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Lee Hsien Yang plans to leave Singapore

He and sister Wei Ling say they have lost confidence in PM Lee; PM denies their allegations
Thursday, June 15, 2017 - 05:50

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Mr Lee Hsien Yang (above) told BT that the statement was "carefully crafted and backed by facts and documents". Much of it centred on 38, Oxley Road where Dr Lee Wei Ling still lives.

BT_20170615_OXLEY_2935762.jpg
Mr Lee Hsien Yang told BT that the statement was "carefully crafted and backed by facts and documents". Much of it centred on 38, Oxley Road (above) where Dr Lee Wei Ling still lives.

Singapore

LEE Hsien Yang, the chairman of the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore and younger brother of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, is planning to leave Singapore "for the foreseeable future", in a move he feels "compelled" to make.

He revealed this in a lengthy statement he issued with his sister, former National Neuroscience Institute director Lee Wei Ling, in the wee hours of Wednesday morning. In the statement, the siblings declared they had "lost confidence" in PM Lee and do not trust him as a brother or a leader.

Mr Lee Hsien Yang, 60, and his 62-year-old sister Dr Lee claimed they feared the use of the organs of state against the both of them, as well as Mr Lee's wife Suet Fern.

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Mr Lee Hsien Yang said in the statement: "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."

Contacted by The Business Times, Mrs Lee, a 59-year-old top corporate lawyer, confirmed the intention to leave Singapore, although she clarified that they were "not emigrating".

Mr Lee Hsien Yang, a former chief executive of Singtel and ex-chairman of Fraser & Neave, told BT why he and Dr Lee chose to issue their statement.

"We have had enough. It has gone on long enough and we are where we are at present," he said.

"The statement that was released was carefully crafted and backed by facts and documents. There are no false accusations."

On the timing of the statement, he said: "There is never a good time, I suppose. At this point in time, we have reached a breaking point."

His eldest son, Li Shengwu, also weighed in on his parents' plans to move overseas soon.

He wrote in a Facebook post: "I generally avoid commenting on Singapore politics, but this is an exception. In the last few years, my immediate family has become increasingly worried about the lack of checks on abuse of power. The situation is now such that my parents have made plans to relocate to another country, a painful decision that they have not made lightly."

A large part of the six-page statement by Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Lee concerns the long-standing dispute over the Oxley Road home that belonged to the late former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, and whether the bungalow should be demolished or preserved.

"Lee Kuan Yew made clear in public and private that he wished that his home at 38 Oxley Road be demolished upon his passing," the siblings said.

They went on to claim that PM Lee has opposed this wish, alleging that he has "every incentive" to preserve the house "to inherit (Lee Kuan Yew's) credibility".

PM Lee had previously said in Parliament that he intended to fulfil his father's wishes and recused himself from deliberations on any government decision made on the house.

On Wednesday evening, Cabinet secretary Tan Kee Yong confirmed that an internal ministerial committee was set up by Cabinet to consider the options for 38 Oxley Road, and the implications of those options.

These include looking into the historical and heritage significance of the house, as well as to consider Mr Lee Kuan Yew's thinking and wishes in relation to it.

Mr Tan said: "The Prime Minister has not been involved in Cabinet's discussions concerning this committee. As he had previously stated, he has recused himself from all government decisions concerning the house."

As part of its work, the committee asked PM Lee, Dr Lee and Mr Lee Hsien Yang whether they wished to say anything about Mr Lee's thinking in respect of the house, beyond what had already been stated in public.

PM Lee's views were sought in his personal capacity, given his position as the late elder statesman's eldest son and his interest as a beneficiary of the estate.

Mr Tan added that the committee has made clear to Dr Lee and Mr Lee Hsien Yang that the government has no intention of doing anything with the house as long as Dr Lee continued to live there.

"The committee will be listing out the different options with regard to the house and the implications. This will help a future government when a decision needs to be taken about the house," he said.

Mr Tan also noted that both Dr Lee and Mr Lee Hsien Yang have referred to questions that have been asked about Mr Lee Kuan Yew's last will.

The committee has asked Dr Lee and Mr Lee Hsien Yang some further questions about how the will was prepared, and the role that Mrs Lee Suet Fern and lawyers from her legal firm played in preparing the document.

The committee has also invited Dr Lee and Mr Lee Hsien Yang to put their response in the form of a statutory declaration, as PM Lee has done.

Both Dr Lee, who is on a holiday in Scotland, and Mr Lee Hsien Yang have not yet responded; they said they will be able to do so, if at all, only by the end of this month at the earliest, said Mr Tan.

PM Lee, in a strongly-worded response to his two siblings, denied the allegations against him and said he was "very disappointed" that they have chosen to make private family matters public.

"I am deeply saddened by the unfortunate allegations that they have made. (My wife) Ho Ching and I deny these allegations, especially the absurd claim that I have political ambitions for my son," said PM Lee.

Both Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Lee have accused their brother and Ms Ho Ching of "harbouring political ambitions" for their son, Li Hongyi.

PM Lee added that while the siblings may have their differences, these should stay within the family.

"Since my father's passing in March 2015, as the eldest son I have tried my best to resolve the issues among us within the family, out of respect for our parents," the prime minister said, adding that his siblings' statement has "hurt" their father's legacy.

PM Lee, who is on overseas leave for a week until this Saturday, said in his response: "I will do my utmost to continue to do right by my parents."

"At the same time, I will continue serving Singaporeans honestly and to the best of my ability. In particular, that means upholding meritocracy, which is a fundamental value of our society," he said.

"As my siblings know, I am presently overseas on leave with my family. I will consider this matter further after I return this weekend."

- With additional reporting by Judith Tan

For more stories on the Lee family feud, go to bt.sg/leefeud

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