SINGAPORE – When the fifth anniversary of the death of Singapore’s founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew was observed earlier this year, his estranged children mourned apart. An acrimonious dispute among the siblings that began over the fate of their late father’s estate has not yet been put to rest and has since taken on political dimensions.

Related legal proceedings are set to be heard in 2021, including a defamation case brought by the late Lee’s eldest son, incumbent Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, 68, against a local news editor who repeated an allegation made by his younger brother Lee Hsien Yang and sister Lee Wei Ling, neither of whom the premier has sued directly. 

With the prime minister now expected to retain power and push back a leadership transition that was set to happen by 2022 in order to see the nation through the Covid-19 crisis, it remains to be seen how a bitter family feud could play out in the final years of Lee’s litigious rule.

Unprecedented public sparring between members of Singapore's first family began in earnest in 2017 when the premier’s siblings accused him of abusing his executive powers to impede their efforts to demolish the family bungalow, a five-bedroom residence at 38 Oxley Road, as their elder statesmen father had wanted and stipulated in his will.