SINGAPORE: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Tuesday (Jul 4) welled up with emotion in Parliament as he expressed regret over a family spat which has gripped the nation in recent weeks.
Closing out the second day of a debate over allegations of PM Lee misusing his power while handling the Lees’ 38 Oxley Road family home, the eldest son of Singapore’s founding statesman Lee Kuan Yew teared up as he recalled events during the national week of mourning for his father’s passing in 2015.
“For me, the most difficult and emotional moment in that whole week came when I was reading the eulogy at the state funeral service,” said PM Lee.
“When I recounted how when I was about 13, my father had told me: ‘If anything happens to me, please take care of your mother, and your younger sister and brother’.”
“I thought we had a happy family… Little did I expect that after my parents died, these tensions would erupt, with such grievous consequences.”
The prime minister added: “And after so many years, I would be unable to fulfil the role which my father had hoped I would.”
He thanked members who had earlier sent well-wishes for reconciliation within the family, stating: “I, too, would like to think this is possible. It will be a difficult and a long road. But I hope that one day, some rapprochement may be possible.”
“I hope that one day, these passions will subside, and we can begin to reconcile,” said PM Lee of his younger brother Lee Hsien Yang and sister Lee Wei Ling.
“At the very least, I hope that my siblings will not visit their resentments and grievances with one generation upon the next generation. And further, that they do not transmit their enmities and feuds to our children.”
“NOT A SOAP OPERA”
Earlier, PM Lee said his opening ministerial statement, delivered on Monday, had “fully addressed the allegations of abuse of power”.
But he noted his surprise at Members questioning his decision to raise the issue in Parliament.
“I agree that we should not fight private disputes in Parliament, nor have we done so,” he said. “But grave accusations of abuse of power have been made against me as PM and the Government. Doubts have been cast on our Government and leadership.”
“How can my Ministers and I not address them in Parliament? Imagine the scandal if MPs filed questions on these accusations, and the Government replied that Parliament is not the place to discuss the matter.”
Importantly, said PM Lee, the two days of debates have showed that he and Government acted properly and with due process.
“No MPs have produced or alleged any additional facts or charges, or substantiated any of the allegations,” he stated. “People can see that there has been no abuse of power, by me or my Government.”
Added PM Lee: “I hope this two-day debate has cleared the air and will calm things down. It would be unrealistic to hope that the matter is now completely put to rest. I do not know what further statements or allegations my siblings may make.”
“But with the benefit of the statements and debate in Parliament, Singaporeans are now in a better position to judge the facts, and see the issue in perspective.”
“This is not a soap opera… We must all get back to work,” he concluded.
ON AG, SELECT COMMITTEE
PM Lee also sought to address other issues brought up by Members, among them the appointment of his former personal lawyer Mr Lucien Wong as Attorney-General (AG).
“Lucien Wong was my lawyer. But now he is the AG, I’ve lost a good lawyer, and he is not advising the Government on the matter,” he said, referring to the Oxley dispute. “Another officer in AGC takes charge. Lucien Wong is out of it.”
Added PM Lee: “When Lucien Wong’s name came up as a candidate to succeed Mr VK Rajah as AG, I endorsed him with confidence. I was even more confident because I had had direct personal experience working with him on this case. I had also consulted him informally on government matters before.”
“Everyone involved in the appointment was fully aware that this was the basis of which i was recommending him. I told the Cabinet, Lucien is my lawyer, even though the opposition may make an issue of it, that it was not an impediment.”
“The AG’s appointment had to be endorsed by the President, so I told the President the same thing.”
PM Lee also responded to suggestions for a Select Committee, or Commission of Inquiry (COI) to handle the Oxley dispute.
“But what is the basis for this?” he asked. “There are no specifics to the headline charge of abuse of power. What specifically did I do that was wrong? What was wrong with that? Who was involved? When did it happen?”
“If MPs believe that something is wrong, it is your job to pursue the facts and make those allegations in your own name,” he declared. “Decide whether something seems to be wrong. And if you think something is wrong, even if you are not fully sure, then come into this House, confront the government firmly, and ask for explanations and answers.”
“If having heard the government, you are not satisfied, then by all means demand a Select Committee or a COI.”
“Do not just repeat allegations and attribute them to others, and ask for a Select Committee or COI because accusations are around, don’t know what but we must have a COI to find out.”
Said PM Lee: “The accusers may not be in Parliament, but that should not stop MPs from talking to them to get their story. Nor would it stop the accusers from getting in touch with MPs, including opposition MPs, to tell their story so that the MPs can raise it on their behalf in Parliament.”
“Why do we need a Select Committee or COI, and drag this out for months? It’ll be another Korean drama, full-scale serial,” he said. “Should we set up Select Committees to investigate every unsubstantiated allegation, every wild rumour?"