SINGAPORE: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Sunday (Sep 1) asked The Online Citizen to remove an article and Facebook post that repeated "several false allegations" and for the news outlet to publish a "full and unconditional apology".
The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) issued a letter to the chief editor of The Online Citizen Terry Xu on Sunday, after the news outlet published an article on its website and Facebook page on Aug 15.
“The article and the post repeat several false allegations against PM Lee that were previously made by his sister, Dr Lee Wei Ling,” said the letter from Ms Chang Li Lin, press secretary to the Prime Minister who was writing on his behalf.
“In particular, they allege that PM Lee misled his father, the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew, into thinking that the 38 Oxley Road property had been gazetted by the Singapore Government, and that it was futile for Mr Lee Kuan Yew to keep his direction to demolish it.
“PM Lee thereby allegedly caused Mr Lee Kuan Yew, who had originally wanted to demolish the house, to consider other alternatives to demolition, and to change his will to bequeath the house to PM Lee.”
The letter said the allegations are “completely without foundation”.
“In July 2017, after his siblings made similar allegations, and accused PM Lee and his Government of abuse of power, PM Lee gave a full explanation on these matters in Parliament,” it added.
The Prime Minister had reaffirmed that his father's personal wish was for the 38 Oxley Road property to be demolished after his death.
"However, after hearing Cabinet's unanimous views that the property should not be demolished, Mr Lee eventually came to accept that the Government was likely to preserve the property in the public interest," the letter read.
"He was consequently prepared to be flexible and contemplate options short of demolition. With the rest of the family’s knowledge, he approved plans to redevelop/renovate 38 Oxley Road to remove the private spaces."
The letter said both the article and the post had made other false allegations.
"One such false allegation is that after it was revealed to Mr Lee in late 2013 that the 38 Oxley Road property had in fact not been gazetted, he removed PM Lee as an executor and trustee of his will," the PMO letter read.
"The truth is Mr Lee had not included PM Lee as an executor and trustee in any of his wills from 2011 onwards.
"Mr Lee had explained to PM Lee that he did not want to put PM Lee in a difficult position, if the Government were to acquire the property and his siblings took issue over the compensation."
The PMO said the allegations made in the article and Facebook post are libellous, and that PM Lee has chosen "thus far not to sue his siblings".
"As he told Parliament, suing them would further besmirch his parents’ names, and was therefore not his preferred course of action," the letter read.
“PM Lee also made clear to Parliament that under any other circumstances, he would have sued immediately, and that his decision not to sue his siblings then did not mean that he would not ever take legal action, should this become necessary."
The letter warned that PM Lee's "restraint in suing his siblings should not be misinterpreted by others as free licence to repeat and spread false and defamatory allegations against him", as the article and Facebook post have done.
"He has to rebut and deal publicly with such scurrilous attacks on his integrity and character, if necessary through legal action. This is especially as such attacks are also directed at his fitness to hold office as Prime Minister and to lead the Government.”
The letter pointed out that as of 6pm on Sunday, the article was still on The Online Citizen’s website and its Facebook page.
“PM Lee asks that you remove both immediately, and publish within three days, ie by Sep 4, 2019, a full and unconditional apology, plus an undertaking not to publish any similar allegations, prominently on your website and on your Facebook timeline,” the letter to Mr Xu said.
Should that not be done, "PM Lee will have no choice but to hand the matter over to his lawyers to sue to enforce his full rights in law", the letter added.
A check at about 8.10pm on Sunday showed the article was no longer available but the Facebook post was still up. The Online Citizen has been contacted for comment.