Financial Times apologises to Singapore PM, father

17 Oct 07

London’s Financial Times apologised on Wednesday to Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his father Lee Kuan Yew after the paper said it implied the prime minister got his position with the elder Lee’s help.

In a published apology on Wednesday, the business newspaper said its Sept. 29 article, entitled “Sovereign funds try to put on an acceptable face”, implied Lee Kuan Yew was instrumental in securing his son’s appointment as prime minister.

“We admit and acknowledge that these allegations are false and completely without foundation,” the newspaper said.

Lee Kuan Yew was himself Singapore’s first prime minister, a post he held for decades until he stepped down in 1990. He remains in his son’s cabinet with the title “Minister Mentor”.

The Financial Times, owned by publisher Pearson , said it had agreed to pay damages to compensate the Lees and Lee Hsien Loong’s wife, Ho Ching, the head of state investment fund Temasek [TEM.UL]. The amount of damages was not specified.

Singapore leaders have threatened or taken legal action against and won apologies and damages from many foreign media organisations in the past when they reported on local politics, including the Economist, the International Herald Tribune and Bloomberg.

Hong Kong’s Far Eastern Economic Review, owned by Dow Jones & Co , is presently fighting a libel suit brought against it by the Lees.

Singapore officials say the legal actions are necessary to protect their reputations.

The Financial Times also apologised for saying it implied Lee Hsien Loong was “instrumental” in securing his wife Ho Ching’s appointment as chief executive officer of Temasek, and that Ho was in turn helping her brother-in-law Lee Hsien Yang win an appointment as the chief executive officer of Singapore’s DBS Group , Southeast Asia’s largest bank.

Jackson Tai, the chief executive officer of DBS, surprised investors when he suddenly resigned last month. The bank said it was in a global search for Tai’s replacement.

Lee Hsien Yang, the younger brother of Lee Hsien Loong, resigned as head of Singapore Telecommunications last year and has since been appointed chairman of conglomerate Fraser & Neave .

“We unreservedly apologise to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew and Ms Ho Ching for the distress and embarrassment caused to them by these allegations,” the Financial Times said.

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