SINGAPORE: A dispute between Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his siblings that has been playing out on social media should be settled in court, said Workers’ Party (WP) secretary-general Low Thia Khiang in Parliament on Monday (Jul 3).
“This Lee family saga playing out on Facebook has become an ugly media circus. Settling this in court would enable everyone to put forward their sides of the story with evidence and with dignity,” he said.
The dispute between PM Lee and his siblings, Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Lee Wei Ling, has been ongoing since Jun 14, when Mr Lee and Dr Lee published a statement saying that they "felt threatened" by PM Lee’s use of his position and influence over the Government and its agencies to "drive his personal agenda” since their father died on Mar 23, 2015.
They also accused him of wanting to preserve the family home at 38 Oxley Road against the wishes of their father, the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew.
“Individuals who make less serious allegations that undermine the reputation and authority of the PM and cabinet ministers have been brought to task for libel. There is no reason why this time it should be different because it comes from the Lee family,” Mr Low said.
“In fact the allegations are much more serious. Given the past track record, not doing so will risk the Government giving the impression that it is afraid of what the Lee siblings might say or reveal.”
LINE BETWEEN PRIVATE AND PUBLIC BLURRED
Mr Low added that the dispute has “blurred the line between the private and public”, and called for the line to be clearly established again.
“We need to do this so as to move on to far more important issues that are truly national issues. This saga is distracting the government, distracting Singaporeans, and distracting the international audience and damaging the Singapore brand,” he said.
He said the line is a “very important one for good governance”.
“Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Lee Wei Ling should not make vague allegations in the public domain against the Prime Minister based on scattered evidence centred on family displeasure,” he said, adding that the allegations appear to be calculated to undermine PM Lee’s authority. He described the move as “reckless”.
“If the accusers have details and concrete evidence that the Prime Minister has been lying and abusing his power, allowing his wife to influence the appointment of public officials, they should have made all of them public by now,” he said.
They should not wage a media campaign to keep the nation in suspense, he added.
WP’s POSITION “SIMPLE AND BROAD”
In presenting his party’s position on the dispute, he said that it has a “simple and broad position” about how this saga would affect Singapore.
The opinions of WP members and MPs on the other aspects of the issue are as diverse as public opinion has been on these few weeks, he said.
He said that Singapore’s reputation is at stake, given that international media has “amplified and maximized the bad publicity on Singapore”.
“Some countries which have had a high regard for us are laughing at us. And the Lee family saga has shaken international confidence in Singapore, which is known as a country of political and social stability,” he said.
He also asked for the saga to end now, saying that to a large extent, it is a delay in acting on 38 Oxley Road that led to this to “sorry state of affairs”.
“Although PM has said this saga will not affect the work of the Government, I am of the view that it is a serious distraction to the government in dealing with the serious challenges,” he said, adding that Cabinet members have been “unnecessarily drawn into the dispute”.
“I am personally perplexed and lost, as are many Singaporeans, on the Lee family saga," said Mr Low. "However, this is not a Korean drama show. It is a serious matter because it affects the credibility of the entire country.”