SINGAPORE: There appears to be no end in sight to the bitter Lee family feud that has gripped Singapore for more than five years. Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean revealed yesterday (10 March) that Lee Hsien Yang and his wife, Lee Suet Fern, are under a police probe for possibly lying in judicial proceedings about Lee Kuan Yew’s will.
The revelation has prompted Lee Hsien Yang to bemoan the continued “persecution” against his family by the Singapore authorities.
Mr Teo said in a parliamentary reply yesterday that Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Ms Lee Suet Fern are being investigated by the police for allegedly providing false evidence in a legal proceeding relating to the will of Singapore’s founding Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew.
He revealed that the police requested an interview with the couple, which they initially agreed to attend. However, they later changed their minds and allegedly refused to participate in the investigation.
The police have revealed that it started the investigation following a “referral” in October 2021 and contacted the couple in June 2022, asking them to attend an interview. The couple agreed but requested a different date, which the police granted.
However, the couple did not attend the interview and instead sent an email stating that they would not take part in the investigation. The police have advised them to reconsider but have received no response, and the investigation will continue in their absence.
Mr Teo, who chaired the Ministerial Committee on the Lee family home at 38 Oxley Road, said the couple’s decision to decline to participate in the investigation raises concerns.
“If they maintain their innocence, the investigation will give them the chance to vindicate themselves. They should participate, take the full opportunity to give their side of the story, and clear their names,” he added.
Mr Lee Hsien Yang has responded by hitting out at the authorities. He said on Facebook late last night: “The persecution of my family by the Singapore Authorities continues unabated.
In June 2017, my sister Wei Ling and I said ‘We do not trust Hsien Loong as a brother or as a leader. We have lost confidence in him’. We said we feared the use of organs of the state against us and my family.
In July/August 2017, they prosecuted my son Shengwu, an economist at Harvard. After a drawn-out 3 year court case, the Singapore courts convicted him for ‘scandalising’ the judiciary.”
He added, “In 2020, they prosecuted my wife over LKY’s 2013 will. I was the real target. The relentless attacks continue.”
The Lee family feud has gripped Singapore for over five years after it became public in 2017, after the death of founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew. The late elder statesman’s younger children, Lee Wei Ling and Lee Hsien Yang, accused their elder brother Lee Hsien Loong of abusing his power as prime minister to advance his political interests.
They also accused their elder brother of trying to undermine the legacy of their father by seeking to preserve the house against their father’s wishes and use it to bolster his political credentials. PM Lee denied the allegations, and Parliament absolved him.
Meanwhile, his siblings continued to publicly criticize him. The dispute was eventually resolved through a private family settlement in 2019, which saw PM Lee agreeing to respect his father’s wishes and allow the house to be demolished after his death.
In 2018, a year after the dispute became public, PM Lee described the family feud as “abeyance.” He 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 expressed hope that relations with his siblings will improve in future when “emotions have subsided.”
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.”
“Meanwhile, the Attorney General is busy prosecuting Hsien Loong’s nephew for his private correspondence. The AGC’s letters make repeated reference to the family feud.”
Mr Lee’s son, Li Shengwu was subsequently found guilty of contempt of court and fined S$15,000 plus being ordered to pay S$8,500 for costs of proceedings and another S$8,070 for disbursements after being found guilty of contempt of court for a private friends-only Facebook post he made referring to the feud.
Mr Li, a renowned assistant economics professor at Harvard University who was awarded the prestigious Sloan Fellowship just a few days ago, paid the fine but did not attend the hearing. Last July, he wrote on Facebook that “there’s a substantial risk that my uncle, the Prime Minister, would find an excuse to imprison me were I to return to Singapore. He likes to relitigate old disputes. My uncle has a habit of suing his critics in Singapore courts.”
He added, “I now reside in Cambridge, MA, and have a green card. It’s gutting to be unable to return home, and to watch from afar as Singapore slides steadily further into authoritarianism.”
Lee Suet Fern was also suspended from her legal practice for 15 months for misconduct in November 2020 relating to Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s last will.
Mr Teo cited the judgment in this case in his latest statement, saying: “Mrs Lee ‘focused primarily on what her husband wanted done’, and ‘worked together with Mr Lee Hsien Yang, with a singular purpose, of getting Mr Lee Kuan Yew to execute the last will quickly’.
“Mr Lee Kuan Yew ‘ended up signing a document which was in fact not that which he had indicated he wished to sign’.”
He also noted that the Court of Three Judges that oversaw the case and a disciplinary tribunal found that Mr Lee Hsien Yang and his wife presented “an elaborate edifice of lies … both on oath … and through their public and other statements, which were referred to/relied upon during the disciplinary proceedings.
Asserting that the 15-month suspension is a serious penalty, Mr Teo said: “The affidavits were contrived to present a false picture. Several of the lies were quite blatant.”