Contrary to his younger brother’s view that the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) is no longer the same entity it was when their father ran it, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that the party has not changed and will not change in the coming years.
The PAP was established as a political party by Lee Kuan Yew – who, as the party’s secretary-general, went on to become Singapore’s founding Prime Minister – and his colleagues in 1954. Mr Lee was succeeded by Goh Chok Tong who was succeeded by Mr Lee’s eldest son Lee Hsien Loong in 2004.
This year marks the PAP’s 65th anniversary and the 15th year since Lee Hsien Loong became head of Government. Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat is expected to take over as PM once Lee Hsien Loong steps down sometime after the next election.
In a message that he wrote to mark the PAP’s 65th anniversary, PM Lee said the PAP’s founding mission has not changed in the last three generations of leaders and that this mission will “never change” even as the fourth-generation of leaders prepare to take over.
Calling on supporters to work with him and his party to “advance Singapore together,” PM Lee wrote: “Today, 65 years ago, the People’s Action Party launched on its mission to build a fair and just society, and to spread the benefits of progress widely to all.
“This mission has not changed, from our first Secretary-General Comrade Lee Kuan Yew and his team, to Comrade Goh Chok Tong and his team, to my team, and the next 4G Team. This mission will never change.”
His younger brother, however, has publicly expressed a conflicting view.
In July this year, Progress Singapore Party (PSP) leader Dr Tan Cheng Bock – a former veteran PAP parliamentarian who formed his own opposition party to push for transparency and accountability in Government – said that the PAP has changed and that it has lost its way in recent years.
Echoing this sentiment, Lee Hsien Yang – Lee Kuan Yew’s youngest child and Lee Hsien Loong’s younger brother – wrote on Facebook: “I wholeheartedly support the principles and values of the Progress Singapore Party. Today’s PAP is no longer the PAP of my father. It has lost its way.”
Lee Hsien Loong and Lee Hsien Yang have been locked in a bitter feud since at least 2017. That year, Lee Hsien Yang and Lee Wei Ling – Lee Kuan Yew’s middle child and only daughter – accused their elder brother of using organs of the state against them.
The younger siblings accused PM Lee 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, and of grooming his son, Li Hongyi, for politics.
PM Lee later cleared himself of the charges that his siblings levelled against him in Parliament and said that he does not plan to sue his siblings for their comments as that could “besmirch” their parent’s names.
Although observers noted that the younger siblings had no opportunity to speak for themselves in Parliament since they are not elected or nominated into the House, Lee Hsien Yang and Lee Wei Ling subsequently offered a ceasefire provided that they nor their fathers will be misrepresented.
Tensions between the siblings, however, did not cool after the ceasefire. The Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) subsequently initiated legal action against Lee Hsien Yang’s son, Li Shengwu, over a private Facebook post and lodged a complaint against Lee Hsien Yang’s wife, Lee Suet Fern, to the Law Society.
In October last year, Lee Hsien Yang revealed that PM Lee had not made any effort to reach out to resolve matters in private. His comments followed PM Lee’s own remarks that the family feud remains unresolved and that the trio has not communicated 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, but expressed hope that relations with his siblings will improve in future, when “emotions have subsided.”
He added: “Perhaps one day, when emotions have subsided, some movement will be possible.”
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.” -/TISG