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PM Lee lifts party whip for parliamentary session on allegations

Tuesday, June 20, 2017 - 05:50

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PM Lee apologised for ongoing dispute involving him and his siblings, admitting that it has affected Singapore's reputation and Singaporeans' confidence in the government.

Singapore

PRIME Minister Lee Hsien Loong has apologised for the ongoing family dispute involving him and his two younger siblings, admitting that the episode has affected Singapore's reputation and Singaporeans' confidence in the government.

In a statement to the nation that was also recorded on video, he announced that he will deliver a ministerial statement when Parliament sits again on July 3 to "refute the charges" levelled against him by his siblings Lee Wei Ling and Lee Hsien Yang.

In a rare move, PM Lee, who is also the secretary-general of the ruling People's Action Party (PAP), has instructed that the PAP party whip be lifted that day.

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He said that all members of Parliament will have the opportunity to raise questions for themselves and their constituents.

PM Lee urged all MPs, including those who are not from the PAP, to examine the issues thoroughly and question him and his Cabinet colleagues "vigorously".

"Over the last week, Singaporeans have been disturbed and confused by news of the private dispute between my siblings and me," he said.

"I deeply regret that this dispute has affected Singapore's reputation and Singaporeans' confidence in the government.

"As your Prime Minister, I apologise to you for this."

As the eldest of the three children of the late former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, PM Lee said it grieved him to think of the anguish this incident would have caused his parents if they were both still alive.

The saga began in the wee hours of last Wednesday morning when Dr Lee Wei Ling and Mr Lee Hsien Yang posted a lengthy statement on their Facebook pages declaring they had "lost confidence" in PM Lee and do not trust him as a brother or a leader.

The two siblings also claimed they feared the use of the organs of state against the both of them, as well as Mr Lee Hsien Yang's wife Suet Fern.

The main issue in the siblings' statement was about the 38 Oxley Road home that Mr Lee Kuan Yew had lived in, and whether it should be demolished (in accordance with his wishes) or preserved.

The dispute, which carried on in a series of exchanges over Facebook and other public statements, began when PM Lee was on overseas leave for a week. He returned to Singapore last Saturday.

In his statement on Monday, the Prime Minister said that he "had done everything possible" to avoid this state of affairs.

"My father left the property at 38 Oxley Road to me as part of my equal share of his estate, but my siblings were not happy about this. I tried to deal with their unhappiness privately," he said.

He spoke of how his offer to transfer the home to Dr Lee for a nominal amount of S$1 failed, and that he later sold the property to Mr Lee Hsien Yang at a "fair market valuation". PM Lee also donated all his proceeds to charity.

"I had hoped that this would satisfy them. There should be no reason for any further quarrel since I no longer own the house and I do not take part in any government decisions on the house," said PM Lee.

"However, my siblings have decided to go out and make serious allegations publicly. For example, they say that I am using my position as Prime Minister to influence the ministerial committee chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean," he added.

This committee was set up to discuss options for the house and their implications. 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.

The allegations by his two siblings, PM Lee stressed, go beyond private and personal matters, and extend to the conduct of his 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.

PM Lee hoped that this "full, public airing" in parliament will dispel any doubts that have been planted, and strengthen confidence in Singapore's institutions and the system of government.

He assured all Singaporeans that this matter would not distract him and the rest of the Cabinet from their responsibility to govern Singapore, and to deal with more important national issues, including the pressing economic and security challenges that the country faces.

"As public servants, my ministers and I will always protect the integrity of our institutions, and uphold the strict standards separating private affairs from our public duties," said PM Lee.

"We are determined to repair the damage that has been done to Singapore. We will continue to lead our nation and serve you to the best of our ability."

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

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