reputation

Dr Lee Wei Ling, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Lee Hsien Yang are seen in these file photos. — TODAY pic
Dr Lee Wei Ling, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Lee Hsien Yang are seen in these file photos. — TODAY pic

SINGAPORE, June 19 — Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong apologised today for the private dispute between him and his siblings over the past week, adding that he had done everything possible to avoid this state of affairs.

He said he will be making a ministerial statement when Parliament convenes two weeks from now, and all Members of Parliament will be able to question and debate the issues.  “As your Prime Minister, I apologise to you for this. And as the eldest of the siblings, it grieves me to think of the anguish that this would have caused our parents if they were still alive,” he said in a statement which was also recorded on video.

PM Lee said Singaporeans have been “disturbed and confused” by the news of the dispute — which first surfaced on social media in the wee hours of Wednesday — and has affected Singapore’s reputation and the people’s confidence in the Government.

On Wednesday, PM Lee’s siblings Dr Lee Wei Ling and Mr Lee Hsien Yang had put up a six-page statement on their Facebook accounts, claiming that they felt “threatened” in trying to honour their late father’s wish to demolish their family home at 38 Oxley Road, among other things.

This led to a series of exchanges that took place on Facebook and through public statements.

PM Lee said he had “done everything possible to avoid this state of affairs”.  Listing the steps taken on his part, he said he “tried to deal with their unhappiness privately”, offering to transfer the family home to Dr Lee for a nominal S$1 (RM3.09). When that failed, he sold the house to Lee Hsien Yang at a fair market valuation and donated all the proceeds to charity.  “I had hoped that this would satisfy them,” he said. He added that there should be no reason for any further quarrel since he no longer owned the house and does “not take part in any Government decisions on the house”.

But he noted that his siblings have decided to make serious allegations publicly, including the claim that he used his position as Prime Minister to influence a ministerial committee chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean to weigh the various options for the family home.

PM Lee said these allegations by his siblings “go beyond private and personal matters, and extend to the conduct of my office and the integrity of the Government”. 

“Much as I would like to move on, and end a most unhappy experience for Singaporeans, these baseless accusations against the Government cannot be left unanswered. They must be and will be dealt with openly and refuted,” he said.

To that end, he will make a ministerial statement to refute the charges when Parliament sits on July 3.  He said: “I have instructed that the PAP party whip be lifted. I urge all Members of Parliament, including the non-PAP MPs, to examine the issues thoroughly and question me and my Cabinet colleagues vigorously. I hope that this full, public airing in Parliament will dispel any doubts that have been planted and strengthen confidence in our institutions and our system of government.” — TODAY

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