Parliament an appropriate platform for PM Lee to address 38 Oxley Road allegations: Analysts

Parliament an appropriate platform for PM Lee to address 38 Oxley Road allegations: Analysts

38 Oxley Road
38 Oxley Road. (Photo: Howard Law) 

SINGAPORE: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s decision to use a debate in Parliament to address allegations against him has been called into question by his siblings and some netizens, but political observers say it provides an “authoritative” platform for him to address the claims.

“The accusations of autocracy and lack of consultation imply that there is something remiss in the operation of PM Lee’s cabinet, so Parliament is the best place to clear the air,” said Associate Professor Alan Chong from the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies.

PM Lee will make a ministerial statement in Parliament on Monday (Jul 3). He has said that the "baseless accusations" against him and the Government must be dealt with openly. He has also invited all Members of Parliament to question him and his Cabinet colleagues vigorously on the matter.

The session in Parliament comes after a series of claims and accusations made by PM Lee’s siblings, Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Lee Wei Ling. They said in a six-page statement on Jun 14 that they "felt threatened" by PM Lee’s use of his position and influence over the Singapore Government and its agencies to "drive his personal agenda” since their father died on Mar 23, 2015. They also accused him of wanting to demolish 38 Oxley Road against the wishes of the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew, their father.

Singapore Management University’s Eugene Tan said that having a parliamentary debate is necessary.

“The debate will provide an authoritative platform for the Government and the PM to reinforce and convince Singaporeans of the PM's and the Government's narrative,” he said. However, he added that the debate may not achieve its aims unless People’s Action Party politicians, who constitute the vast majority of MPs, reflect their constituents' concerns and questions, and dissect the evidence and arguments without fear or favour.

“It is a time for Parliament to try to mediate, to offer ideas on what can be done with regards to 38 Oxley Road, and for it to scrutinise whether controls and checks and balances are adequate. Parliament's standing will be diminished if it is not seen to have not stepped up,” said the law professor.

Furthermore, although it is a private dispute among Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s children, the fact that it is in the public sphere makes it an appropriate matter for parliamentary discussion, said Prof Chong.

“The dispute has created a ‘grey’ political atmosphere, as the third party - ordinary citizens who are not directly involved - are unsure where we stand in relation to the dispute,” he said.


Mr Tan said that it is unlikely the dispute will be resolved following the debate, as there will be lots of details and dates to follow, and “information overload” is a real possibility.

Also, he suggested that the debate will probably not repair the rift between the PM and his siblings, “who will respond to his and the Government’s statements and replies in Parliament”.

If it is decided that further scrutiny is needed, Parliament could decide to have a select committee look further into the matter, or the PM could convene a Committee of Inquiry, Prof Tan added.

But the longer the matter drags, the more damaging it will be for the Government, he cautioned.

Prof Chong said it is possible that PM Lee will offer an olive branch to his siblings, being an “honourable man”. However, he also said there is a possibility that the those involved may start lawsuits, with more private matters laid out for public judgment.

“But it is also a problem-solving formula. They may settle out of court,” he said.

Source: CNA/am