Is family feud indicating a broader dispute in Singapore?

Source:Global Times Published: 2017/6/15 23:08:39

Singapore was rocked on Wednesday when Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's younger sister and brother Lee Wei Ling and Lee Hsien Yang issued a joint statement accusing their "big brother omnipresent" of seeking to establish a dynasty-like rule over the country. Lee Wei Ling in a Facebook post on Thursday emphasized that their dispute with Lee Hsien Loong was not "merely a family matter." It seems the feud in the Lee family risks boiling over to affect Singaporean society. 

Singapore's founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew has two sons and one daughter. Now two younger siblings, at an advantage of two against one, are standing against their eldest brother. The dispute was triggered by their divergences over the fate of the family home. No.38 Oxley Road, residence of their late father, is one of Singapore's landmark buildings. Lee had ordered it demolished after his death as he didn't want the public to "trudge through" his family home. However, the house was preserved according to a decision by the Singaporean cabinet.

Lee Wei Ling and Lee Hsien Yang have accused their eldest brother of wanting to "milk Lee Kuan Yew's legacy" and enhance his own political capital by preserving the family home. Even more shocking, they claimed Lee Hsien Loong harbors political ambitions for his son.

The legacy of Lee Kuan Yew, who led Singapore into the peak of development, remains the mainstay of the country's politics. But Lee Hsien Loong has not inherited much semblance of the legacy. Requests for more democracy have surged in Singapore. To put it more accurately, Singapore is a country with the risks of a color revolution. The attack launched on Lee Hsien Loong by his two siblings to some extent represents the dissatisfactions of the liberals and opposition parties against the "central interest group" built up by Lee Hsien Loong, which may lead to the outburst of conflicts in Singapore.

Singapore appears to be ill-prepared to adapt to global changes. Its avid support of the South China Sea arbitration rendered the country isolated. As an active promoter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, it was caught in an awkward position after US President Donald Trump discarded the deal. These have cornered Singapore into an unprecedented passive diplomatic position.

Economic slowdown is another conundrum facing the Lee Hsien Loong government. The economic advantages Singapore boasted in the past are being diluted with the rising of new emerging countries. Its economy grew only by 2 percent last year and the prospects continue to dim this year. Lee Hsien Loong inherited power, but his authority can only be bolstered by his own achievements. Unless he can lead Singapore into success in dealing with myriad challenges in the new era and to a higher level of stability and prosperity, he will have to, for a long time, live under the political legacy of his father. 

The tiny country has played a big role in the Asia-Pacific. To lead Singapore is not an easy task. It requires not only careful and accurate coordination but also broad vision and mind. If Lee Kuan Yew's descendants want to duplicate his achievements, they must first of all surpass him. It's hard to be the son of a great man. Lee Hsien Loong has been granted a chance on the stage of history, but is being rooted against by his siblings. His winning edge lies only in his governance achievements.

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