By Fathin Ungku
SINGAPORE (Reuters) – As Singapore’s parliament began the second day of a debate on Tuesday over Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s dispute with his siblings over their late father’s house, his estranged brother accused the prime minister of making false claims.
Since mid-June, Singaporeans have been riveted by a public battle between the heirs of Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s long-serving first prime minister, over whether to demolish the old family home or let the government decide whether it should become a heritage site.
Before he died in March 2015, Lee made it public that he wanted the humbly furnished home near the bustling Orchard Road shopping district to be demolished rather than turned into some kind of museum.
He stated that in his last will, part of which was released by the prime minister’s younger brother last month, but the prime minister has said there were “deeply troubling circumstances” over how the will was drawn up.
The prime minister’s brother and sister accuse him of being disingenuous and abusing his power by using a committee to look at options for the house.
Following the accusations, Prime Minister Lee called for a special sitting of parliament to “clear the air” over an issue that some people say has tarnished Singapore’s image.
The prime minister has consistently denied the allegations, and on Monday laid out his side of the argument in a lengthy statement at the outset of a debate that was adjourned after seven hours.
But as lawmakers began gathering for the resumption on Tuesday, the prime minister’s brother, Lee Hsien Yang, posted a sharp rejoinder on his Facebook page.
“LHL (Lee Hsien Loong) has made convoluted, ultimately false claims about Lee Kuan Yew’s wishes. LHL is trying to suggest that because LKY signed some renovation plans in early 2012, he was open to preservation of the house,” Lee Hsien Yang said in the post.
The post went on to say that Lee Kuan Yew’s desire for the house to be demolished was unwavering, and that any consideration of alternatives was only because Lee Hsien Loong had led him to believe that the house at 38, Oxley Road, would be gazetted.
“If he changed his mind on demolition, he would have made it known in a clear and public fashion. He never did,” Lee Hsien Yang wrote.
Lee Hsien Yang and his sister, Lee Wei Ling, want the house to be demolished once Lee Wei Ling ceases to live there, in accordance with their father’s will.
Prime Minister Lee has also said that he personally favors honoring his father’s wishes, but he has questioned the will and argued that his father also made provision in case the house could not be knocked down due to any regulatory changes.Prime Minister Lee has recused himself from the committee looking at the options, and said he has played no part in its discussions.
During the first day of the debate there were no revelations over the accusation that Prime Minister Lee had abused his power, or why his siblings should say that they feared the “organs of the state” could be used against them.
Lee Hsien Yang has said he and his wife, lawyer Lee Suet Fern, would be leaving Singapore because they felt closely monitored and hugely unwelcome.
Some lawmakers urged the prime minister to sue his siblings, and settle a matter that was distracting the government and damaging Singapore’s image. Lee had told parliament that he was loathe to do so, fearing it would drag out the affair and further damage his parents’ name.
(Writing by Simon Cameron-Moore; Editing by Robert Birsel)