Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's wife, Ms Ho Ching, apologised yesterday for unwittingly posting a photograph of a monkey showing a rude hand gesture on her Facebook on Sunday.
The post was made the same day her sister-in-law, Dr Lee Wei Ling, claimed her brother, PM Lee, had abused his power to commemorate their father's passing in order to "establish a dynasty".
The allegation was made in a publicly released e-mail exchange between herself and The Straits Times over a commentary in which she criticised how Mr Lee Kuan Yew's first-year death anniversary had been commemorated.
Dr Lee's comments, and the photograph which appeared on Ms Ho's Facebook page, created a stir on social media, fuelling speculation of a family feud.
PM Lee then responded with his own Facebook post, saying the accusations were "completely untrue" and that he was "deeply saddened" by his sister's claim.
Yesterday, Ms Ho, who is Temasek Holdings' chief executive officer, explained that she had been "playing around with Twitter" and "trying out different buttons" when she unwittingly reposted the picture, which then appeared on her Facebook page.
She said: "Discovered Twitter reposts pictures without captions, and unfortunately one of the pictures could be misunderstood on its own. Took down as soon as a friend alerted me."
Her explanation was met with support by some netizens. One of them, Mr Melvin Chen, wrote: "It's ok Madam Ho. We understand... Strange things happen sometimes when we fiddle with our phones."
But there were some who remain unconvinced, pointing out how there was no indication on Ms Ho's Facebook post that the picture was from Twitter.
One netizen, Mr Calvin Lee, said: "I use Twitter too. And there would be the 'Twitter link'.
"And unless she gave explicit permission to allow repost of pics to FB, under no circumstance would she 'accidentally' share that picture here, much less during this sensitive period."
But social media experts told The New Paper that it was possible for a Twitter post to accidentally appear on one's Facebook.
Social media and international communications expert Lars Voedisch of PRecious Communications said: "There is at least one workaround that can share just a photo from Twitter on Facebook without any source indication of the source or including any text.
"So technically, it is possible."
Miss Belinda Ang, founder and director of marketing and advertising company thinkBIG Communication, agreed and said there are many Twitter applications, each customisable.
"There are a lot of Twitter apps and they all connect to other apps in different ways. It's possible that it was a shared tweet," she said.
Singapore Management University law don Eugene Tan said posts on social media "provide a fertile terrain for people to comment and even speculate".
He said: "Some would give Madam Ho Ching the benefit of the doubt. But others might not be so persuaded by her explanation.
"The reality is that anything to do with the Lee family captures a lot of attention and draws keen eyeballs."
In her post yesterday, Ms Ho also said: "There are enough troubles in the world. Far from adding oil to fires, I would prefer we try to solve and resolve problems, among friends, within families and between neighbours."
She also commented on the commemorations for the late Mr Lee, writing: "We grieve in different ways, and should leave space for each of us to come to terms with our loss.
"I respect and deeply appreciate the many heartfelt commemorations, and understand those who prefer a more stoic approach. Hopefully, the passage of time will help heal. Many thanks too for all the kind wishes, sound advice and generous thoughts."
She later thanked those who had offered to help her learn more on how to navigate the social media space.
Incident reported worldwide
The Facebook posts by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his sister, Dr Lee Wei Ling, have made headlines internationally.
Britain's The Guardian, The Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) in Australia and Hong Kong's South China Morning Post have all published articles about the incident.
The online article on SMH, which carried the headline "Singapore's PM Lee Hsien Loong at war with sister over Lee Kuan Yew commemorations", was even listed as its third most popular story yesterday evening.
The episode began with a disagreement between Dr Lee and The Straits Times (ST), where she alleged in a post on April 1 that she was not allowed freedom of speech in her commentary that criticised how the first anniversary of her father, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, was marked.
She then became embroiled in a war of words with former associate editor Janadas Devan, as well as ST associate editor Ivan Fernandez, who said that Dr Lee had plagiarised almost three-quarters of the additions to her commentary.
On Sunday, Dr Lee put up the e-mail correspondence between her and Mr Fernandez to defend herself. In the exchange, she alleged that her brother had abused his power to commemorate their father's death anniversary.
PM Lee responded to the allegations on the same day, saying her allegations were "completely untrue".
He wrote: "The idea that I should wish to establish a dynasty makes even less sense. Meritocracy is a fundamental value of our society, and neither I, the PAP, nor the Singapore public would tolerate any such attempt."
He added that the Cabinet had discussed how they should mark the occasion and that his advice was to leave it to "ground-up efforts" and that groups "should keep their observances in proportion".
This article was first published on April 12, 2016.
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