SINGAPORE: Any minister who is accused of improper conduct must clear his name publicly and not allow the allegations to "fester and affect the reputation of the Government", Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Tuesday (Aug 1).
Responding to a written Parliamentary question by Member of Parliament for Aljunied GRC Chen Show Mao, Mr Lee added: "If it is a serious allegation, I would expect the minister to take court action for defamation, unless there are other special considerations.
"He may also need to render account in Parliament, particularly if the matter concerns his discharge of public duties and is of public interest. These are not mutually exclusive options," the Prime Minister added.
"In all cases, there must be public accounting."
Mr Chen, a member of the opposition Workers' Party, had asked the Prime Minister about the circumstances under which a minister or political appointee should defend his reputation in his official capacity in the courts, or refrain from such court action and address the allegations publicly, such as in Parliament.
In his reply on Tuesday, Mr Lee said that he had addressed this issue in his ministerial statement on Jul 3, in which he responded to his siblings' allegations stating that he had abused his power to prevent them from carrying out their father, the late Lee Kuan Yew's wishes to demolish his home at 38 Oxley Road.
In the statement, PM Lee had said he would resolve private matters publicly, but "what is public, I have to explain and render account".
He added that people had asked why he did not sue or take other legal action to clear his name. Explaining his position, Mr Lee said that "in any other imaginable circumstance than this", he would sue immediately.
"But, suing my own brother and sister in court would further besmirch our parents’ names. At the end of the day, we are brother and sister, and we are all our parents’ children. It would also drag out the process for years, and cause more distraction and distress to Singaporeans. Therefore, fighting this out in court cannot be my preferred choice," he said.
Mr Lee added that he made the statement in Parliament to account to Members and to Singaporeans, and to "deal with the issue expeditiously so that Singaporeans can understand what it is all about".
"We can put the matter to rest, I hope, once and for all," PM Lee said in the statement, where he invited all Members of Parliament to question him "vigorously", "to dispel all the doubts, innuendo and tittle-tattle that has been planted and circulated".