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Singapore PM says sorry for family feud

© MINISTRY OF COMMUNICATIONS AND INFORMATION/AFP | This handout from Singapore's Ministry of Communications and Information taken and released on June 19, 2017 shows Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong making his statement

SINGAPORE (AFP) - 

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong apologised to Singaporeans on Monday for a bitter family feud over his late father's legacy, saying it had damaged the country's reputation.

Lee and two younger children of revered founding leader Lee Kuan Yew have been attacking each other on Facebook and international media for days as a dispute over the patriarch's estate became public, a spectacle that has shocked Singaporeans.

"I deeply regret that this dispute has affected Singapore?s reputation and Singaporeans? confidence in the government," Lee said in a statement he read in a pre-taped video aired by national broadcaster Mediacorp.

"As your Prime Minister, I apologise to you for this.

"And as the eldest of the siblings, it grieves me to think of the anguish that this would have caused our parents if they were still alive."

The Lees are the closest thing Singapore has to royalty, dominating the now wealthy island's politics for nearly six decades.

The patriarch served as prime minister from 1959 to 1990, and the current leader has been in power since 2004.

The city-state has had only one other prime minister, Goh Chok Tong.

The siblings' row largely centres around a clause in Lee's final will which stated that the old family home should be demolished after his death.

His daughter Wei Ling and younger son Hsien Yang say the current prime minister is attempting to block demolition to exploit their father's legacy for his own purposes, including grooming his own son to be a third-generation leader.

"Much as I would like to move on, and end a most unhappy experience for Singaporeans, these baseless accusations against the government cannot be left unanswered," the premier said.

Lee said he would make a statement on the matter when parliament sits again in July.

Lee Kuan Yew, a Cambridge-trained lawyer, died at the age of 91 in March 2015, triggering an outpouring of grief across the city-state which he transformed into one of the world's richest societies while muzzling the media and quelling dissent.

Political opponents and dissidents have been hit with financially ruinous defamation lawsuits.

The family row, played out on social media, has riveted the tightly controlled nation, whose citizens are unused to open disagreement among the political elite.

© 2017 AFP