Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong will turn 65 on 10 Feb but a celebration was held for him in parliament today. Mr Lee was first elected Member of Parliament (MP) for the Teck Ghee Single Member Constituency in 1984, at the age of thirty-two. He has since been re-elected seven times; most recently as an MP for the Ang Mo Kio Group Representation Constituency in 2015.
As the eldest son of Singapore’s first Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, Lee’s career has been shadowed by allegations of nepotism. At the age of 32, he became the youngest brigadier-general in Singaporean history, and from a young age was widely tipped to be Lee Kuan Yew’s successor as Prime Minister. When Lee Kuan Yew stepped down as Prime Minister to make way for his successor, Goh Chok Tong, several critics had seen Goh as a seat-warmer, but Lee Kuan Yew said he had disproved that. In his memoirs, Lee Kuan Yew stressed that he could not have his son directly succeed him: “It was better that someone else succeed me as Prime Minister. Then were Loong to make the grade later, it would be clear that he made it on his own merit.”
Explaining the issue of nepotism Lee said: “And if anybody doubts that I as Prime Minister am here not because I’m the best man for the job but because my father fixed it, or that my wife runs Temasek because I put her there and not because she’s the best woman for the job, then my entire credibility and moral authority is destroyed because I’m not fit to be where I am.”
“And in Singapore people expect that. So if there’s any doubt that this is so, and people believe that I’m there because my father fixed it or the whole system is just make-believe, then the system will come down. It’s not tenable. If it’s true, it better be proven and I better be kicked out. If it’s not true, it better also be proven to be not true and the matter put to rest.”
Legal action has been taken in the Singapore courts for defamation against the Financial Times (2007) and the New York Times Company. However, in a 2008 report, the International Bar Association Human Rights Institute (“IBAHRI”) claimed that the “slim likelihood” of a successful defence to defamation, combined with high damages awarded in cases involving PAP officials, “sheds doubt on the independence of the judiciary” in cases involving PAP litigants or interests. (source: wikipedia)
In March last year, Mr Lee’s younger sister Dr Lee Wei Ling, in a spat with The Straits Times on its censorship of her write-up, revealed her email exchanges with the newspaper.
In one of the email correspondence, she alleged that “HL (Hsien Loong) has no qualms abusing his power to have a commemoration just one year after LKY died.” “<…>if the power that be wants to establish a dynasty, LKY’s daughter will not allow LKY’s name to be sullied by a dishonorable son,” Dr Lee added.
PM Lee was quick to refute his sister and said that her accusations of him were “completely untrue”.
Dr Lee in speaking to an international publication on the topic after PM Lee’s refutations said that she “always try to stick by the truth”.