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Singapore 'first family' feud heats up

Sunday, June 18, 2017

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SINGAPORE, Singapore (AFP) A family feud being played out in public between Singapore's prime minister and his siblings took an acrimonious turn Friday, with accusations their late father's will had been tampered with.

Tightly ruled Singapore has been transfixed for days by the bitter row raging among the offspring of revered founding leader Lee Kuan Yew, a family that is the closest the city state has to royalty.

The war of words has mostly unfolded on Facebook, with allegations of cheating, lying and dynasty-building that escalated Friday with claims that Lee's will had been altered without his knowledge 15 months before he died.

“I continue to have grave concerns about the events surrounding the making of the Last Will,” Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in a Facebook post on Thursday night.

“I am not aware of any facts which suggest that (the elder Lee) was informed or advised... about all the changes that were made when he signed the Final Will.”

The premier's sister, Lee Wei Ling, shot back, releasing a trove of private family e-mails early Friday disputing the claims.

The row centres on a clause in the will that says Lee senior's house should be “demolished immediately after my death”.

According to the prime minister, the clause had been taken out of previous versions of his father's will, but reappeared in the final version.

Located off the upscale Orchard Road shopping district, the pre-World War II bungalow is worth millions despite its deteriorating condition.

But the elder Lee, who is credited with transforming Singapore from a backwater entrepot into one of Asia's richest countries, feared the house could turn into a monument.

He is said to have wanted to avoid the kind of personality cult that can develop around strongman leaders.

His two younger children, Wei Ling and Hsien Yang, say their prime minister brother is attempting to block that demolition, and is looking to exploit their father's legacy to bolster his own prestige and to establish his son as a future leader.

On Friday, Hsien Yang also said on Facebook that their father, a Cambridge-trained lawyer, signed his initials under the demolition clause and posted a picture to prove it.

Played out unfettered on social media, the drama has gripped the city-state, where citizens are unaccustomed to picking through salacious morsels of the private lives of its leaders.

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