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What Lee Kuan Yew Thought Of PM Lee Hsien Loong and His Youngest Son, Hsien Yang

As the feud among Singapore's elite escalates, it is important to look back at what their father and the founding father of modern Singapore thought of his two sons, who along with their sister are quarrelling over the fate of the patriarch's house at 38 Oxley Road.

Cover image via discoversg

Singapore's first family is currently involved in an ugly feud

The feud that's turning uglier by the day has pitted Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong against his younger siblings, sister Lee Wei Ling and brother Lee Hsien Yang.

On 21 June, PM Lee Hsien Loong issued a public apology to the people of Singapore, over the family feud involving his late father's house at 38 Oxley Road.

The apology earned PM Hsien Loong much needed praise.

While the Singapore Prime Minister has promised to answer all questions regarding the feud when the parliament sits on 3 July, the situation has since escalated after his siblings levelled allegations of impropriety at the wife of PM Hsien Loong, Ho Ching.

The Lee siblings: (From left) Lee Hsien Yang, Lee Wei Ling and PM Lee Hsien Loong.

Image via mothership.sg

So while the feud among Singapore's elite escalates, it is important to look back at what their father and the founding father of modern Singapore thought of his two sons

Image via Strait Stimes

In the book, 'Lee Kuan Yew: Hard Truths to Keep Singapore Going', the late LKY describes the youngest of his three children, Lee Hsien Yang, as "a sensible and practical man"

According to LKY, Hsien Yang wanted to follow his brother Hsien Loong, who would follow his father's footsteps and eventually become the Prime Minister of Singapore.

"He decided to follow his brother and wanted to go to Cambridge too. 'I said you know your brother was quite exceptional and you are going to the same college. They will expect you to live up to his standards. He said, "That's all right, I'm not doing mathematics, I'm doing engineering."'

"(Hsien Yang) was not abashed. He was not under his brother's shadow. He went up and got a First. He wanted to get a Starred First, but he didn't get it," LKY recounted.

"He is good at investing, very shrewd. His mother would give him her money to invest. Most times, he invested wisely," the late Lee Kuan Yew added.

Image via thoughtssg

Hsien Yang possesses the unique capability to understand when someone wants to use him or his family's contacts

As LKY describes, Hsien Yang was known to James Wolfensohn from the World Bank.

"James knew he was smart in investments. He asked me to get Hsien Yang to join with his two children who were starting a boutique investment bank. I put it to him and he said, "No, they want to make use of my contacts in this part of the world."

Recounting one of his annual family trips to Fraser's Hill, Lee Kuan Yew said that when he asked his sons if they wanted to follow him in his political activities, it was, however, Hsien Loong who said, "I'll follow you."

"So when I went out on my fang wen (constituency visits) in ’63, he followed me most of the time. He was old enough to remember the July 1964 riots. I remember a car was sent out to bring him home (when the riots broke out) but couldn’t contact him because it was such a confused and chaotic situation. He walked home alone. My two other children were younger, so it didn’t hit them the way it hit him," Lee says while describing his elder son, Hsien Loong, in the book that was published in 2011.

Lee Hsien Loong as a Member of Parliament in Teck Ghee, when he was 32 years old.

Image via DISCOVERSG

When the late LKY was asked why it was his elder son, Hsien Loong, who got into politics and not Hsien Yang

He first tried to brush it off saying, because Hsien Yang was five years younger to Hsien Loong. But when probed further, LKY revealed that while exposure to politics played a role, it was "particularly the riot when Hsien Loong was trapped on the chaotic roads."

The riot "made a tremendous impact on him because he realised that this place could just go upside down. And what happened in '65 he would remember, being 13 years old. He would have been cognizant of what was going on."

Lee Hsien Loong (14 years old) with sister Lee Wei Ling (10 years old) in 1966.

Image via DISCOVERSG

When asked at which did he realise that Hsien Loong was going to follow his political footsteps, LKY said that his first indication was when Trinity College in Cambridge offered Hsien Loong a fellowship to become a mathematician

They wanted him to teach maths there.

"He wrote to his tutor and said, "I must go home. I've joined the Singapore Armed Forces, my father's the PM, and for me not to go home and do what I have to do would be bad for the country and bad for me."

"So I knew he was going to come back whatever happens.

"He was not going to be attracted by the glamour of becoming a great mathematician. He had said he was going to read maths to satisfy himself. He satisfied himself and that was enough, so he was coming back," LKY recounted in the book.

LKY described Hsien Loong's letter as the "most decisive"

"I met his tutor (Dr Denis Marrian) years later at Prince Charles' wedding and he said, "You know, your son wrote me a letter that was most impressive – very decisive." I Said, "Oh, show me the letter." He said, "No, I cannot. You must ask his permission."

"The British are very correct. So I wrote to my son and said, "Can I see your letter?" He said yes and the tutor sent me the letter written in Loong's own hand.

"His commitment to Singapore was total. "I'm going back," he wrote. "I do not want to be a spectator and I'm going to play a part in Singapore," the father of modern Singapore said while remembering his elder son's letter.

He added that "the riots, the campaigning, coming down from Cameron Highlands the night before independence was declared and staying at Sri Temasek – all these have left a mark" on Hsien Loong's mind.

In his own words, the late LKY said that "the riots, the campaigning, coming down from Cameron Highlands the night before independence was declared and staying at Sri Temasek – all these have left a mark" on PM Loong's mind

Image via DISCOVERSG

H/T: ThoughtsSG.

Also read LKY's thoughts on race-based politics:

Read about the ongoing feud here:

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