Lee Kuan Yew’s grandson left Singapore earlier than planned due to fears of detention

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Photo: Tim McLaughlin, Reuters

One of the grandsons of Singapore’s late founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, Li Shengwu, left Singapore two weeks earlier than planned after the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) demanded that he purge and apologise for private comments made only to friends on his Facebook page that “the Singapore government is very litigious and has a pliant court system.”

Shengwu’s post was somehow leaked to the public. The AGC then told reporters that it was “looking into” the post, despite the fact that it was never meant to be public, and later sent an official letter to Shengwu in which Senior State Counsel Francis Ng called the post “an egregious and baseless attack” on the legal system and asked Shengwu to apologise unreservedly, on top of signing a declaration that he had made false allegations and was in contempt of the judiciary.

The AGC also threatened legal action against the nephew of Singapore’s current head of government, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, if he fails to accede to its demands.

Shengwu, who was here to attend a friend’s wedding, left the city-state two days after receiving AGC’s threat. He told Reuters that his friends expressed concerns that he might be detained in the country and unable to return to the USA where he lives and works:

“In Singapore, it is possible that one can be detained and interrogated for some time without a lawyer. My friends had warned me that they were concerned for my safety if I remained in Singapore.”

Shengwu, who was ultimately not able to be present at the wedding he had planned to attend, chose not to identify his friends or relay the information they provided to him to the news agency.

After departing from the country, he decided against deleting his post and apologising. He had declared then: “I will not buy a quiet life at the price of my integrity.”

The AGC responded by initiating contempt of court legal proceedings against him.

In response to his comments to Reuters, the Prime Minister’s Press Secretary Chang Li Lin asserted that it is “not accurate” to discuss detention and interrogation in this case:

“This is a well-established legal process. Clear laws and procedures apply to all cases of contempt, including this case involving Mr Li. The courts will decide on the merits of the case.”

A spokesperson for the AGC declined to comment since the case is in court.

In his interview with the agency, Shengwu also questioned whether the party his grandfather pioneered – the ruling People’s Action Party – has too much control. He said:

“I worry that Singapore’s ruling party tries too hard to maintain a monopoly on credibility.”

Press Secretary Chang retorted that the PAP has been democratically elected and that individuals dissatisfied by the party’s work can contest elections and appeal to voters that they can perform better.

This response may be unsatisfactory to some as it can be argued that opposition parties contesting in elections already start out on an uneven playing field since the government has links to institutions, like mainstream media.

In fact, it was allegations related to these wide-reaching powers that put the spotlight on Shengwu when his father Lee Hsien Yang and aunt Lee Wei Ling accused PM Lee of abusing his power to preserve their family home, 38 Oxley Road, against their father’s willed desire to demolish the house.

The siblings alleged that their elder brother had convened a secret committee to make a decision on the house and that state organs were being used against them. PM Lee addressed the allegations against him in a Parliamentary debate where he declared that he has been cleared of all charges. He added that he does not intend to sue his siblings.

Lee Wei Ling and Lee Hsien Yang reinforced their allegations following this, but offered a ceasefire on releasing further evidence in favor of settling the matter in private, as long as they are not attacked or misrepresented.

Shengwu’s private comments that got him into trouble with the AGC were made in connection to a Wall Street Journal article that covered the Oxley dispute.

Although his family appears fractured now due to the disputes that have spilled into the public domain, Shengwu said that the Lee family was a close-knit one as recently as three or four years ago:

“I saw my uncle and my cousins a lot growing up. I’d say we all got along well as late as three or four years ago … The tragedy of this is that this is not what my grandfather would have wanted.”

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70 comments

    1. Wong Kuen says:

      Romnah M Yeo..you agree your husband..Robert shoud chip in for him..
      Why me…i dont owe tbe country any gratitude n they too didnt help me when i needed it most

  1. This is NOTHING ! In DPRK aka North Korea they kill elder brother and also killed Beloved uncle who watched their Supreme Leader grew up and groomed Him personally.

    1. Facebook Profile photo
      Kelvin Leow ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

      Talent ? bcos he overly too smart thinking he from Harvard. Brilliant yet arrogant n what he done for Singapore ? obviously nothing but attacking n tarnished Singapore his yeh yed built with other founding leaders. Wrong side

      1. Facebook Profile photo
        wangyi8008 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

        Define ur right side. Who r on ur right side? A dog s loyal to its master. So s sycophant to his paymaster.

  2. Low Jasper says:

    Private post for friends also can be threaten with legal action. Look like we are going to be last in the world for freedom of speech. Maybe in other countries, can countersue for intruder of privacy. I have not read or cannot access of what he had posted but if only his personal view and opinion.

    No worry for him, he likely obtain US citizenship easily with his education, wealth and his freedom of speech.

    But is a lost for Singapore cause I see him as second LKY and will be beneficial to us and our country. Late LKY had a good record in history book, respectable and influential in world stage but now destroyed by family feud.

  3. With two out of his three children on one side of the family feud and accordingly the seven grandchildren falling onto the side of their parents, it seems like an equal split but that is assuming the elder children of the PM take the side of their step mother. It leaves one wondering, on which side LKY would have stood in this family feud. And while talking about the position of a deceased, shouldn’t we also add in the matriarch of the family and also the other daughter-in=law?

    1. Low Jasper says:

      Suggest Joseph join opposition party and as candidate in next GE and show us your heroic speech and action
      TALK IS EASY
      Your profile has no pic of you. Can I say you are a COWARD or you are working for the WHITE?

  4. Joe Tey says:

    The tragedy is this is not what his grandfather wanted for his grandson but this is what he himself created in the first place anyhow. In a word: karma.

    1. Agreed, no matter grandson or granddaughter or etc in the same family, all running with the same blood with LKY who fight or work hard for Singapore (that’s wat ppl saying) should not do tis by running away from their homeland…

    1. Ahmad Yusoff @ the army belongs to the same person. Even president election can be dictated , same person can also make arrangements with MinDef for reservist.

    2. Ahmad Yusoff A lot depends on whether the AGC gets its way. As the Facebook post was marked for friends only, bringing it to the public and making it a contempt of court, even if this would succeed, wouldn’t the AGC itself be guilty of abetting in this contempt?

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