New Singapore opposition party opens door to PM’s brother

by AFP/ pic by AFP

SINGAPORE A former stalwart of Singapore’s ruling party Friday opened the door to the prime minister’s estranged brother joining his new opposition group, amid a bitter feud in the city-state’s first family.

Tan Cheng Bock (picture) has formed the Progress Singapore Party (PSP) to contest elections due by 2021 and has been seen in recent months with the premier’s sibling, Lee Hsien Yang, sparking talk of an alliance.

Business executive Lee Hsien Yang and his sister have been embroiled in an acrimonious feud with their elder brother, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, over the fate of a century-old family bungalow.

The rare public falling out within the city-state’s elite erupted following the 2015 death of their father, Singapore’s founding leader Lee Kuan Yew.

The ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) has governed Singapore for decades and the weak opposition is not viewed as a threat, but backing from a senior member of the Lee family could provide a boost to Tan.

“As for Lee Hsien Yang… he and I, we are good friends,” said Tan, a former PAP lawmaker who resigned from the party in 2010 and ran for president the following year, narrowly losing to the PAP-backed candidate.

“You all have seen him walking around with me and I must say that if he wants to join me, he’s always free as long as he must adhere to my PSP terms,” he told a news conference, adding the younger Lee must not bring his personal agenda into the party.

Lee Hsien Yang has also publicly backed Tan, describing him in a Facebook post in January as “the leader Singapore deserves” and someone who has “consistently put the interests of the people first”.

Tan will formally launch his party in a week.

The bungalow row centres on allegations made by Prime Minister Lee’s siblings that he is seeking to block the demolition of the property to capitalise on their father’s legacy — something he has denied.

The prime minister, 67, has said he will lead the PAP at the next polls before handing power over to leader-in-waiting, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat.