SINGAPORE: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Monday (Jul 3) explained why he chose to raise in Parliament a family dispute instead of suing his siblings in response to a public spat which started in mid-June.
His younger brother Mr Lee Hsien Yang and sister Dr Lee Wei Ling have alleged the abuse of his political office in moving to prevent the demolition of the family home at 38 Oxley Road, as last willed by their father and founding Singapore prime minister Lee Kuan Yew. PM Lee has denied the allegations.
On Monday, he delivered a ministerial statement in Parliament revealing his father’s approval of a proposal to renovate rather than demolish the property. He said the dispute between the siblings stemmed from differing views rather than anything of “substance”, and also moved to address the specific charges of abuse relating to a Ministerial Committee, a Deed of Gift as well as nepotism.
“Many people have asked me why I’m not taking legal action, to challenge the will, or sue for defamation, or take some other legal action to put a stop to this and clear my name,” said PM Lee. “I took advice and considered my options very carefully. I believe I have a strong case.
“In normal circumstances, in fact, in any other imaginable circumstance but this, I would have sued immediately.”
“Because the accusation of the abuse of power is a very grave one, however baseless it may be. And it is in fact an attack not just on me, but on the integrity of the whole Government.”
“But suing my own brother and sister in court would further besmirch our parents’ names,” he explained. “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.”
“Every family will understand that family disputes do happen, but they are not something to flaunt in public. That is why I have done my best to deal with this out of the public eye.”
PM Lee said his purpose in keeping his submissions to the Ministerial Committee private was “not to pursue a fight with my siblings, but to assist the Committee in its work”.
“Unfortunately, my siblings made public allegations against me. I then had no choice but to defend myself, and release the statements and facts about the matter.”
“I stand by the statements I have published but I really don’t want to go further if I can help it.”
“EVERYONE IS EQUAL BEFORE THE LAW”
PM Lee said he chose to deliver a 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 and we can put the matter to rest, I hope once and for all,” he added.
“I invite Members to raise all questions, suspicions or doubts directly in this Chamber, with me and my team. My Ministers and I will deal with all their questions and give comprehensive answers because we have nothing to hide.”
Further, the legacy of Mr Lee Kuan Yew “is much more than an old house”, PM Lee said.
“Mr Lee’s legacy is Singapore and the values that we uphold… A fair and just society, where the same rules apply to everybody. Whether you are a Minister, or an ordinary citizen, whether you are the Prime Minister, or the children of the founding Prime Minister - you are not above the law.”
“When private interests and public duties clash, we make sure that our private interests do not sway our public decisions,” he said. “When allegations of impropriety and corruption are made, we take them seriously and investigate them fully.”
“In Singapore, everyone is equal before the law. Mr Lee understood this most of all.”
“When the dust has settled on this unhappy episode, people must know that the Government operates transparently, impartially, and properly. That in Singapore, even Mr Lee’s house and Mr Lee’s wishes are subject to the rule of law.”
“That the Government he built is able to withstand intense and sustained attacks on its reputation and integrity, and emerge not just untainted but in fact strengthened.”
“This is the ‘house’ that Mr Lee built, not 38 Oxley Road,” concluded PM Lee.
“I hope one day I will be able to resolve the unhappiness within the family. But today I stand here before you to answer your questions, clear any doubts, and show you that you have every reason to maintain your trust in me and my Government.”