SINGAPORE: It is clear that Lee Hsien Yang’s goal is to bring his elder brother Lee Hsien Loong down as Prime Minister, said Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong on Tuesday (Jul 4).
The former prime minister was speaking on the second day of parliamentary discussion over a public dispute between the children of Singapore’s late founding leader Lee Kuan Yew, centred on allegations made in mid-June by Lee Hsien Yang and his sister, Lee Wei Ling, against PM Lee that he is abusing his powers to block the demolition of their 38 Oxley Road family home.
“Are they whistleblowing in a noble effort to save Singapore, or waging a personal vendetta without any care for the damage done to Singapore?” ESM Goh asked of PM Lee’s siblings.
“It is now no more a cynical parlour game. If the Lee siblings choose to squander the good name and legacy of Lee Kuan Yew, and tear their relationship apart, it is tragic but a private family affair.
“But if in the process of their self-destruction, they destroy Singapore too, that is a public affair.”
Said ESM Goh: “Unsubstantiated accusations have been dished out on Facebook and the media, ad nauseam. Singaporeans are getting sick and tired of all this. We cannot, and will not, allow ourselves to be manipulated as pawns.
"There must be a clear conclusion at the end of this debate. Either we clear PM over the allegation on his abuse of power, or we censure him."
He said the family feud, while “blown out of proportion”, has tarnished Singapore’s reputation and caused “huge collateral damage” to its Government and its people.
VOUCHING FOR PM, DPM
Although of the view that a minister should sue against baseless allegations, ESM Goh nonetheless said he understood PM Lee’s dilemma in not wanting to take his siblings to court.
“Being the eldest in the family, he must harbour hopes of reconciliation, however remote it seems now, even at a cost to his own political standing,” he said.
“I reaffirm my full confidence in the integrity of the Prime Minister. I have known and worked closely with him for more than 30 years. I brought him into politics in 1984, and I should add, it was not at Lee Kuan Yew’s behest.”
“He was my Deputy Prime Minister for 14 years. He has been Prime Minister for some 13 years.”
“This episode, in fact, reveals PM’s political sensitivity and integrity. He gave the proceeds from the sale of 38 Oxley Road away so that no one could accuse him that he would benefit should the Government acquire the land. He had put country before self and family interest.”
ESM Goh also said that the PM and DPM’s accounts of events accord with his knowledge of how the Government and ministers operate.
“I am also fully satisfied that DPM Teo acted independently as chairman of the Ministerial Committee,” he said, adding that he had also attempted to mediate between the DPM and Lee Hsien Yang.
“I told Hsien Yang that the dispute over the demolition of the house was actually between him and the Government. It was not with Hsien Loong, as PM has no say over the fate of the house. I emphasised this point to him.”
ESM Goh further defended Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, stating: “I brought him into politics, after he distinguished himself in the Singapore Navy. He stood with me in the 1992 by-election in Marine Parade GRC. He went on to serve key appointments with distinction. Today, he is Minister in charge of the Civil Service and Co-ordinating Minister for National Security.”
“To suggest that he would do PM’s bidding blindly is to insult the Civil Service and Singapore Armed Forces, never mind the PAP and DPM.”
“YOUR PARENTS WERE PROUD OF YOU”
ESM Goh also addressed the opposition Workers’ Party, calling on its leader Low Thia Khiang and Member of Parliament Png Eng Huat to “state their position clearly on PM’s and the Government’s integrity”.
“After so much has been said by both sides and the Government, it is clear that the allegations are baseless. There is enough distortion out there,” said ESM Goh. “Follow up with a clear statement of your own that you have come to the conclusion that the allegations are baseless.”
In closing, he urged the Lee siblings to sort out their differences, misunderstanding, and reconcile.
“It is surely not worth the feud being passed on to the next generation,” said ESM Goh. “Stop trying to drag each other down and move on. Stop your family quarrel… if that is not immediately possible, at least stop making things worse.”
“Keep the quarrel private and seek mediation or arbitration to resolve your differences. No one doubts your deep filial piety. Hsien Loong, Wei Ling, Hsien Yang, your parents were proud of you.”
ESM Goh then recalled a statement by Lee Kuan Yew in 1996: “The proudest thing (for your mother) are her three children – upright, well-behaved and honourable. …. They were brought up straight, they are likely to stay straight. It is like, as I have said, a code of honour. If you break that code, you have brought shame…. upon yourself and family”.