Lee Kuan Yew children in public feud

The wax figure Lee Kuan Yew and his wife, Kwa Geok Choo, at the Madame Tussauds Singapore on Sentosa. Source: Flickr

A family feud between Singapore’s prime minister and his sister over the anniversary of the death of their father, the city-state’s founding leader, Lee Kuan Yew, had burst into the open.

Neurosurgeon Dr Lee Wei Ling said the government was trying to use the one-year anniversary of her father’s death to “hero-worship” him, according to government-backed Channel News Asia. Lee was quoted saying that her brother, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, was “abusing his power” by ordering grandiose anniversary events, and trying to establish “dynasty.”

Her Facebook post was later removed only for the premier to fire back at his sister on his own page, saying he was “deeply saddened” by her accusations, which “are completely untrue.”

“The idea that I should wish to establish a dynasty makes even less sense. Meritocracy is a fundamental value of our society, and neither I, the PAP, nor the Singapore public would tolerate any such attempt,” he posted, referring to his People’s Action Party which rules the one-party city-state.

The PAP has been a united force since it was led by the late Lee in 1954 and has ruled since.

Lee was prime minister from 1959 to 1990, and was influential in government for years. Lee sued critics for suggestions of nepotism in his administration, so for the accusation to come from within his family is politically explosive in Singapore.

Lee died on March 23, 2015, aged 91, and this year has seen several events to commemorate his death.

“The first anniversary of a person’s passing is a significant moment to remember him and reflect on what he meant to us. The more so with Mr Lee Kuan Yew,” the prime minister posted on Facebook. He recognised the “strong desire” of many Singaporeans to pay respect to Lee, adding that events had been “generally appropriate”.

His sister reportedly reproduced her correspondence with the Straits Times over an opinion piece on the anniversary events she had written. The paper did not publish the opinion piece but she posted it on Facebook instead, Channel News Asia reported.

Lee contrasted in her comment pieces compared how the British commemorated Winston Churchill 50 years after his funeral and how the Chinese commemorated Mao Zedong on the first anniversary of his death. She wrote: “If he was forced to choose one form of commemoration, Papa [Lee Kuan Yew] would have objected the least if the commemoration resembled that held for Winston Churchill.”

The emails revealed her disagreement with her brother on “a matter of principle” over the commemoration, and that her brother had “no qualms [about] abusing his power [hold a] commemoration just one year after Lee Kuan Yew died”.

She said: “Let’s be real, last year’s event was so vivid, no one will forget it in one [year]. But if the power that be wants to establish a dynasty, LKY’s daughter will not allow LKY’s name to be sullied by a dishonourable son.”

It is not clear how the Facebook posts were revealed.

Channel News Asia said she accused the Singapore Press Holdings group, which publishes the Straits Times, of blocking her “freedom of speech.”

“In fact, that was the reason why I posted the article that LKY would not want to be hero-worshipped,” she posted.