Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was set to face questions at a special sitting of parliament on Monday over whether he had abused his power in a dispute with his brother and sister over what to do with their late father’s house. The bad blood between the heirs of Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s first prime minister, has gripped the country since mid-June, when the younger siblings launched a series of attacks on their elder brother in social media postings.
Monday’s parliamentary session is extraordinary for Singapore, a small but wealthy island state that prides itself on being a rock of stability in Southeast Asia. The prime minister will make an official statement about the matter before taking questions. Prime Minister Lee’s ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) controls 83 of the 89 elected seats in parliament, and lawmakers submitted their questions in writing at the end of last week.
In a rare move, the prime minister removed the Party Whip for the debate, allowing PAP lawmakers to question their own cabinet regardless of the party line. The prime minister’s younger brother and sister, Lee Hsien Yang and Lee Wei Ling, allege Lee Hsien Loong has abused his power in the dispute over the old family home at 38 Oxley Road, and fear that he would use the organs of the state against them.
Lee Hsien Yang said he and his wife, lawyer Lee Suet Fern, would be leaving Singapore because they felt closely monitored and hugely unwelcome. The prime minister has consistently denied the allegations, and said he was very disappointed that they have chosen to publicise private family matters. The accusation of abuse of power prompted Prime Minister Lee to call for the special sitting of parliament in order to defend the integrity of his government.
Lee Hsien Yang has said that parliament is an inappropriate forum for airing the dispute, as his brother will be legally protected by “parliamentary privilege” to say what he wants. Lee Hsien Yang and his sister, Lee Wei Ling, say they want to honour their father’s wishes for the house to be demolished, once Lee Wei Ling vacates the property, rather than be turned in to some kind of museum.
Prime Minister Lee has questioned the will, while a government committee, from which has recused himself, considers whether the old family home should eventually be turned into a heritage site.