It might well be a good time for Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to step down, said Bertha Benson in a Facebook post on Thursday.
The former senior editor for The Straits Times (ST) and The New Paper (TNP) wrote, “He is past 70 and the worst of Covid is over. His family affairs are becoming a public spectacle when much of our time should be focused on the greater needs of the country.”
This comment from Ms Henson comes in the midst of a controversy where the ongoing police investigation against Mr Lee Hsien Yang (LHY) and Mrs Lee Suet Fern (LSF) was disclosed by Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean via a parliament reply and an hour-long heated exchange between the Minister for Home Affairs and Law, K Shanmugam and Non-constituency Member of Parliament, Leong Mun Wai on Wednesday (22 Mar) over the disclosure and alleged insinuations against the Ministers.
“Let’s start on a new slate with LW and company. As a private citizen, there will also be less of a perception that State power is being used for essentially a family squabble – although the State will deny this strenuously, ” said Ms Henson.
LHY has, on many occasions since 2017, accused his brother of abusing his power and prosecuting his family members over a personal dispute over the fate of 38 Oxley Road, something which PM Lee has vigorously denied.
Both are children of Singapore’s founding Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew, who passed away on 23 March 2015, exactly eight years ago, from Ms Henson’s Facebook post.
Ms Henson commented that the squabble between the Lees, has affected PM Lee’s authority.
“People will remember a fractured family as his key legacy, not quite what LKY would have intended. He can choose to sue whoever he wants who repeats his siblings’ words (and he has) but making a point in court is not going to banish images from people’s minds.”
“We are getting distracted by the nitty gritty of drawing up wills, the definition of fugitive and abscond, prosecution versus persecution and whether names should have been released etc – as if we didn’t have enough to think about when the issue of the house came up during the family squabble.”
“Let the PM handle his own affairs, and let the G concentrate on the work ahead. With that, I wish the Lee family all the best. Patch up or be estranged. Don’t need to let the rest of us in on it.”
The majority of comments posted on Ms Henson’s post were in support of her suggestion and applauded her courage for making the post, as Ms Henson noted that she is taking “a lot of risks” for making the post.
However, many held the view that PM Lee is unlikely to step down anytime soon.
Succession plan of PM Lee
About 18 years ago, PM Lee who just took over his appointment from Mr Goh Chok Tong at the age of 52, said in his National Day Rally speech that political self-renewal is critical to Singapore.
While Mr Lawrence Wong has been appointed Deputy Prime Minister and designated PM-successor as the leader of the fourth-generation or 4G team after his predecessor Heng Swee Keat gave up his position, no clear dates or timeline has been released on when Mr Wong will take over the PM position.
PM Lee said on 16 April last year during Mr Wong’s annotation: “I will discuss with Lawrence, and we will decide later what the best strategy is for us to fight the next General Election – whether it is for me to hand over to him first, he consolidates, he leads into the next election as leader of the 4G team and will be in charge after the next election;
“Or I go into the next election leading the PAP, fight the next election, and if we win, after that Lawrence takes over, and then the 4G team goes forward.”
PM Lee said that it will depend on “how things evolve” and will be decided later. The next General Election has to be held by 2025.
“Either way, our plan is for Lawrence to be the next PM, if the PAP wins the next GE. That has been settled,” said PM Lee.
“The reaction from the public over the last two days shows many people are happy that we have taken this decision, and are happy with the decision.”
Mr Lee: “I’m already 70 and I’m looking forward to handing over to Lawrence once he is ready. This settling of the succession, we’ve already taken, is a very important step in the leadership renewal.”