SINGAPORE — The last will of Singapore founder Lee Kuan Yew was made in “deeply troubling circumstances” with a family member helping to draft it, said his eldest son, the country’s current prime minister, as the tussle turned into a political drama rarely seen in the tightly-controlled city-state.
The feud is laced with accusations of extralegal bullying and nepotism against Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, compelling the prominent family’s second son to say he was leaving Singapore “for the foreseeable future.”
The fight started over the status of the family home following Lee Kuan Yew’s death in 2015. Prime Minister Lee said late Thursday that the wife of his brother Lee Hsien Yang had “re-inserted a demolition clause” in Lee’s last will, preventing the home from being turned into a museum or heritage site.
Lee claimed that his brother and sister-in-law, who led a team of lawyers at Stamford Law Corporation, now Morgan Lewis Stamford, arranged for the will to be altered in December 2013.
He shared a series of email exchanges and said that his father “had the impression that the new will would change only the division of shares, with the result that each child would have an equal share, just like in the first will.”
“Yet, the last will that LSF and her law firm prepared and got Mr. Lee to sign went beyond that,” he added. LSF refers to Lee Suet Fern, the brother’s wife.
The prime minister added that he has shared these suspicions with a government committee, which is in the process of “establishing what Mr. Lee Kuan Yew’s thinking and wishes were in relation to the house.”
Lee was reacting to a public statement on Tuesday in which the siblings accused him of privately working against their father’s will in order to preserve the home to “enhance his political capital” as his father’s successor.
The siblings, Lee Hsien Yang and his sister Dr. Lee Wei Ling, said in the statement “we feel big brother omnipresent.” They also alleged the prime minister was grooming his son for a political career, an allegation Lee called “absurd.” His son, Li Hongyi, who works as a consultant for a government agency, said on Facebook he has no interest in politics.
Such accusations aired in public against the city-state’s top leader are extremely rare. Since taking power in 2004, Lee Hsien Loong has sued critics for defamation and won.
His father, a self-proclaimed authoritarian, led Singapore with an iron grip for more than three decades and is credited with transforming the resource poor island into a wealthy bustling financial hub with low crime and almost zero corruption.
The prime minister said his father had made six prior wills. While the demolition clause was present in the first to fourth wills, it was absent in the fifth and sixth wills, Lee said. It reappeared in the seventh will, which was his last.
Lee claims that he and his sister, a well-known neurosurgeon, were not consulted in the amendment process.
“My siblings’ statement has hurt our father’s legacy,” he wrote on Facebook.