Lee family dispute should have stayed private: Experts
While Lee siblings' public quarrel is disappointing, political observers say Government's standing won't be affected
The dispute over the fate of former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew's Oxley Road house has got social media and the international press abuzz.
The news of the feud between Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his siblings, Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Lee Wei Ling, has been widely reported by AFP, the BBC, the Sydney Morning Herald and The New York Times, among others.
But political observers here and abroad told The New Paper the family dispute should not have unfolded in the public arena.
While it is disappointing that the fight has gone public, they believe it is unlikely to impact Singaporeans' trust and confidence in the Government, or its dealings with other countries.
On Wednesday, Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Lee Wei Ling said their brother, PM Lee Hsien Loong, had obstructed them in carrying out their late father's wish - which was stated in his will - of having 38 Oxley Road demolished after his death.
PM Lee responded by saying he was saddened and disappointed that his siblings had chosen to publicise a private family matter.
He released a 41-point document on Thursday, which detailed the events that caused him to have serious concerns over how the last will of the late Mr Lee was made, and if there was a conflict of interest when his sister-in-law Mrs Lee Suet Fern helped prepare the will.
Singaporeans would rather not associate a divided family as part of his (Mr Lee Kuan Yew's) legacy.Professor Eugene Tan
Professor James Chin, director of the Asia Institute at University of Tasmania, said: "I think older Singaporeans will feel a sense of regret and wonder why (Mr Lee Kuan Yew's) children are washing their dirty linen in public. Their father was a great man, so why drag his name around in public."
Singapore Management University law don Eugene Tan shared the sentiment.
"This relates back to Mr Lee Kuan Yew. The family was important to him," he said. "Singaporeans would rather not associate a divided family as part of his legacy."
He felt Singaporeans were unlikely to rush and pass judgment on the statements of the three siblings, including PM Lee's statutory declaration.
"How they are substantiated and rebutted will be closely watched. The public, however, will not be able to absorb all the details," Prof Tan said.
"But the government will have to be mindful of any potential fallout and be sensitive and responsive to public opinion."
National University of Singapore sociologist Tan Ern Ser told TNP that while many people will not be surprised at the split between the Lee siblings - there have been previous reports on social media of differences among them - the magnitude and complexity of the feud may have come as a surprise.
"It shows that they are in some ways like many of us, that there can be a gap between the family as an ideal and in practice," he said.
Both Prof Eugene Tan and Prof Tan Ern Ser said the saga would not affect the Government's reputation.
Said Prof Tan Ern Ser: "The surveys that I know of indicated that most citizens trust the Government...Most would consider this to be a distraction at a time when we have bigger issues to tackle with regard to the economy and national security."
Prof Chin, known as an authority on governance issues in South-east Asia, also said that many, including those outside Singapore, recognise this as a family squabble, which is unlikely to affect Singapore's international relations.
"Those who deal with Singapore at the official level know this has nothing to do with the Government's policies.
"It doesn't affect trade, currency or any major policy or law. It's at most an interesting topic to talk about, but not much more than that," he said.
While government-to-government relationships will be largely unaffected, international relations associate professor Michael Barr, of Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia, felt it could lead to some scepticism and cynicism when other countries deal with Singapore.
"One of the Singapore Government's great strengths is its image and brand control, which is what they are losing control of because of this," he said.
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