No Lee Vs Lee face-off, PM’s younger brother bows out

Twitter (SGAG_SG)

The Battle That Will Not Be (Twitter SGAG_SG)

By Ivan Lim
Former AJA President, Contributor to AsiaN

SINGAPORE: Singapore does not need another Lee to vie for political office. Saying this, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s younger brother, Lee Hsien Yang, on Tuesday put paid to rising expectations among his supporters of a direct Lee vs Lee tussle in the coming General Election (GE).  Nomination Day saw candidates filing their contest forms with the younger Lee’s name prominently missing.

Hsien Yang, the star catch of the Progress Singapore Party, had fanned speculation that he might be contesting the July 10 polls by campaigning openly as a candidate with the PSP leader, Dr Tan Cheng Bock, a former PAP lawmaker who is calling for change after castigating the PAP for misrule. Hsien Yang shares his view that under PM Lee, the PAP had departed from good governance.

Explaining his decision in a Facebook post, much to the disappointment of his supporters, Hsien Yang, said, “I have chosen not to stand for political office because I believe Singapore does not need another Lee.” He added that politics in Singapore “needs to be more than about one family or one man”.

Indeed, Singapore’s political scene has been dominated by the Lee family over the past decades. His father Lee Kuan Yew was the first Prime Minister and had governed the city-state from1959 till he stepped down in 1990 to hand the post to Mr Goh Chok Tong while making his presence felt by staying on as Senior Minister.

In 2004, Lee Hsien Loong succeeded Mr Goh as the third Prime Minister while the senior Lee became Minister Mentor until his death in 2015.

Hsien Yang’s disclaimer on perpetuation of Lee rule has deeper significance. It was a contentious by-product of his wrangle with PM Lee over their father’s final will on the family house at 38 Oxley Road.

In the acrimonious exchange over the issue in 2017, Hsien Yang and his sister, neurosurgeon Dr Lee Wei Ling, had made allegations which the Prime Minister and his wife Ho Ching, CEO of state-owned investor Temasek Holdings, had denied that he “harboured political ambitions” for his son Li Hongyi.

Li, 33, is deputy director at the Open Government Products, Government Tech, an agency under the Prime Minister’s Office.

The acrimony over “Oxleygate” is apparently another factor for Hsien Yang to opt out of the elections: that he is going in to pursue a personal agenda against his brother.

Some netizens have lamented that by staying out of the race, the former brigadier-general is not walking the talk. “Action counts, not words,’’ one of them posted on Facebook.

Hsien Yang, a senior management executive, had created a buzz when he campaigned with his PSP colleagues before Nomination Day on June 30 in the late Lee Kuan Yew’s stronghold of Tanjong Pagar.

His high profile presence and last-minute exit from the election also drew flak that the PSP has misled the public.

Seeking to clear the air, a PSP official told the media, “We were very clear that we did not want to mislead voters…he has never mentioned that he will be a candidate and neither did we.”

He added that the younger Lee would play the role of adviser.

On Tuesday, the party fielded five newcomers to contest the group representation constituency against a strong PAP slate, helmed by a fourth generation PAP leader, Chan Chun Sing, Minister of Trade and Industry.

In his new role, Lee Hsien Yang will still be a thorn in his brother’s side as a “catalyst” for change, he said.

“I am involved through speaking up, by supporting candidates and parties I believe in, by contributing my time, ideas and resources I support, and by seeking an open and independent media,” he said in Facebook statement yesterday.

‘’ Vote fearlessly. Rescue the future of the country we love. Politics is not just for politicians. It is for every citizen.”

To be sure, a big field of 192 candidates are vying for an expanded 93 seats in Singapore’s first-ever cyber general election amid a crisis atmosphere caused by the Coronavirus’ lingering presence.

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