Sin­ga­pore PM de­nies nepo­tism amid fam­ily feud

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Prime Min­is­ter Lee Hsien Loong yes­ter­day strongly re­jected as “base­less” claims from his sib­lings of abuse of power and nepo­tism as he faced par­lia­ment over a po­lit­i­cal drama that has shocked tightly-con­trolled Sin­ga­pore. The leader was seek­ing to draw a line un­der an es­ca­lat­ing feud about his late fa­ther Lee Kuan Yew, Sin­ga­pore’s found­ing leader, which has cap­ti­vated the wealthy city-state where speak­ing so openly against the first fam­ily is rare and crit­ics have in the past been taken to court.

The dis­pute burst into the open last month when the pre­mier’s brother and sis­ter launched at­tacks on so­cial me­di­awhich quickly went vi­ral-ac­cus­ing him of ex­ploit­ing their fa­ther’s legacy for his own po­lit­i­cal agenda and seek­ing to groom his son as a fu­ture leader. They have also raised ques­tions about his wife, who is chief ex­ec­u­tive of state in­vest­ment fund Te­masek Hold­ings.

The el­der Lee, who led Sin­ga­pore for three decades and died in March 2015, is widely revered for hav­ing trans­formed the for­mer Bri­tish colony into one of the world’s wealth­i­est so­ci­eties but faced crit­i­cism from rights groups for muz­zling the press and jail­ing po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents. In a closely watched speech to par­lia­ment, Lee, 65, said the al­le­ga­tions lev­eled at him by his brother and sis­ter were “en­tirely base­less”. “I know many Sin­ga­pore­ans are up­set by this is­sue. They are tired of the sub­ject, and wish it would end,” he told the leg­is­la­ture, which is dom­i­nated by law­mak­ers from his long-rul­ing Peo­ple’s Ac­tion Party.

“As a son, I am pained at the an­guish this strife would have caused my par­ents if they were still alive,” he added. Peo­ple who have pub­licly crit­i­cized the first fam­ily have in the past faced li­bel suits but the leader said he would not sue his brother and sis­ter as the process could drag on for years and “fur­ther be­smirch my par­ents’ names”. Low Thia Khi­ang, leader of the op­po­si­tion Work­ers’ Party, chal­lenged him to take the pair to court, say­ing that “not do­ing so would risk the gov­ern­ment giv­ing the im­pres­sion that it is afraid of what the Lee sib­lings might say or re­veal”.

Fears of per­son­al­ity cult

The prime min­is­ter had called for an open de­bate in par­lia­ment af­ter the at­tacks on Face­book against him and his wife Ho Ching. He apol­o­gized for a sec­ond time over the quar­rel and re­jected charges of nepo­tism. He said the head of Te­masek is ap­pointed by its board sub­ject to con­fir­ma­tion by the pres­i­dent of Sin­ga­pore, and that his son has al­ready said he was not in­ter­ested in pol­i­tics. The row with his sis­ter Wei Ling, 62, and brother Hsien Yang, 60, stemmed from a dis­pute over what to do with a cen­tu­ry­old fam­ily bun­ga­low that has sim­mered since the death of the el­der Lee.

The pa­tri­arch had wanted the bun­ga­low de­stroyed af­ter he passed away to pre­vent the cre­ation of a per­son­al­ity cult, but the sib­lings say the pre­mier is at­tempt­ing to block its de­mo­li­tion to cap­i­talise on their fa­ther’s legacy. In yes­ter­day’s speech, Lee said that de­spite a “de­mo­li­tion clause” gov­ern­ing the house in his fi­nal will, his fa­ther was “pre­pared to consider al­ter­na­tives” and even ap­proved ren­o­va­tion plans should the gov­ern­ment de­cide against tear­ing it down. He said he was not be­hind the cre­ation of a min­is­te­rial com­mit­tee led by his deputy Teo Chee Hean to ex­plore var­i­ous op­tions for the house. — AFP

SIN­GA­PORE: Sin­ga­pore’s Prime Min­is­ter Lee Hsien Loong de­liv­ers a speech in Par­lia­ment yes­ter­day in Sin­ga­pore. Prime Min­is­ter Lee has ad­dressed his es­ca­lat­ing fam­ily feud in a speech in Par­lia­ment, say­ing his sib­lings’ ac­cu­sa­tions that he had mis­used gov­ern­ment power were “en­tirely base­less.” —AP

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