E-book on Lee Kuan Yew's will contains inaccuracies 'calculated to mislead' and 'completely at odds' with court findings: SM Teo
- An e-book titled The Battle Over Lee Kuan Yew’s Last Will contains several inaccuracies “calculated to mislead” readers, Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean said
- He also said that the inaccuracies in the e-book by author Sudhir Thomas Vadaketh are “completely at odds” with court findings
- This was a response to a parliamentary question by Member of Parliament Zhulkarnain Abdul Rahim
- In response to TODAY's queries, Mr Vadaketh said that he realises that the findings in his e-book are "inconvenient for (SM) Teo"
- Mr Vadaketh added that Singaporeans can read the book and make up their own minds
SINGAPORE: An e-book titled The Battle Over Lee Kuan Yew’s Last Will contains several inaccuracies “calculated to mislead” and are “completely at odds” with court findings, Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean said on Thursday (Mar 2).
The e-book, written by Singapore author Sudhir Thomas Vadaketh and published in July last year, is about the debate over the late prime minister’s will and home at 38 Oxley Road, which led to disciplinary proceedings against Mrs Lee Suet Fern, the wife of Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s son Lee Hsien Yang.
Mr Teo had chaired a ministerial committee that had been set up to look into what should be done with the property after Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s death.
In response to TODAY's queries, Mr Vadaketh said that he realises that the findings in his e-book are "inconvenient for (SM) Teo".
"As the head of the ministerial committee, he may feel that our argument is critical of his actions — and, in that, a rare instance in this whole episode, he would be correct," said Mr Vadaketh.
"I believe Singaporeans can read the book and make up their own minds about our team’s editorial rigour and impartiality with the material."
The examination of the case against Mrs Lee was done by the Court of Three Judges, the highest disciplinary body for the legal profession, in November 2020 and a disciplinary tribunal in February 2020. She was found guilty of professional misconduct.
Mr Teo, who is also Coordinating Minister for National Security, said: “The book is not credible, as it totally ignores the facts and findings which had been established, after an objective and thorough examination of the case."
He added: “It is clear that the assertions in his book are calculated to mislead, as they are completely at odds with the findings and conclusions of the Court of Three Judges and the disciplinary tribunal.”
Mr Teo was giving a written response to Member of Parliament Zhulkarnain Abdul Rahim for Chua Chu Kang Group Representation Constituency, who had asked a parliamentary question on whether the book accurately represents the circumstances surrounding the signing of the late former prime minister's will.
INACCURACIES IN THE E-BOOK
In his answer to Mr Zhulkarnain's question, Mr Teo laid out several examples of inaccuracies in the book:
1. What the courts found
- In his book, Mr Vadaketh wrote that Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Mrs Lee Suet Fern have been “cleared of all suspicion of improper motives or manipulations vis-a-vis Lee Kuan Yew and his will”.
- However, the Court of Three Judges and the disciplinary tribunal said otherwise, that the couple have not been cleared of all impropriety and had lied under oath and acted dishonestly.
2. On whether Mrs Lee made an "innocent mistake"
- Mr Vadaketh wrote that Mrs Lee made an “innocent mistake” in sending Mr Lee Kuan Yew a different version of the will.
- The Court of Three Judges and the disciplinary tribunal found, though, that she had acted with "complete disregard" for Lee Kuan Yew’s interests, Mr Teo noted.
- “This was improper, unacceptable, and grossly negligent — it was no innocent mistake,” Mr Teo said.
3. On Mr Lee Hsien Yang’s act of cutting out a lawyer from communicating with Lee Kuan Yew
- Mr Vadaketh suggests that it was not “shady behaviour” that Mr Lee Hsien Yang excluded Ms Kwa Kim Li, a longtime lawyer of Lee Kuan Yew, from communications with the former prime minister.
- What the Court of Three Judges and the disciplinary tribunal found was that Mr Lee Hsien Yang could not have known that Mr Lee Kuan Yew would agree to exclude Ms Kwa, since she was the solicitor who had attended to all of his previous wills.
- Mr Lee Kuan Yew also evidently wanted her to be involved in the execution of his will, Mr Teo said.
4. On Mr Lee Kuan Yew's will
- Mr Vadaketh wrote that Mr Lee Kuan Yew signed the will that he wanted to sign.
- The Court of Three Judges and the disciplinary tribunal found that he signed a will that was not what he had wished to sign.
- He did so as he was misled by Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Mrs Lee, Mr Teo said.
5. On Mr Lee Kuan Yew's discussions with Ms Kwa about reinserting a clause into the will
- Mr Vadaketh wrote in his book that the will was based on Mr Lee Kuan Yew's orders and suggests that he had made a conscious decision to include the Demolition Clause in it.
- However, the Court of Three Judges and the Disciplinary Tribunal found that he did not have discussions with Ms Kwa about reinserting the clause.
- Mrs Lee did not tell Mr Lee Kuan Yew that the clause was reinserted into his will.
In response to TODAY’s queries, Mr Vadaketh said that the e-book is the product of a year of research by a team of researchers and himself and is “exhaustively footnoted”.
It does not include any primary interviews, said Mr Vadaketh, as he did not want to interview only a select few family members, which he believes would be a biased approach.
“Instead, it is based almost entirely on the compilation of affidavits, pleadings, formal documents and submissions from the Law Society of Singapore versus Lee Suet Fern case, which is rich source material,” he said.
Mr Vadaketh added that the Supreme Court had approved his request to access the case file for work on the book.
Any citizen who wishes to access the source material, which was referenced throughout, can make an application through the Supreme Court, he said.
Mr Vadaketh said that his main conclusions based on the available evidence were that:
- Mr Lee Kuan Yew wanted his entire house at 38 Oxley Road demolished – nothing else – but he was aware that it might not be.
- Madam Ho Ching and Mrs Lee Suet Fern, Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s daughters-in-law, Dr Lee Wei Ling and Mr Lee Hsien Yang "have been unfairly judged in this matter by their respective public critics".
- The formation and findings of the Ministerial Committee on 38 Oxley Road are, in Mr Vadaketh’s view, "problematic".
One point in Mr Teo’s parliamentary statement which Mr Vadaketh said was erroneous was that of the alleged lies under oath by Mrs Lee Suet Fern and Mr Lee Hsien Yang.
“I urge readers to go to pages 28 and 29 of my book, where I lay out clearly the Court of Three Judges' findings, including the alleged inaccuracies offered by Lee Hsien Yang and Lee Suet Fern,” he said.
Another point in Mr Teo's reply that Mr Vadaketh took issue with was regarding whether Mr Lee Kuan Yew wanted the Oxley house demolished and had included a clause on this in his last will.
Mr Vadaketh said that on page 20 of his book, he had stated clearly that there was no record of Mr Lee Kuan Yew having asked anybody for the demolition clause to be reinserted in the seventh and last will.
“Also, at no point do I say that Lee Suet Fern advised Lee Kuan Yew about reinserting the Demolition Clause,” he said.
However, Mr Vadaketh said that Dr Lee Wei Ling, who was the only child living with Mr Lee Kuan Yew, had sent an email on Dec 16, 2013, saying: “Papa says go back to 2011 will.”
This refers to the first will which includes the Demolition Clause, said Mr Vadaketh, adding that this was on pages 35 and 70 of his book.
This story was originally published in TODAY.