It has been two and a half years since a feud between the three children of founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew – current Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Lee Wei Ling and Lee Hsien Yang – spilled into the public domain but it appears that the three siblings are as estranged as ever.
In mid-2017, more than two years after Lee Kuan Yew passed away, Lee Wei Ling and Lee Hsien Yang accused PM Lee of using state organs against them.
The younger siblings accused the PM of abusing his power to preserve their family home against their father’s willed desire to demolish the house and of grooming his son, Li Hongyi, for politics in order to bolster his own grip on power.
The duo also revealed then that their elder brother invited all their relatives except the both of them for his first Chinese New Year reunion dinner after the death of their father after the trio disagreed about Lee Kuan Yew’s last wishes.
In a joint statement released on 6 July 2017, Lee Wei Ling and Lee Hsien Yang claimed that PM Lee quarrelled with them on 12 April 2015, the day their father’s will was read, over their father’s wish to have their family home demolished.
The younger siblings claimed that PM Lee shouted and intimidated them when they disagreed with his views on their father’s last wishes and proceeded to cut all contact with his siblings after that day. Revealing that their brother rebuffed their attempts at reconciliation, Lee Wei Ling and Lee Hsien Yang said that during the “first Chinese New Year reunion after our father’s death, our brother invited all relatives except us”.
PM Lee later cleared himself of the charges that his siblings levelled against him in Parliament – an arena where his siblings had no opportunity to speak for themselves. He added that he would not sue his siblings for defamation as doing so would “besmirch” his parents’ names.
Lee Wei Ling and Lee Hsien Yang reinforced their allegations, following this, but offered a ceasefire on releasing further evidence in favour of settling the matter in private, on the condition that they or their father’s should not be attacked or misrepresented.
Relations between the siblings after they reached the ceasefire, however, have been fraught.
Weeks after the siblings reached the ceasefire, the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) initiated legal action against Lee Hsien Yang’s eldest son, Li Shengwu, over a private Facebook post that had been leaked by one of his Facebook friends.
The AGC also lodged a complaint against Lee Hsien Yang’s wife, Lee Suet Fern, accusing her of being involved in the preparation of her father-in-law’s last will while her husband was one of the beneficiaries. Lee Wei Ling and Lee Hsien Yang have vehemently denied the claims against Lee Suet Fern.
In 2018, PM Lee said that the family feud remained unresolved and that his siblings had not communicated with him recently. Describing the family feud as being in “abeyance”, PM Lee said: “I’m not sure if it’s solved,” before adding that he was still saddened by the dispute over the siblings’ family home.
He, however, expressed hope that relations with his siblings will improve in future, when “emotions have subsided” and added: “Perhaps one day, when emotions have subsided, some movement will be possible.”
Lee Hsien Yang responded and revealed that PM Lee had not made any effort to reach out to resolve matters in private. Taking issue with his brother’s words, Lee Hsien Yang hit back: “Our brother says he is unsure that the feud is solved. Notwithstanding his public statements, Hsien Loong has made no attempt to reach out to us to resolve matters in private.”
Relations between the siblings and their families remain frosty nearly five years since PM Lee, Lee Wei Ling and Lee Hsien Yang first disagreed over their father’s will.
On Wednesday (22 Jan), Li Shengwu revealed that he is removing Li Hongyi from his Facebook friends list. The cousins, who were once described as “very close”, had been Facebook friends until this week although they were no longer on speaking terms since at least late-2017.
With relations between the Lee siblings and their children continuing to remain fractured in the new decade, it appears unlikely that the Prime Minister will invite his estranged siblings to this year’s Chinese New Year reunion dinner.