Writing for regional publication Rappler, Singaporean consultant James Leong has said that he sees Lee Hsien Yang as a “man rallying his family under intense persecution.”
Mr Leong is familiar with Mr Lee – the youngest child of Singapore’s founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew and younger brother of current Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. Mr Leong co-hosted an exclusive dinner for the elite in Singapore in 2013, that Mr Lee and his wife Lee Suet Fern had attended.
He recalled: “The power couple looked immaculate. I was at the opposite end quietly doing my job. We didn’t speak, and we didn’t have to. I knew my place in the worlds of the haves and the have nots.”
In the years since Mr Leong met Mr Lee, things have changed drastically within the Lee family.
In 2017, a family feud involving Singapore’s most well-known family spilled into the public domain when Dr Lee Wei Ling and Mr Lee Hsien Yang accused their elder brother of abusing his power to preserve their family home, against their father’s willed desire to demolish the house, in order to bolster his grip on power.
The pair also alleged that PM Lee used state organs against them and that he was moulding his son, Li Hongyi, to enter politics. The siblings also said that the Government convened a secret committee to make a decision on the house.
PM Lee addressed the allegations against him in a Parliamentary debate where he declared that he has been cleared of all charges. He added that he will not sue his siblings for defamation since that would “besmirch” the names of their parents.
Dr Lee Wei Ling and Mr 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 nor their father’s will be attacked or misrepresented.
But that was not all. Later, the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) initiated legal action over Mr Lee’s eldest son, Li Shengwu, over a private Facebook post. Then, the AGC filed a 500-page complaint on Mr Lee’s wife to the Law Society, alleging that Mdm Lee Suet Fern could be liable for professional misconduct over an issue involving Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s will.
Asserting that the “family feud shook Singapore to the core because the leader and moral compass of one of the longest-running political parties in the world had lost his own bearings,” Mr Leong said that he has wondered “what possessed LHY, a member of Singapore’s most powerful family, to seek solace and support from nameless have-nots.”
Opining that Mr Lee’s Facebook posts “scream anger and betrayal,” Mr Leong said that he was struck by the latest photo of Mr Lee circulating on social media – a photo of him with his family celebrating the wedding of one of his sons to his longtime boyfriend.
Mr Leong wrote: “I don’t see a disgruntled scion but a man rallying his family under intense persecution to support his gay son’s wedding, in a display of family solidarity and gender equality.”
Mr Leong noted the timing of the wedding, which comes about a month before Pink Dot 2019, and the fact that the wedding occurred even as PM Lee’s Government remains resistant to repealing Section 377A – a law that criminalises sex between two men.
He also pointed out Mr Lee’s demeanour in the family portrait. He asked: “Have you noticed how LHY, whose hair has now turned completely grey, is the only one in the portrait not smiling from ear to ear?
“Instead he is sitting upright, back straight and leaning forward with confidence to face the camera. His head is tilted, and with softness in his eyes he manages a forlorn smile as if to say, “It hasn’t been easy but today it’s not about me.””
Mr Leong added: “In this one portrait I see vulnerability, kindness, and the courage to be imperfect. Not as an elite, but as a father, husband, and son, warts and all, just like any one of us. I bet if my eyes were to linger on that portrait another minute longer, I might just hear him say, “I am sorry. I am enough.” I can only imagine.”
Read his op-ed in full HERE.