Local filmmakers Lynn Lee and James Leong have produced a 25-minute documentary entitled “Singapore: The House That Lee Built” for international news agency, Al Jazeera.
Released online on Wednesday, the documentary investigates “Lee Kuan Yew’s complex legacy and the reasons behind a family dispute dividing Singapore’s ruling elite” and includes an interview with one of founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew’s grandsons, Li Shengwu.
32-year-old Shengwu, the eldest son of Lee Kuan Yew’s youngest child Lee Hsien Yang, attracted the attention of Singapore authorities on 15 July after posting a private “friends-only” Facebook post, criticising Singapore’s government and judiciary.
The post came on the heels of an explosive dispute between Lee Kuan Yew’s children regarding whether their family home 38 Oxley Rd should be demolished as per Lee Kuan Yew’s wishes or preserved.
Shengwu’s father and his aunt, Lee Wei Ling, alleged that their brother – Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong – was abusing his power to preserve their family home against their father’s willed desire. They also accused the PM of convening a secret committee to make a decision on the house and claimed that state organs were being used against them.
Shengwu’s private Facebook post, linking an article on the feud, caused the Singapore government to file contempt of court charges against him.
Shengwu is presently in self-imposed exile at Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he works as an economist at Harvard University. He has said that he has no intention to return to Singapore and face what he calls “politically motivated prosecution”.
The comments Shengwu made in the Al Jazeera documentary are his first notable public remarks on Singapore and his family since December last year. Check out a few snippets of the comments he made in the film here:
On the Oxley dispute: “My father and aunt were very reluctant in going public. The fact that they took that step was because they felt very much sort of forced into a corner. Like all the various arms of government were arrayed against them that if they kept quiet, they would have seen, essentially, a careful dismantling of my grandfather’s last wish.”
On PM Lee’s son, Li Hongyi Facebook post that he is not interested in politics: “The thing about being not interested is that it can remain uninterested till you become interested. If he didn’t want to be in politics, he could have said things a lot more clearly and in a way that would be at least a little bit difficult to walk back.”
On his grandfather’s legacy: “It is valuable in Singapore that there will be a transition away from family branding I am not sure why my grandfather choose his own son and was willing to have his own son go into politics and become prime minister but all I can say is that there are a lot of human being s. If there is one person in the world you are going to overestimate, it is your own child.”
On his family’s concerns: “I don’t know exactly how much the government keeps trying to surveil my family but this is probably the first Christmas where I have made Christmas plans with the family over encrypted messaging.”…”When I see my parents outside of Singapore, I feel a sense of relief that they are not there. And that is a very odd thing to feel about home.”
On how his grandfather might feel about the Singapore’s current state of affairs: “My grandfather always worried about having the family together he also worried about the persistent of Singapore institution. I just don’t know, looking at both what happened to the family and what happened to the Singapore institution. I just don’t know what will cause him more grief.”
Watch the documentary here: