June 24, 2017

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by Suhaile Md and Johannes Tjendro

Scroll past the interactive timeline for an old school list.

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June 14, about 2:10am – “We do not trust Hsien Loong”

Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Lee Wei Ling publish their damning joint statement on their respective Facebook pages. PM Lee is unfilial, self-serving, and “has deliberately misrepresented Lee Kuan Yew’s clear intentions” to demolish the family house on Oxley Road for PM Lee’s personal political agenda, said his siblings. Added the younger Lees: “We do not trust Hsien Loong as a brother or as a leader. We have lost confidence in him.”

The statement also painted PM Lee’s wife, Ms Ho Ching, as a power hungry matriarch who had too much influence on civil servants.

Read more here.

June 14, 2:20am – Third generation Lee weighs in

Mr Lee Hsien Yang’s son, Mr Li Shengwu, shares the joint statement on his Facebook page. Said Mr Li: “[My] immediate family has become increasingly worried about the lack of checks on abuse of power.” He is the only third generation member of the Lee family to comment publicly so far.

Read more here.

June 14, about 9:40am – The Prime Minister responds

“Ho Ching and I deny these allegations”, said PM Lee on Facebook. He added: “I am very disappointed that my siblings have chosen to issue a statement publicising private family matters…. As my siblings know, I am presently overseas on leave with my family. I will consider this matter further after I return this weekend.”

Ms Ho Ching maintains radio silence, only resharing PM Lee’s post a few hours later. See his Facebook post here.

What does it all mean so far? Well, it’s more than just a famiLEE affair. Read our article here.

June 14, around 2:10pm – Hsien Yang: “This is not where I can continue to live”

Mr Lee Hsien Yang and wife Mrs Lee Suet Fern said that they were “preparing to leave” but did not say when or where they were heading, reported The Straits Times (ST). Added Mr Lee: “This is my home. I wouldn’t do this unless I really felt there is a serious issue. And I’ve felt this is not where I can continue to live, the way I’ve been living in the last two years.”

Read the ST article here.

June 14, 5:20pm – The Mysterious Ministerial Committee

Cabinet Secretary Tan Kee Yong sheds light on the internal Ministerial Committee set up by the Cabinet to look into Oxley Road house. The existence of the committee had first came to light about 15 hours earlier in the joint statement by the Lee siblings.

Mr Tan’s official response, by way of a press statement from the Prime Minister’s Office, is that the purpose of the Committee was to list out the various courses of action that could be taken with regard to the house to “help a future Government when a decision needs to be taken about the house’’. Mr Tan added that PM Lee had recused himself and is not involved in the Committee.

Read the Cabinet Secretary’s statement here.

June 14, 11:10pm – Hsien Yang: “Feels almost like an Orwellian nightmare”

In response, said Mr Lee Hsien Yang in a TODAY interview: “Why is there even a Cabinet committee when PM Lee [Hsien Loong] had announced in Parliament that so long as [younger sister] Wei Ling is living there, nothing needs to be done? Why when the Government says the government of the day will decide when Lee Wei Ling is no longer [living there] … is the Government of today convening this Cabinet committee?”

He declined to comment on any firm plans but later when asked about the next step, Mr Lee said he wants to move on and “wake up from what feels almost like an Orwellian nightmare”.

June 15, around 12:20am – Wei Ling rubbishes Cabinet Secretary’s comments

“Private family matters don’t involve setting up secret committees of ministers to get your way. There is no way that this committee was set up without LHL’s [Lee Hsien Loong’s] tacit consent and approval.” Said Dr Lee in a Facebook post. She was responding to the Cabinet Secretary’s statement that PM Lee had recused himself from the Committee.

Mr Lee Hsien Yang and his son Mr Li Shengwu both shared her Facebook post soon after.

June 15, around 1:20am – Wei Ling: “Hsien Loong and Ho Ching are finally showing their true colours.”

An hour after her short comment on the Ministerial committee, Dr Lee said that because PM Lee could not do with the family house as he wished, he had punished his brother Mr Lee Hsien Yang by making him pay 150 per cent of the market value of the Oxley road house when it was sold to him. In punishing Mr Lee, PM Lee and Ms Ho Ching are “showing their true colours”. Dr Lee added: “The most important point I want to put across is if PM can misuse his official power to abuse his siblings who can fight back, what else can he do to ordinary citizens.” Dr Lee said she was on holiday in Scotland.

Read her full post here.

June 15, 7am – Hsien Yang: “What did he [Lee Kuan Yew] want?”

It’s clear Mr Lee Kuan Yew wanted the house demolished if Dr Lee Wei Ling moved out or passed on, said Mr Lee Hsien Yang in an interview with Yahoo news . It was stated so in the late Mr Lee’s Will, which had been officially certified in court in 2015. Said Mr Lee Hsien Yang: “If Hsien Loong had any doubts [about the will], that was the time to come out and say, ‘Hey, there are some questions here, please, let’s address them in court’. He never raised them… And yet now, he goes to the cabinet committee and says ‘Oh, my father wasn’t quite so unwavering in his wish'”.

June 15, 12pm – Some questions that need to be answered

By now the Cabinet Secretary has said something, so have the PM and the two Lee siblings in response. But questions remain and there’s still more that should be revealed. Read our article to put things in context.

With everything going on, two other points might have been missed in the FamiLEE saga: Minister Lawrence Wong and Attorney General Lucien Wong. Read more here.

The FamiLEE saga also hit headlines around the world. Read our headline round up here.

And how have Singaporeans been reacting? Have a look for yourself.

June 15, around 3:10pm – Another third generation Lee weighs in

“For what it is worth, I really have no interest in politics.” said Mr Li Hongyi in a Facebook post. He is the firstborn of PM Lee and Ms Ho Ching. Dr Lee and Mr Lee Hsien Yang claimed that the PM and his wife were setting the stage to make their son the future Prime Minister.

Ms Ho Ching “liked” Mr Li’s post.

June 15, around 4:10pm – Hsien Yang casts doubt on LHL’s integrity

Mr Lee Hsien Yang published a photo on Facebook comparing what PM Lee’s said in public with what he allegedly said in private.

Dr Lee and Mr Li Shengwu shared the post soon after.

June 15, around 9:20pm – PM Lee responds

PM Lee addressed the accusations by his siblings on his representations to the Ministerial Committee and publishes a summary of his Statutory Declarations on Lee Kuan Yew’s Will.

June 15 around 9:30pm – Hsien Yang: Hsien Loong’s speech in parliament contradicts his Statutory Declaration

Mr Lee Hsien Yang replied that “Stamford Law attended to the attestation of the Will at Lee Kuan Yew’s explicit request.” He added that probate was granted in Oct 2015. He also accused PM Lee about giving contradictory statements to parliament and to the “secret committee”.

He then shared a photo of the will with Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s initial right under the Demolition Clause, to prove that the late Mr Lee would have known about the Clause.

Dr Lee and Mr Li Shengwu shared both posts soon after.

June 15, around 10:20pm – Wei Ling: Hsien Loong and Ho Ching dishonest for selective use of quotes

Dr Lee accused PM Lee for being “mischievious and dishonest to selectively use quotes from me out of context to suggest that Hsien Yang and his wife were trying to cheat me in our father’s final Will.”

Mr Lee Hsien Yang shares her post not long after.

June 15, around 10:30pm – Wei Ling had a fall-out with Pa: email screenshots revealed

Dr Lee posted 3 screenshots of private correspondences involving Lee Kuan Yew, Lee Suet Fern, and K Shanmugam, amongst others. She deleted them about 15 minutes after.

More than an hour later, the emails were reposted in a compiled PDF format; not on her personal Facebook profile, but rather on a public page titled “Dr Lee Wei Ling”. Lee Hsien Yang shared this post not long after.

June 16, around 3:40am – Li Shengwu: “The country must be bigger than one family.”

Mr Hsien Yang’s son, Mr Li Shengwu said in a Facebook post: “Today we are going to learn… whether [as I hope] the ruling party is still full of men and women of quality and strong character.”

Dr Lee shared this post.

June 16, around 7:30am – Hsien Yang: “Secret committee ignored” our reply

Mr Lee Hsien Yang fired the first shot in the morning in reply to PM Lee’s claims.

Dr Lee and Mr Li Shengwu shared this post.

June 16, around 1:10pm – Demolition Clause – Hsien Yang’s version

Mr Lee Hsien Yang claimed that the Demolition Clause “was drafted at LKY’s direction, and put into language by Lee Suet Fern his daughter in law and when he was satisfied he asked [Kwa] Kim Li to insert it into his will”.

He added: “On LKY’s express instructions in writing, two lawyers from Stamford Law were called upon to witness his signing of the will. The Estate of LKY [Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Lee] instructed Stamford Law to extract probate. Ng Joo Khin’s role in that was to read the will to the beneficiaries.”

Dr Lee shared his post soon after.

Updated June 18: The famiLEE affair has been brewing for a while now. Read our articles on the issue:

  1. FamiLEE saga: 10 things from the academic paper “When I’m dead, demolish it” (Jun 18)
  2. FamiLEE saga: Who’s involved (Jun 17)
  3. FamiLEE saga: Is a grant of probate really final? (Jun 17)
  4. FamiLEE saga: Somebody should just sue (Jun 17)
  5. FamiLEE saga: PM Lee’s version of events (Jun 16) 
  6. FamiLEE saga: Let a third party tell all (Jun 16)
  7. FamiLEE saga: The past three days (Jun 16)
  8. FamiLEE saga: How Lee Suet Fern got LWL her inheritance, according to leaked emails (Jun 15)
  9. FamiLEE saga: Singaporeans react with confusion, humour and CSI skills (Jun 15)
  10. FamiLEE saga: From 38 Oxley Road to 1 Parliament Place, not just a family affair (Jun 15)
  11. FamiLEE saga: Headlines around the world (Jun 15)
  12. FamiLEE saga: Now about that mysterious ministerial committee (Jun 15)
  13. Not just a famiLEE affair (Jun 14)
  14. Third generation Lee weighs in (Jun 14)
  15. “We do not trust Hsien Loong as a brother or as a leader. We have lost confidence in him.” (Jun 14)

Featured image by Sean Chong.

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THREE Facebook posts appeared from Dr Lee Wei Ling soon after her brother PM Lee Hsien Loong posted his long Facebook note summarising his statutory declarations.

Dr Lee shared private emails on her Facebook page a few minutes before 10.30pm but deleted them soon after at 10.42pm on Jun 15. Lucky for you, we have the screenshots right here.

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A few minutes past midnight (Jun 16), Dr Lee released the emails yet again on her Facebook page; this time, compiled neatly in a PDF file uploaded on google drive.

 

 

Mr Lee Hsien Yang shared her post three minutes after.

 

Updated June 18: The famiLEE affair has been brewing for a while now. Read our articles on the issue:

  1. FamiLEE saga: 10 things from the academic paper “When I’m dead, demolish it” (Jun 18)
  2. FamiLEE saga: Who’s involved (Jun 17)
  3. FamiLEE saga: Is a grant of probate really final? (Jun 17)
  4. FamiLEE saga: Somebody should just sue (Jun 17)
  5. FamiLEE saga: PM Lee’s version of events (Jun 16) 
  6. FamiLEE saga: Let a third party tell all (Jun 16)
  7. FamiLEE saga: The past three days (Jun 16)
  8. FamiLEE saga: How Lee Suet Fern got LWL her inheritance, according to leaked emails (Jun 15)
  9. FamiLEE saga: Singaporeans react with confusion, humour and CSI skills (Jun 15)
  10. FamiLEE saga: From 38 Oxley Road to 1 Parliament Place, not just a family affair (Jun 15)
  11. FamiLEE saga: Headlines around the world (Jun 15)
  12. FamiLEE saga: Now about that mysterious ministerial committee (Jun 15)
  13. Not just a famiLEE affair (Jun 14)
  14. Third generation Lee weighs in (Jun 14)
  15. “We do not trust Hsien Loong as a brother or as a leader. We have lost confidence in him.” (Jun 14)

 

Featured image by Jacklee from Wikimedia Commons. CC BY-SA 4.0.

If you like this article, Like The Middle Ground‘s Facebook Page as well!

For breaking news, you can talk to us via email.

by Lee Chin Wee

IN A country where one man’s view of the world still authors the national narrative, it is grimly appropriate that one family’s feud has bitterly divided Singapore. Dr Lee Wei Ling and Mr Lee Hsien Yang’s explosive public statement – tactically released while Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was on family holiday – has been brushed aside as “airing dirty laundry” by pro-PAP supporters and simultaneously held aloft by PAP detractors as evidence of PM Lee’s alleged corruption.

It is easy to dismiss this saga as family drama writ large. And to some extent, I agree that too much ink has been spilt on the fate of the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s home at 38 Oxley Road. It’s too far removed from the concerns of most Singaporeans, and is something for the Lee family to settle privately in court. But the accusations are not regarding the house – the house is but context surrounding what Dr Lee and Mr Lee claim to be the “misuse of [PM Lee’s] position and influence over the Singapore government and its agencies to drive his personal agenda.”

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PM Lee stands accused of using his political power, vested upon him by a democratic majority to serve the public good, to resolve the personal matter of 38 Oxley Road. There are two claims in the statement that are of particular concern:

  1. That PM Lee used his position as Prime Minister of Singapore to obtain the Deed of Gift from Minister Lawrence Wong, then handed it to his personal lawyer for the purpose of personal gain; and
  2. That PM Lee supported the appointment of the current Attorney-General (A-G) of Singapore, Lucien Wong, for less-than-meritocratic reasons. It was revealed that Lucien Wong was PM Lee’s personal lawyer who was appointed as A-G soon after the family dispute over 38 Oxley Road began.

On (1), the Deed of Gift was a legal document executed between Dr Lee and Mr Lee with the National Heritage Board for the “donation and public exhibition of significant items from (their) parents’ home, with a stipulation that Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s wish for the demolition of 38 Oxley Road be prominently displayed. It is alleged that PM Lee, acting as Prime Minister instead of a private citizen, tapped on Minister of National Development Lawrence Wong to obtain said Deed of Gift via political means (rather than appropriate legal channels as per a private citizen). PM Lee then allegedly passed on the Deed of Gift to personal lawyer Lucien Wong, without the knowledge of either Dr Lee and Mr Lee or the National Heritage Board.

This is a serious allegation, and if true, may constitute an abuse of power. It is effectively the same as if the Minister of Social and Family Development obtained legal documents pertaining to his own marriage without going through the proper channels as a private citizen – and then passing the documents on to his own divorce lawyer to gain an edge in the proceedings. The powers of political office should never be used to enrich the personal purse.

On (2), Dr Lee and Mr Lee claimed that soon after they donated the items to the National Heritage Board, they “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.” The insinuation here is that Attorney-General Lucien Wong’s appointment was made in a less-than-meritocratic manner; perhaps as a quid pro quo for the services provided to PM Lee as his personal lawyer. What may support this claim is that, at the time of appointment, Wong was the first A-G who had “no experience on the Bench, nor acted for the State in legal matters”. Moreover, while Wong is a top corporate lawyer, he had little criminal prosecutorial experience before he became A-G.

At this juncture, it is important to note that nothing concrete has yet been proven. PM Lee has denied all these allegations, particularly the “absurd claim” that he harbours political ambitions for his son. It is possible that everything which Dr Lee and Mr Lee have raised is completely baseless and defamatory. Which raises the question – why should we bother ourselves with what Dr Lee and Mr Lee have to say? Why should we give more weight to their words compared to the inane ramblings of some other private citizen?

I believe the answer lies with their previous track record of public service and their proximity to the centres of political influence in Singapore. They are familiar with government over-reach in the civil space, and are likelier to have access to insiders who can provide insight as to the (ab)use of executive power. In no way does this mean we should take their statement at face value. But we should evaluate their words with greater weight and charity, than that of the average Singaporean. It is for this same reason that former government insiders such as Philip Yeo should be taken seriously when he says that the top leaders in Singapore may be “infected with eunuch disease”, or ex-GIC Chief Economist Yeoh Lam Keong alleges that the current CPF schemes are “inadequate”. Since this controversy is quickly developing into a “he said, she said” standstill, it stands to reason that the identities of the people involved in the issue (and hence the information they are privy to) should matter.

Make no mistake, Dr Lee and Mr Lee did not wake up one day and decide to become bleeding-heart liberals because they had a guilty pang in their hearts. This statement was triggered by the 38 Oxley Road home, something that both individuals have a personal interest in. It is this selfsame interest that led to them issuing a statement against their elder brother and subsequently fleeing Singapore. In the absence of such a problem, I have no doubt that both siblings would have remained quiet. But that is how most political revelations and challenges to the status quo occur: Because of how concentrated power is and how ossified the elites are, it is when the interests of a few formerly-powerful elites come into tension with the interests of those in charge that the most explosive conflicts occur. A good example of that happening right now is former PAP MP Tan Cheng Bock’s stubborn refusal to back down from contesting for the Presidency – first at the ballot box, and later in court.

At this juncture, what is to be done? It is clear that Singapore is built on the principles of incorruptibility, governmental transparency, and the rule of law (instead of rule by law). And even if one disagrees with this, it is still important that we strive toward these ideals. But before we jump to any conclusions, one should understand that this story is still developing – what we need right now is more information and less recrimination. We need to demand of Dr Lee and Mr Lee, along with PM Lee, to provide more details as to their side of the story. In the days to come, whichever party is more forthcoming with information and less prone to character assassinating their opponents should be trusted more.

If there is some meat to the allegations (because as of now they are very unsubstantiated), then there should be an impartial inquiry conducted to ensure the impartial discharge of executive duties. At the very least, justice must be seen to have been done. If the allegations turn out to be baseless – either through the failure of Dr Lee and Mr Lee to provide convincing evidence or by PM Lee revealing sound legal and evidential backing for his actions – then legal action against Dr Lee and Mr Lee for defamation could be pursued.

It is tempting to take harshly partisan sides on this issue. But when something as complex and murky as a private affair is yanked into the public realm, some temperance is sorely needed. Here is to cooler and calmer heads prevailing in the weeks ahead.

 

Lee Chin Wee is a prospective undergraduate at Oxford University… And no, he’s not related to the famiLEE. This article originally appeared on his blog, BANALYSIS

 

Updated June 18: The famiLEE affair has been brewing for a while now. Read our articles on the issue:

 

  1. FamiLEE saga: 10 things from the academic paper “When I’m dead, demolish it” (Jun 18)
  2. FamiLEE saga: Who’s involved (Jun 17)
  3. FamiLEE saga: Is a grant of probate really final? (Jun 17)
  4. FamiLEE saga: Somebody should just sue (Jun 17)
  5. FamiLEE saga: PM Lee’s version of events (Jun 16) 
  6. FamiLEE saga: Let a third party tell all (Jun 16)
  7. FamiLEE saga: The past three days (Jun 16)
  8. FamiLEE saga: How Lee Suet Fern got LWL her inheritance, according to leaked emails (Jun 15)
  9. FamiLEE saga: Singaporeans react with confusion, humour and CSI skills (Jun 15)
  10. FamiLEE saga: From 38 Oxley Road to 1 Parliament Place, not just a family affair (Jun 15)
  11. FamiLEE saga: Headlines around the world (Jun 15)
  12. FamiLEE saga: Now about that mysterious ministerial committee (Jun 15)
  13. Not just a famiLEE affair (Jun 14)
  14. Third generation Lee weighs in (Jun 14)
  15. “We do not trust Hsien Loong as a brother or as a leader. We have lost confidence in him.” (Jun 14)

 

Featured image by Jacklee from Wikimedia Commons. CC BY-SA 4.0.

If you like this article, Like The Middle Ground‘s Facebook Page as well!

For breaking news, you can talk to us via email.

by Suhaile Md

THE public denunciation yesterday (June 14) of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong by his siblings Dr Lee Wei Ling and Mr Lee Hsien Yang shocked Singapore, the ripples of which reached far beyond its shores.

The story was picked up by international news wire agencies, Reuters, AP, and AFP, with three different angles. Reuters angled on fear with the headline: Singapore prime minister’s siblings say they feel threatened, have lost confidence in him. AP went with family feud: Siblings accuse Singapore PM of using his power against them. And AFP focused on the accusations of power abuse: Siblings accuse Singapore PM of abusing power in family row. The articles were a straight retelling of what transpired, with the added context that in Singapore, such public criticism of the Prime Minister is “rare”.

By and large these three angles were repeated the world over.

In the United States (US), The Washington Post ran the AP report with the same headline. Time magazine went with the Reuters report with a modified headline, “Singapore Leader’s Younger Siblings Say They Are Concerned About ‘Big Brother'”. Its US counterparts CNBC, CNN, and The New York Times (NYT) all wrote their own stories, angling on family feud: “In rare feud, Singapore PM Lee under attack by his siblings” (CNBC),  “Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong publicly denounced by siblings” (CNN), and “In Singapore, Prime Minister’s Siblings Are Taking Private Feud Public” (NYT).

There was not much difference across the Atlantic. The United Kingdom’s BBC and Guardian went with “Singapore PM Lee Hsien Loong family feud erupts again”, “Singapore PM Lee Hsien Loong denounced by siblings” respectively. The Times ran “Singapore PM Lee Hsien Loong is behaving like Big Brother, say siblings”. The Orwellian phrase was used by the younger Lee siblings in their public statement, playing off the fact that PM Lee is their elder brother and that they felt threatened by him. Financial Times (FT) covered two angles in one shot with the headline: “Singapore’s first family feud over ‘big brother’”. FT was also the first to get a comment from Mr Lee Hsien Yang after news broke.

The same angles were rehashed by Singapore’s neighbours.

Up north, Malaysiakini headlined “Singapore PM’s siblings publicly denounce him”. The Star Online directly quoted the statement by the younger Lees for its headline: “We fear the use of the organs of state against us”. Malay Mail Online reprinted the Reuters article with the same headline. Indonesia’s Jakarta Globe did the same as Malay Mail Online. The New Straits Times ran the AFP story, keeping the AFP headline as well. Thailand’s The Nation also ran the AFP report. Australia’s Sydney Morning Herald wrote their own story: “Siblings of Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong say they fear for their safety”.

Further afield, Japan’s Nikkei Review called it a “bitter” feud although it’s headline, “Singapore prime minister in open feud with siblings”, is more factual. The Hong Kong Free Press focused on the feud also, “Singapore PM Lee Hsien Loong criticised by siblings in strongly-worded statement”. Its counterpart, the South China Morning Post wrote a more thorough piece, adding context on the disputed Oxley road house where the Lee’s grew up in, as well as the popularity of PM Lee as evidenced by his strong mandate in the 2015 elections. China’s Global Times reprinted the Reuters article with the same headline.

There was one other angle outside of the three above – about Mr Lee Hsien Yang’s decision to leave Singapore.

Malaysia’s Malay Mail Online: “Lee Kuan Yew’s son to leave Singapore amid family home conflict”. The Malaysian Insight was slightly more dramatic with, “Hsien Loong’s brother feels need to flee Singapore as Lee siblings’ feud deepens”.  International media like Quartz and Bloomberg had similar angles as well: “The brother of Singapore’s prime minister may enter self-exile, all because of a house” and “Singapore Premier Lee’s Brother to Leave City Amid Family Feud”, respectively. For the record, Mr Lee Hsien Yang and his wife are still in Singapore, although yes, they plan to leave the country.

The reports so far have dealt with facts, getting readers up to speed on what is happening. Columns, commentaries, and opinions will no doubt appear in the coming days.

That’s the news from foreign sites. Here’s our series of articles on the famiLEE feud, starting with the most recent:

    1. FamiLEE saga: 10 things from the academic paper “When I’m dead, demolish it” (Jun 18)
    2. FamiLEE saga: Who’s involved (Jun 17)
    3. FamiLEE saga: Is a grant of probate really final? (Jun 17)
    4. FamiLEE saga: Somebody should just sue (Jun 17)
    5. FamiLEE saga: PM Lee’s version of events (Jun 16) 
    6. FamiLEE saga: Let a third party tell all (Jun 16)
    7. FamiLEE saga: The past three days (Jun 16)
    8. FamiLEE saga: How Lee Suet Fern got LWL her inheritance, according to leaked emails (Jun 15)
    9. FamiLEE saga: Singaporeans react with confusion, humour and CSI skills (Jun 15)
    10. FamiLEE saga: From 38 Oxley Road to 1 Parliament Place, not just a family affair (Jun 15)
    11. FamiLEE saga: Headlines around the world (Jun 15)
    12. FamiLEE saga: Now about that mysterious ministerial committee (Jun 15)
    13. Not just a famiLEE affair (Jun 14)
    14. Third generation Lee weighs in (Jun 14)
    15. “We do not trust Hsien Loong as a brother or as a leader. We have lost confidence in him.” (Jun 14)
    16. Mystery deepens over secret tapes of Lee Kuan Yew (Sep 30, 2016)
    17. Time for the famiLEE to end the public spectacle (Apr 10, 2016)
    18. Dr Lee Wei Ling gagged? (Apr 2, 2016)

Featured image by Sean Chong. 

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by Bertha Henson

THE first we heard of the ministerial committee was in the Lee siblings’ statement early Wednesday. We’re told that it is headed by Minister Lawrence Wong and that it has been querying the three Lee siblings about their late father’s will. The siblings said that Mr Wong informed them of its existence last July. It is an “internal’’ committee, said Cabinet Secretary Tan Kee Yong, which seems to imply that no one else need to know about it and that it is well within the Cabinet’s right to do so. Since PM Lee Hsien Loong has recused himself from all G decisions regarding the family house in Oxley Road, he shouldn’t (or couldn’t) have directed its establishment.

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So, someone had the bright idea to set up a committee because it doesn’t look like everything about the house has been settled yet. What exactly has happened with the house? The short answer is nothing will happen to the house as long as Dr Lee Wei Ling lives in it. After that? That isn’t clear but the three siblings put out a statement that they would like the house demolished in line with their parents’ wishes. PM Lee said he was expressing this as his personal desire. In other words, he’s separating his private and official capacities. If the G (without PM Lee) decides to keep the house, it’s not clear how he, in his official capacity, would react. Maybe, he would say: “I will abide by the wishes of the Government of Singapore.’’ It’s been clear to many that the death of the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew had put PM Lee in the invidious position of having to act as both eldest son and Singapore leader. We watched closely whenever he spoke of his father because we’re voyeurs who want to see if the son or the PM shone through his words.

Why the need for such a committee? Who is on it and what is its job scope? Is this a routine thing like MRT trains being sent to China for repairs? Or was it set up to “persecute’’ the two Lee siblings, as Mr Lee Hsien Yang alleged?

According to Cabinet Secretary Tan, while nothing will be done with the house while Dr Lee lives in it; “the committee will be listing out the different options with regard to the House and the implications’’. This, he said, “will help a future Government when a decision needs to be taken about the house’’.  It will be looking at the historical and heritage significance of the house, besides taking into account the late Mr Lee’s wishes for it. 

Since the committee is supposed to help the future government of the day, we can assume its recommendations are just that. Not binding.

Mr Lee Hsien Yang’s response: “Why, when the Government says the government of the day will decide when Lee Wei Ling is no longer (living there)… is the Government of today convening this Cabinet committee?’’

So this mysterious committee has been summoning the three Lees to make representations. Should PM Lee be allowed to make representations since he has recused himself and the committee is made up of his subordinates? One argument would be that it was natural that PM Lee would be asked to give his views as the eldest son. And the committee should be trusted enough to give the PM’s opinion the same weight as those of his siblings.

The other two siblings, however, have painted their brother has having a firm grip on power and who would use organs of state to get his way. Dr Lee put it even more bluntly in her FB : “(If) PM can misuse his official power to abuse his siblings who can fight back, what else can he do to ordinary citizens.’’ They also said that PM Lee had queried the circumstances of the late Mr Lee’s will. Confirming this, the Cabinet secretary shed more light: Mrs Lee Suet Fern, wife of Mr Lee Hsien Yang, and lawyers from her firm played a role here and the committee wanted to know what it was. PM Lee has responded with a statutory declaration, but the two others have yet to do so.

But Mr Lee Hsien Yang said his wife had nothing to do with the will and was upset that the siblings were being asked the same questions repeatedly.

“If Lee Hsien Loong had any doubt about the validity of the Last Will, he should have challenged it in court,” he said in an interview with TODAY. “Frankly it is completely improper to use a cabinet committee to pursue an issue like this when the proper channel was at the court and probate.”

“… in his attempt to punish Hsien Yang for blocking what he wants to do with the house, (PM Lee) stipulated that in addition to paying Hsien Loong the market value of the house, he must also donate 50% of that value to charity.” – Dr Lee Wei Ling

It’s getting way too ugly. There’s even a money angle: Like how the settlement between the three Lees prescribes that Mr Lee Hsien Yang pay PM Lee, who was bequeathed the house, its full market value. And how, according to Dr Lee, that PM Lee, “in his attempt to punish Hsien Yang for blocking what he wants to do with the house, stipulated that in addition to paying Hsien Loong the market value of the house, he must also donate 50% of that value to charity.” In other words, Mr Lee Hsien Yang has to pay out 150 per cent of the value of the house. In 2015, property consultants estimated that the house could fetch $24 million, The Straits Times reported.

It looks like the breach in the family cannot be mended given the kind of words that have been levelled on both sides. In fact, they seem to border on the defamatory.

Let the siblings fight. On our part as citizens, we should be more concerned with the use of authority against individuals. For that, the G, now led by Acting Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, might want to think about lifting the veil on this mysterious ministerial committee. There is no need to wait for PM Lee to return to Singapore over the weekend, since he has recused himself from all government decisions over the house.

 

Updated June 18: The famiLEE affair has been brewing for a while now. Read our articles on the issue:

  1. FamiLEE saga: 10 things from the academic paper “When I’m dead, demolish it” (Jun 18)
  2. FamiLEE saga: Who’s involved (Jun 17)
  3. FamiLEE saga: Is a grant of probate really final? (Jun 17)
  4. FamiLEE saga: Somebody should just sue (Jun 17)
  5. FamiLEE saga: PM Lee’s version of events (Jun 16) 
  6. FamiLEE saga: Let a third party tell all (Jun 16)
  7. FamiLEE saga: The past three days (Jun 16)
  8. FamiLEE saga: How Lee Suet Fern got LWL her inheritance, according to leaked emails (Jun 15)
  9. FamiLEE saga: Singaporeans react with confusion, humour and CSI skills (Jun 15)
  10. FamiLEE saga: From 38 Oxley Road to 1 Parliament Place, not just a family affair (Jun 15)
  11. FamiLEE saga: Headlines around the world (Jun 15)
  12. FamiLEE saga: Now about that mysterious ministerial committee (Jun 15)
  13. Not just a famiLEE affair (Jun 14)
  14. Third generation Lee weighs in (Jun 14)
  15. “We do not trust Hsien Loong as a brother or as a leader. We have lost confidence in him.” (Jun 14)
  16. Mystery deepens over secret tapes of Lee Kuan Yew (Sep 30, 2016)
  17. Time for the famiLEE to end the public spectacle (Apr 10, 2016)
  18. Dr Lee Wei Ling gagged? (Apr 2, 2016)

 

Featured image by Wikimedia Commons user Michał Jozefaciuk.

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by Bertha Henson

WHAT did Singapore wake up to this morning? The tremors that have been reverberating for several months have become a political earthquake, which started while we were sleeping.

There is now clearly an open rupture in the Lee family, with the two younger siblings taking issue with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (PM Lee) and his wife, Ms Ho Ching. Their denunciations could not have been made plainer, and go way beyond Dr Lee Wei Ling’s earlier description of their eldest brother as a dishonourable man who wouldn’t do right by their late father.

It is no longer about whether PM Lee intervened over the publication of Dr Lee’s columns in The Straits Times or whether an unnamed family member was right to hand over some documents from the family house to the G. As for the contentious Oxley Road house itself, it appears from the statement made by Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Lee that the issue of whether to preserve or demolish the home they grew up in hasn’t been settled.

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It looked as if the siblings were miffed (to put it mildly) that their elder brother was opening the issue again, this time in front of a ministerial committee, which they said was staffed by his subordinates. To cut a long story short, the last decision publicised by all three siblings was that the they hoped that the G would allow the house to be demolished after Dr Lee stops living in it. Meanwhile, PM Lee and Mr Lee Hsien Yang each pledged half the value of the house to charity. The PM also recused himself from the G’s final decision on the property.

So what’s going on? Will everything be resolved if the house was simply left alone and demolished once Dr Lee no longer stayed there?

It looks like so much bad blood has been spilt that the mess is impossible to mop up. There was the accusation that PM Lee was questioning the circumstances of the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s will. That he was abusing his position of authority to advance his political interests and those of his own family. For the first time, his eldest son, Mr Li Hongyi, was pulled into the row, with the statement alleging that the PM and his wife “harbour political ambitions” for him. Ms Ho Ching was further painted as a power-hungry matriarch who wielded too much influence among civil servants despite not having an official position.

Then there was the allegation that unlike the late Madam Kwa Geok Choo, Ms Ho had failed to stay out of politics: “The contrast between her [Mdm Kwa] and Ho Ching could not be more stark.”

Even the late Mr Lee was put in the picture: as a disappointed father who wished his son, the PM, could have made it easier for him to have his wishes fulfilled. Plus an intriguing reference as to how the late Mr Lee decided against the PM as executor of the estate.

What is most troubling are the insinuations that organs of State will be used against the siblings and Mr Lee Hsien Yang’s wife, Mrs Lee Suet Fern, so much so that the couple feels compelled to leave the country. What can this mean? It gives rise to speculation that the trio are being threatened in some way. Mrs Lee Suet Fern has a thriving law practice that specialises in corporate finance. But Mrs Lee was once at odds with the Law Ministry. Last year, she claimed that a scheme in 2008 has not benefited local lawyers enough. The Law Ministry then came out to rebut Mrs Lee’s comments by defending the scheme and saying that her arguments did not align with her previous arguments.

It is an ugly picture, but is it the truth? How much of it is emotional guesswork and how much of it can be ascertained? The PM, who is on leave till June 17, has categorically denied his siblings’ allegations, saying he would “continue serving Singaporeans honestly and to the best of my [his] ability”.

This is unlikely to stop tongues wagging. There are criticisms of the siblings’ act of washing the family’s dirty linen in public but also some glee that suspicions of high-handedness on the part of the PM and his wife appear to have been vindicated by the siblings.

Some would say that the crux of the issue is the house. It is now before a ministerial committee led by Mr Lawrence Wong. Is there an attempt to preserve the house – or not? Whose opinion matters more: the late Mr Lee (unless there is something wrong with the will) or those who want to see the house preserved for one reason or another?

Whether resolved or not, much damage has been done. The image and reputation of the Prime Minister as a son and brother have been attacked by his own siblings. It’s no business of ours, except that he was also attacked as a leader who abused his authority and his wife has been accused of overstepping the boundaries.

This is not something that can be papered over as a “personal, family issue’’ to be resolved behind closed doors.

 

Updated June 18: The famiLEE affair has been brewing for a while now. Read our articles on the issue:

  1. FamiLEE saga: 10 things from the academic paper “When I’m dead, demolish it” (Jun 18)
  2. FamiLEE saga: Who’s involved (Jun 17)
  3. FamiLEE saga: Is a grant of probate really final? (Jun 17)
  4. FamiLEE saga: Somebody should just sue (Jun 17)
  5. FamiLEE saga: PM Lee’s version of events (Jun 16) 
  6. FamiLEE saga: Let a third party tell all (Jun 16)
  7. FamiLEE saga: The past three days (Jun 16)
  8. FamiLEE saga: How Lee Suet Fern got LWL her inheritance, according to leaked emails (Jun 15)
  9. FamiLEE saga: Singaporeans react with confusion, humour and CSI skills (Jun 15)
  10. FamiLEE saga: From 38 Oxley Road to 1 Parliament Place, not just a family affair (Jun 15)
  11. FamiLEE saga: Headlines around the world (Jun 15)
  12. FamiLEE saga: Now about that mysterious ministerial committee (Jun 15)
  13. Not just a famiLEE affair (Jun 14)
  14. Third generation Lee weighs in (Jun 14)
  15. “We do not trust Hsien Loong as a brother or as a leader. We have lost confidence in him.” (Jun 14)
  16. Mystery deepens over secret tapes of Lee Kuan Yew (Sep 30, 2016)
  17. Time for the famiLEE to end the public spectacle (Apr 10, 2016)
  18. Dr Lee Wei Ling gagged? (Apr 2, 2016)

 

Featured image by Sean Chong. 

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For breaking news, you can talk to us via email.

by Suhaile Md

SOON after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s (PM Lee) two siblings publicly denounced him in a joint statement (read here) in the early hours of Wednesday, his nephew, Mr Li Shengwu wrote a Facebook post supporting the statement against his uncle.

Mr Li Shengwu is Mr Lee Hsien Yang’s first born. He is also the first of the third generation of the Lee family to make a public comment on the matter.

 

 

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Mr Lee Hsien Yang, and his wife Mrs Lee Suet Fern, have two other sons: Mr Li Huanwu and Mr Li Shaowu. Mr Lee made the joint statement with his sister, Dr Lee Wei Ling. She has no children of her own.

Their elder brother PM Lee has four: Ms Li Xiuqi, Mr Li Yipeng, Mr Li Hongyi and Mr Li Haoyi. Mr Li Hongyi is the first born of PM Lee and his wife Ms Ho Ching.

Mr Li Hongyi, 30, and Mr Li Shengwu, 32, were the only two of the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s grandchildren to publicly deliver eulogies at the founding Prime Minister’s funeral:

 

 

 

Updated June 18: The famiLEE affair has been brewing for a while now. Read our articles on the issue:

  1. FamiLEE saga: 10 things from the academic paper “When I’m dead, demolish it” (Jun 18)
  2. FamiLEE saga: Who’s involved (Jun 17)
  3. FamiLEE saga: Is a grant of probate really final? (Jun 17)
  4. FamiLEE saga: Somebody should just sue (Jun 17)
  5. FamiLEE saga: PM Lee’s version of events (Jun 16) 
  6. FamiLEE saga: Let a third party tell all (Jun 16)
  7. FamiLEE saga: The past three days (Jun 16)
  8. FamiLEE saga: How Lee Suet Fern got LWL her inheritance, according to leaked emails (Jun 15)
  9. FamiLEE saga: Singaporeans react with confusion, humour and CSI skills (Jun 15)
  10. FamiLEE saga: From 38 Oxley Road to 1 Parliament Place, not just a family affair (Jun 15)
  11. FamiLEE saga: Headlines around the world (Jun 15)
  12. FamiLEE saga: Now about that mysterious ministerial committee (Jun 15)
  13. Not just a famiLEE affair (Jun 14)
  14. Third generation Lee weighs in (Jun 14)
  15. “We do not trust Hsien Loong as a brother or as a leader. We have lost confidence in him.” (Jun 14)
  16. Mystery deepens over secret tapes of Lee Kuan Yew (Sep 30, 2016)
  17. Time for the famiLEE to end the public spectacle (Apr 10, 2016)
  18. Dr Lee Wei Ling gagged? (Apr 2, 2016)

Featured image from Mr Li Shengwu’s Facebook page.

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For breaking news, you can talk to us via email.

DR LEE Wei Ling and Mr Lee Hsien Yang, the younger sister and brother of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (PM Lee), released a joint statement in the early hours of Wednesday (June 14) denouncing PM Lee for his actions concerning the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s house at 38 Oxley Road. The Prime Minister is currently on overseas leave until June 17.

 

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They said that PM Lee had betrayed the values of the late Mr Lee, and desired power and personal popularity by trying to preserve the house against his father’s wishes.

The statement outlined the steps that PM Lee had taken to try and change or thwart Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s decision to demolish the house. It also named PM Lee’s wife Ms Ho Ching for being ambitious and for overstepping her boundaries.

The joint statement also said that the younger Mr Lee was leaving Singapore “for the foreseeable future” and “against his desires” because there was a fear that organs of state would be used against him, his wife Mrs Lee Suet Fern, and Ms Lee. It did not go into detail about what they experienced.

The statement said that the younger Mr Lee and Ms Lee were “hugely uncomfortable and closely monitored” and that they felt their “big brother omnipresent”.

The younger Mr Lee and Ms Lee are the executors of Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s will. They said in the statement that PM Lee was removed as executor in 2011.

Ms Lee had previously gone public with criticisms of PM Lee, and the siblings have been publicly at odds over the issue of the Oxley Road house since Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s death in 2015.

 

Read Mr Lee Hsien Yang’s and Dr Lee Wei Ling’s joint statement in full here.

 

Updated June 18: The famiLEE affair has been brewing for a while now. Read our articles on the issue:

  1. FamiLEE saga: 10 things from the academic paper “When I’m dead, demolish it” (Jun 18)
  2. FamiLEE saga: Who’s involved (Jun 17)
  3. FamiLEE saga: Is a grant of probate really final? (Jun 17)
  4. FamiLEE saga: Somebody should just sue (Jun 17)
  5. FamiLEE saga: PM Lee’s version of events (Jun 16) 
  6. FamiLEE saga: Let a third party tell all (Jun 16)
  7. FamiLEE saga: The past three days (Jun 16)
  8. FamiLEE saga: How Lee Suet Fern got LWL her inheritance, according to leaked emails (Jun 15)
  9. FamiLEE saga: Singaporeans react with confusion, humour and CSI skills (Jun 15)
  10. FamiLEE saga: From 38 Oxley Road to 1 Parliament Place, not just a family affair (Jun 15)
  11. FamiLEE saga: Headlines around the world (Jun 15)
  12. FamiLEE saga: Now about that mysterious ministerial committee (Jun 15)
  13. Not just a famiLEE affair (Jun 14)
  14. Third generation Lee weighs in (Jun 14)
  15. “We do not trust Hsien Loong as a brother or as a leader. We have lost confidence in him.” (Jun 14)
  16. Mystery deepens over secret tapes of Lee Kuan Yew (Sep 30, 2016)
  17. Time for the famiLEE to end the public spectacle (Apr 10, 2016)
  18. Dr Lee Wei Ling gagged? (Apr 2, 2016)

 

 

Featured image cropped from Secretary of Defense Ash Carter greets Prime Minister of Singapore Lee Hsien Loong during a meeting at the Pentagon in Washington, Aug. 1, 2016 by Flickr user Jim Mattis. CC BY 2.0.

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Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May waits for the result of the vote in her constituency at the count centre for the general election in Maidenhead, June 9, 2017. REUTERS/Toby Melville TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

by Sharanya Pillai

DISMAY for Theresa May, as the UK general elections returned a hung parliament today (June 9). The UK Prime Minister’s Conservative Party lost its parliamentary majority after May’s decision for a snap election backfired disastrously. Calls now abound for her resignation.

While the Tories won the most seats, the party is still short of the 326 seats needed for the majority, having lost 26 seats to the opposition Labour Party and five to the Liberal Democrats. Seven frontbencher Tories are out, including Cabinet Office minister Ben Gummer, who authored the widely-criticised Tory manifesto.

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The opposition Labour Party meanwhile has had a field day, gaining 31 seats as of 0700 GMT (3pm Singapore time) and nearly wiping out the Tories in London. Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has called on May to step down, and pundits are taking bets on whether May will make way for the left-wing political outsider to become PM.

In a hung Parliament, the incumbent PM continues to stay in office while it is decided who will form the next government. May has until June 13 to form a majority coalition to keep herself in power or resign. In 2010, the Tories and Lib Dems formed a coalition government after the elections failed to deliver a clear winner.

Jeremy Corbyn and Labour Party candidate Emily Thornberry gesture at a counting centre. Image by Reuters.

Amid increased political uncertainty, the British pound fell sharply. There are also increased fears over whether the UK will see Brexit through. Former UK Independence Party (Ukip) leader Nigel Farage has voiced alarm that the process is “in jeopardy”. The Ukip, once a leading voice in the push for Brexit, lost all its parliamentary seats in the election.

With chaos over the unexpected result, there’s a strong sense of deja vu. Like former PM David Cameron’s stunning Brexit loss, the election defeat was largely of May’s own making. The PM called for snap elections three years earlier than required, because opinion polls indicated that she outranked Corbyn. After Trump’s unexpected victory in the US elections, it seems like pre-election polls have once again blindsided politicians.

Now, May’s own party is turning against her. Anna Soubry, a senior Tory Member of Parliament, called May’s campaign “dreadful” and said that the PM should “reconsider her position”. Meanwhile, May has refused to resign, reiterating her pledge to bring “stability for the nation”.

 

Featured image by Reuters.

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by Bertha Henson

AND so it begins.

From tomorrow (June 1), Malays who want a shot at the presidency can start picking for forms from the Elections Department in Pinsep Street. Be warned that they are pretty lengthy forms, requiring plenty of information, especially from a prospective candidate from the private sector. Data demanded includes the financial performance of the corporation he led over a period of at least three year’s of service.

Also be warned that the applicants who clear the expanded six-member Presidential Elections Committee chaired by Mr Eddie Teo, head of the Public Service Commission, will have their forms made public for all to see. The G has picked up a recommendation made to the Constitutional Commission looking into changes to the presidency last year, that such transparency would have a “salutary effect” on those who think they can fudge their credentials.

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Given that this year’s presidential election is reserved for members of the Malay community, applicants must, after clearing the credentials hurdle, go through a committee to confirm their ethnicity, much like candidates competing in parliamentary elections as members of a Group Representation Constituency. The chairman of the Malay sub-committee is Mr Imran Mohamad, who was the former chairman of the Association of Muslim Professionals.

Details of the technical process were gazetted earlier today, with the election expected in September. President Tony Tan’s term ends on August 31. The G press statement makes no mention of the court challenges that have been filed, including over the concept of a hiatus-triggered reserved presidency.

Another new feature is a statutory declaration by prospective candidates that they have read and understood explanatory material in the nomination paper on the role of the President. You can read it here. This is to prevent a repeat of 2011 presidential election campaign, during which candidates strayed into areas beyond the constitutional role of President.

While not mandatory, applicants will also be asked to voluntarily undertake to conduct their campaign in a “dignified” and “decorous” manner that reflects the office of Head of State.

Yes, even if two or more Malays vie for the post, it will be a very tame election.

Read more on what we wrote about Tan Cheng Bock’s and M Ravi’s legal challenge.

 

 

Featured image by Sean Chong.

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