SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s younger brother said on Thursday he fears the nation’s authorities may stop him from leaving the country or take other action against him after he made a series of accusations against Lee.
On Wednesday, Lee Hsien Yang and his sister Lee Wei Ling declared that they had lost confidence in their older brother and feared “the use of the organs of the state against us.”
Lee Hsien Yang also announced that he, and his wife, Lee Suet Fern, were planning to leave the island state “for the foreseeable future” because they felt threatened. They have not disclosed the date of their departure or the destination.
“Lots of things can happen to me,” he told Reuters in a phone interview on Thursday. “They have stopped people from leaving the country. I suppose if they do, they would have to explain at least. I don’t think there are any grounds to.”
The Prime Minister’s Office didn’t immediately respond to Reuters’ requests for comment on Lee Hsien Yang’s latest claims.
The three children of Lee Kuan Yew, who was the founding father of modern Singapore and who ruled the country for three decades, are feuding over the future of the house that their father lived in for most of his life.
The siblings have, among other things, accused the prime minister and his wife, Ho Ching, of harbouring political ambitions for their son, Li Hongyi.
The prime minister on Wednesday denied the allegations and said he was disappointed that his siblings have chosen to publicize private family matters. [nL3N1JB25U]
On Thursday, Li denied he wanted a political role, saying on Facebook: “For what it is worth, I really have no interest in politics.”
Lee Hsien Yang has made it clear he is concerned about his phone calls and messages being monitored. He tries to make it more difficult to track his communications, using an internatioonal phone number and the WhatsApp messaging service.
“I’ve used the term big brother, what do you think big brother means? Why do you think I use WhatsApp?” he said.
WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook Inc, promises privacy through encrypted messaging.
Lee, the former chief executive of Singapore Telecommunications Ltd, who is currently the chairman of the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore, said that he is still in Singapore as he needs “time to sort out my affairs.”
“I hope wherever I move to might be safe. It will be safer, I would say,” he said.
The attacks on the prime minister by his two siblings, which initially came in a joint news release and statement while their brother was on holiday has led to a rare public display of discord at the top of a country that usually keeps such matters firmly behind closed doors.
Lee Hsien Yang and his wife, Lee Suet Fern, said they feel hugely unwelcome and closely monitored in Singapore.
“I‘m constrained about what I should and can say. You realise of course that they are very quick to threaten defamation... Many people and many tools get used to make people feel uncomfortable,” he told Reuters on Thursday.
He provided no specific evidence of action by the Singapore government against him. Reuters was unable to independently verify the accusations.
Lee Wei Ling said on Wednesday if the dispute were merely a family affair, she would not have publicized it. Her concern was also about the way ordinary citizens could face an abuse of power, she said on Facebook.
Before he died in 2015, Lee Kuan Yew made it public that he wanted the house, a humbly furnished home with retro furniture near the bustling Orchard shopping district, demolished.
But the prime minister’s siblings claim that he and his wife, Ho Ching, had opposed the wish. Officials have said that the prime minister has recused himself from any government decisions about the house.
Reporting by Miyoung Kim; Editing by Martin Howell