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Lee Family Feud: Siblings Accuse Hsien Loong of Abuse of Power and Nepotism

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Lee Wei Ling and Lee Hsien Yang took to Facebook earlier this morning to attack their elder brother, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

In a public statement titled “What has happened to Lee Kuan Yew’s values?” they accused him of nepotism and abusing his powers as prime minister.
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The heart of the matter lies with the Oxley Rd house owned by their father, the late Lee Kuan Yew.

(Lee Hsien Loong has since responded, and denied all allegations against him)

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Even Lee Hsien Yang’s son, Lee Shengwu, weighed in on the issue.

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Here’s a 6-point summary of the 6-page letter:

(1) Lee Hsien Yang feels threatened by PM Lee and wants to leave Singapore, fearing that the “organs of the state” will be used against him.

(2) PM Lee is alleged to be “driven by a desire for power and personal popularity” and is milking Lee Kuan Yew’s legacy to achieve that.

(3) PM Lee could be setting the stage for his son, Lee Hongyi, to enter politics.

(4) PM Lee’s wife, Ho Ching, holds no elected or official position in government, but her influence is alleged to be “pervasive, and extends well beyond her job purview”, in contrast to Lee Kuan Yew’s late wife, who “would never instruct Permanent Secretaries or senior civil servants”.

(5) Lee Kuan Yew was “pained” that Lee Hsien Loong, would not honour his wishes to have his 38 Oxley Rd house torn down, so he “specifically inserted into his will his wish for 38 Oxley Road to be demolished so as to make it difficult for Hsien Loong to misuse the Cabinet to preserve it”.

(6) The siblings obtained an undertaking from Lee Hsien Loong that he would recuse himself from all decisions involving the Oxley Rd house. Later, they found out that a Ministerial Committee had been set up to “consider options” with respect to the house. PM Lee was then accused of making “extensive representations” to the committee to influence its decision.

And this is the 6-page letter reproduced in full:

WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO LEE KUAN YEW’S VALUES?

We feel extremely sad that we are pushed to this position. We are disturbed by the

character, conduct, motives and leadership of our brother, Lee Hsien Loong,

Singapore’s current prime minister and the role of his wife, Ho Ching. We have seen

a completely different face to our brother, one that deeply troubles us. Since the

passing of Lee Kuan Yew, on 23 March 2015, 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. We are concerned that the system has few

checks and balances to prevent the abuse of government.

We feel big brother omnipresent. We fear the use of the organs of state against us

and Hsien Yang’s wife, Suet Fern. The situation is such that Hsien Yang feels

compelled to leave Singapore:

“It is with a very heavy heart that I will leave Singapore for the foreseeable future.

This is the country that my father, Lee Kuan Yew, loved and built. It has been home

for my entire life. Singapore is and remains my country. I have no desire to leave.

Hsien Loong is the only reason for my departure.”

If Hsien Loong is prepared to act thus against us, his younger sister and brother,

both contributing members of Singapore’s establishment, to advance his personal

agenda, we worry for Singapore. We question whether able leaders with

independent political legitimacy will be side-lined to ensure Hsien Loong’s grip on

power remains unchallenged.

This is by no means a criticism of the Government of Singapore. We see many

upright leaders of quality and integrity throughout the public service, but they are

constrained by Hsien Loong’s misuse of power at the very top. We do not trust

Hsien Loong and have lost confidence in him.

Since Lee Kuan Yew’s death, there have been changes in Singapore that do not

reflect what he stood for. Nobody ever doubted that Lee Kuan Yew always held the

best interests of Singapore and Singaporeans at heart. He was authentic and spoke

his mind. The same cannot be said for our brother, Lee Hsien Loong and his wife,

Ho Ching. We believe, unfortunately, that Hsien Loong is driven by a desire for

power and personal popularity. His popularity is inextricably linked to Lee Kuan

Yew’s legacy. His political power is drawn from his being Lee Kuan Yew’s son. We

have observed that Hsien Loong and Ho Ching want to milk Lee Kuan Yew’s legacy

for their own political purposes. We also believe, based on our interactions, that they

harbour political ambitions for their son, Li Hongyi.

Singapore has no such thing as the wife of the prime minister being a ‘first lady’. Lee

Kuan Yew was Prime Minister from 1959 to 1990. During those many years, his wife

(our mother) consistently avoided the limelight, remaining his stalwart supporter and

advisor in private. She lived discreetly, and set a high bar for the conduct of a prime

minister’s wife. She would never instruct Permanent Secretaries or senior civil

servants. The contrast between her and Ho Ching could not be more stark. While

Ho Ching holds no elected or official position in government, her influence is

pervasive, and extends well beyond her job purview.

Throughout his entire life, Lee Kuan Yew’s sole focus was on Singapore and its

future. He was a strong opponent of monuments, particularly of himself. On

suggestions that monuments or ‘what-have-yous’ be made for him, he replied

“Remember Ozymandias”. He was referring to Percy B Shelley’s sonnet about the

Egyptian Pharaoh with a penchant for self-aggrandising monuments. The boast

etched in a plaque below his statue commanded lesser mortals to “look on my

works”. Only the vastness of desert sands remains: no empire, nor monuments, no

great works. Lee Kuan Yew wanted none of these honours as edifices. Much more

important to him was that what he had done should last.

It is for this reason that Lee Kuan Yew made clear throughout the years in public and

private his wish that his home at 38 Oxley Road be demolished upon his passing. In

his last Will and Testament of 17 December 2013, he again reiterated his wish and

directed his three children to ensure that it be fulfilled. Indeed, his opposition to

monuments was so strong that he had made clear that even if the house were

gazetted (against his wishes), it should only be open to his children and their

descendants.

However, we believe that Hsien Loong and Ho Ching are motivated by a desire to

inherit Lee Kuan Yew’s standing and reputation for themselves and their children.

Whilst our father built this nation upon meritocracy, Hsien Loong, whilst purporting to

espouse these values, has spoken of a “natural aristocracy”. Hsien Loong and his

wife, Ho Ching, have opposed Lee Kuan Yew’s wish to demolish his house, even

when Lee Kuan Yew was alive. Indeed, Hsien Loong and Ho Ching expressed plans

to move with their family into the house as soon as possible after Lee Kuan Yew’s

passing. This move would have strengthened Hsien Loong’s inherited mandate for

himself and his family. Moreover, even if Hsien Loong did not live at 38 Oxley Road,

the preservation of the house would enhance his political capital.

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.

On Hsien Loong’s insistence, Lee Kuan Yew met with the Singapore Cabinet on 21

July 2011 to discuss the fate of his personal home. Wei Ling met Lee Kuan Yew on

the steps of their home as he returned from that meeting. He was anguished and

despondent and told Wei Ling “I should not have listened to Loong and gone to meet

Cabinet.” He was pained that Hsien Loong, his own son, opposed his wishes in this

manner.

Lee Kuan Yew believed that Hsien Loong and Ho Ching were behind what was

represented to the family as a government initiative to preserve the house. In due

course, Hsien Loong himself made his position clear to Lee Kuan Yew. On 3

October 2011, Lee Kuan Yew wrote: “Loong as PM has indicated that he will declare

it a heritage site.”

Lee Kuan Yew specifically inserted into his will his wish for 38 Oxley Road to be

demolished so as to make it difficult for Hsien Loong to misuse the Cabinet to

preserve it. He also removed Hsien Loong as an executor and trustee of his will.

The wish, which was instructed to be made public as needed, was Lee Kuan Yew’s

direct appeal to the people of Singapore. It was his only request of them on his

passing.

At the reading of Lee Kuan Yew’s will, Hsien Loong was very angry that the will gave

Wei Ling the right to remain living in the house and that it made clear Lee Kuan

Yew’s wish for its demolition immediately upon her passing or relocation. Hsien

Loong threatened us and demanded our silence on our father’s last wish. He

wanted to assert in Parliament that Lee Kuan Yew had changed his mind, hoping to

inherit the faith Singaporeans had in Lee Kuan Yew through the visible symbol of the

house. We refused and fought to release our father’s wish to demolish the house as

instructed. We succeeded in making Lee Kuan Yew’s wish public in Singapore only

after the international press carried the news. Hsien Loong was therefore forced to

state in Parliament that, as a son, he would like to see the wish carried out. He

wanted to appear filial in public whilst acting to thwart our parents’ wishes in private.

However, Hsien Loong and Ho Ching did not abandon their plans. Hsien Loong took

steps to try to frustrate our publicising Lee Kuan Yew’s wish. We executed a Deed

of Gift in 2015 with the National Heritage Board for the donation and public exhibition

of significant items from our parents’ home, with a stipulation that Lee Kuan Yew’s

wish for the demolition of 38 Oxley Road be displayed prominently at the exhibition.

However, after the gift’s acceptance we soon received letters with spurious

objections from Hsien Loong’s then personal lawyer, Lucien Wong. Lucien Wong

was made Singapore’s Attorney-General in January 2017. We were shocked to see

that Hsien Loong had used his position as Prime Minister to obtain a copy of the

Deed of Gift from Minister Lawrence Wong, which Hsien Loong then passed to his

personal lawyer to advance his personal agenda. The exhibition only proceeded

months later in a diminished format after considerable struggle on our part.

In 2015, various letters were sent by Hsien Loong’s then personal lawyer making

accusations and misrepresentations on his behalf regarding the circumstances under

which Lee Kuan Yew’s last will was executed and the inclusion of the demolition

wish. These were refuted in detail by us through our lawyers. Hsien Loong knew

that he could not establish his accusations in a court of law and raised no legal

challenge. On the contrary, he was likely concerned that the fact that the gift of the

house to him had been obtained by him through misrepresentations to our father and

the family might be made public. Probate was granted on 6 October 2015 and Lee

Kuan Yew’s will, including the wish to demolish 38 Oxley Road, became the full,

final, and legally binding word on his intentions as to his estate.

Hsien Loong initiated a settlement with us in May 2015; the Estate of Lee Kuan Yew

was contemplating a challenge of the disposition of the house to him based on his

misrepresentations. Hsien Loong represented that this sale of the house would give

us a free hand to demolish the house. Final agreement on the settlement was

reached in late 2015. Hsien Loong insisted that Hsien Yang should pay him full

market value for the house (and donate an additional half the value of the house to

charity). In exchange for this, we asked for and obtained a joint public statement

issued by all 3 children of Lee Kuan Yew in December 2015 that we hoped that the

Government would allow the demolition wish to be fulfilled and that all Singaporeans

would support this cause. We also obtained an undertaking from Hsien Loong that

he would recuse himself from all government decisions involving 38 Oxley Road and

that, in his personal capacity, would like to see the wish honoured.

We had hoped that through this settlement, he would not hinder us from honouring

our parents’ wishes. However, we were disappointed that despite the settlement and

Hsien Loong’s undertakings, in July 2016, Minister Lawrence Wong wrote to inform

us that a Ministerial Committee had been set up to consider options with respect to

38 Oxley Road and their implications. This also directly contradicted Hsien Loong’s

statement in Parliament in April 2015 that there was no need for the Government to

take a decision in respect of 38 Oxley Road until Wei Ling no longer resided there,

and that it would be up to the Government of the day to consider the matter.

Hsien Loong, despite his undertakings to recuse himself, proceeded to make

extensive representations to the Committee. He is conflicted. His political power is

related to being Lee Kuan Yew’s son and thus he has every incentive to preserve

Lee Kuan Yew’s house to inherit his credibility. He also sits in a direct position of

power over the Committee comprised of his subordinate ministers, thus wielding

considerable influence for any outcome he desires.

Hsien Loong has asserted to the Committee that Lee Kuan Yew would “accept any

decision by the Government to preserve 38 Oxley Road.” This play on words is not

only dishonest, but nonsensical. Lee Kuan Yew accepted, as he had to, that the

Government had the power to preserve 38 Oxley Road against his wishes. But this

does not mean that he wanted 38 Oxley Road preserved.

In doing this, Hsien Loong has deliberately misrepresented Lee Kuan Yew’s clear

intentions for his own political benefit. He has also gone back on his own

declarations that he would recuse himself from all Government decisions involving

38 Oxley Road and his supposed support for the demolition of the house as Lee

Kuan Yew’s son.

In his representations to the Committee, Hsien Loong seeks to call into question the

circumstances which led to the execution of Lee Kuan Yew’s last will and its

inclusion of the demolition wish. He and Ho Ching are unhappy because the

demolition wish gives Wei Ling an unfettered right to live in the house. These

queries he raised to the Committee were already fully refuted in 2015. Except this

time, of course, they are being raised to a Committee comprising Hsien Loong’s

subordinates.

The reality is that there was nothing suspicious or untoward at all about the

execution of Lee Kuan Yew’s last will. Indeed, Hsien Loong chose not to raise any

legal challenge. The simple truth is that Hsien Loong’s current popularity is tied to

Lee Kuan Yew’s legacy. Preserving Lee Kuan Yew’s house would allow Hsien

Loong and his family to inherit a tangible monument to Lee Kuan Yew’s authority.

Lee Kuan Yew was a lawyer and well knew the sanctity and finality of a will. He

gave clear instructions for the execution of the will. He carefully read his final will

before signing it, and he continued to review and reflect after signing to put his affairs

in order. Two weeks after executing his will, Lee Kuan Yew personally drafted

unassisted a codicil to his will and executed it. All three children were kept fully

apprised of the signing of the final will and the codicil. No objection was raised at that

time and indeed Hsien Loong has affirmed the will in public and in private.

Ultimately, it is not difficult to see that 38 Oxley Road should be demolished. There is

full alignment between Lee Kuan Yew’s final wish and the people of Singapore, since

there is overwhelming support among Singaporeans for the demolition of the house.

An independent YouGov survey published on 22 December 2015 showed that 77%

of Singaporeans supported the demolition of Lee Kuan Yew’s house and only 17%

opposed it.

“We are private citizens with no political ambitions. We have nothing to gain from

the demolition of 38 Oxley Road, other than the knowledge that we have honoured

our father’s last wish. Hsien Loong has everything to gain from preserving 38 Oxley

Road – he need only ignore his father’s will and values.”

“The values of Lee Kuan Yew are being eroded by his own son. Our father placed

our country and his people first, not his personal popularity or private agendas. We

are very sad that we have been pushed to this. We feel hugely uncomfortable and

closely monitored in our own country. We do not trust Hsien Loong as a brother or

as a leader. We have lost confidence in him.”

Lee Wei Ling and Lee Hsien Yang

Joint Executors and Trustees of the Estate of Lee Kuan Yew

14 June 2017

https://www.facebook.com/38OxleyRoad/

https://www.facebook.com/LeeHsienYangSGP/

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