FamiLEE saga: Who’s involved

Jun 17, 2017 09.40PM |

FINALLY some light is shed on the ministerial committee. It was set up and chaired by Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) Teo Chee Hean. (The Straits Times, Jun 17) The committee includes Minister for Culture and Community and Youth Grace Fu, Minister for Law and Home Affairs K Shanmugam and Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong.

And now, there’s the revelation that the Mr Shanmugam had previously corresponded with the younger Lee siblings on the house and is now sitting on the committee. In a brief Facebook post, Mr Shanmugam shot down Mr Lee Hsien Yang’s suggestions of a conflict of interest as “ridiculous”. DPM Teo Chee Hean has also said that there is “nothing secret” about the committee.

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The developments have drawn even more high-profile names into the saga, joining a motley mix including Singapore’s new Attorney-General (A-G), several lawyers and a personal aide. If you’re losing track of who’s who, we’ve got a list of the key actors and some questions that can be asked of them right here:

Cabinet ministers: Mr Lawrence Wong, DPM Teo Chee Hean and Mr K Shanmugam

In a joint statement on Jun 14, Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Lee Wei Ling raised a serious allegation against PM Lee that also involved Minister Wong.

They said: “We were shocked to see that Hsien Loong had used his position as Prime Minister to obtain a copy of the Deed of Gift from Minister Wong, which Hsien Loong then passed to his personal lawyer to advance his personal agenda.” Dr Lee and Mr Lee Hsien Yang had executed a Deed of Gift in 2015 with the National Heritage Board for a public exhibition of items from their family home. PM Lee has denied all allegations, while Minister Wong has not responded to this.

After PM Lee posted his summary of Statutory Declarations on Facebook, Dr Lee Wei Ling promptly responded by sharing three screenshots of private correspondences involving Mr Lee Kuan Yew, Mrs Lee Suet Fern, and Mr Shanmugam, amongst others. One of the emails shows an intriguing email from Mrs Lee Suet Fern to Minister Shanmugam about persuading Dr Lee Wei Ling to reconcile with her father (read about it here).

Even DPM Teo was briefly mentioned in the PM’s summary of his Statutory Declarations. PM Lee said that: “I was so struck by the sequence of volunteered statements that on 23 April 2015, 11 days later, I recounted to DPM Teo Chee Hean in my office what had happened at the reading of the Last Will, including what LSF had said.”

And now, there’s the DPM’s latest announcement of his and the two other Cabinet ministers’ role in the ministerial committee. In response to this, Mr Lee Hsien Yang questioned if Mr Shanmugam had a “conflict of interest” in advising on the “options to help achieve [Mr] Lee Kuan Yew’s wishes, and the drafting of the demolition wish” while being part of the committee. Mr Shanmugam has blasted his allegation: “I was already a Cabinet Minister when I spoke with some members of the Lee family — at their behest — and gave them my views. They were not my clients. Nothing that I said then precludes me from serving in this Committee.”

It has not been confirmed that a copy of the Deed of Gift was handed over to Minister Wong. Would there be a paper trail to indicate the handover? Is there any documentation to show on what grounds the G took over the Deed of Gift?

Ms Kwa Kim Li

Managing partner of Lee&Lee Advocates and Solicitors, and the niece of Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s wife Mrs Kwa Geok Choo. She prepared the previous six versions of the will.

Previously, Mr Lee Hsien Yang said in a Facebook post: “Stamford Law did not draft any will for LKY. The will was drafted by Kwa Kim Li of Lee & Lee. Paragraph 7 of the Will was drafted at LKY’s direction, and put into language by Lee Suet Fern, his daughter in law and when he was satisfied he asked Kim Li to insert into his will.” However, Ms Kwa has told The Straits Times that she did not prepare the last will. (Jun 16)

To this date, it is still unclear who drafted the final will. At around 2pm today (Jun 17), Mr Lee Hsien Yang explained that “My father’s Final Will of December 2013 was a reversion to his 2011 will on his express instructions. The 2011 will was drafted by Ms Kwa Kim Li of Lee & Lee[…]” PM Lee and Ms Kwa have not responded to this.

According to PM Lee’s Statutory Declarations, Mrs Lee Suet Fern sent an email on Dec 16, 2013, 7.08pm to Mr Lee Kuan Yew and copied Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Ms Kwa. The email contained a previous version of the will stating that all three children would receive equal shares. Mr Lee Kuan Yew gave each child an equal share in the estate under the first will. Ms Kwa was allegedly out of the loop, and replaced by Ms Wong Lin Hoe, Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s private secretary, after LHY emailed Mr Lee Kuan Yew that Ms Kwa was “away” and that it’s not “wise to wait till she is back.” PM Lee claimed that the next day, Ms Kwa told Mrs Lee Suet Fern that “she did not seem to have received this email.” This has not been confirmed by Ms Kwa.

If Ms Kwa did not receive the email from Mr Lee Hsien Loong about the changes for the last will, was she in Singapore during that time or overseas? Were there any other attempts to contact her? Since Ms Kwa drafted previous versions of the will except for the last one, it would be relevant to ask her this: Why did Mr Lee Kuan Yew remove the Demolition Clause in the fifth and sixth will?

Ms Wong Lin Hoe

Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s long-time private secretary. She helped to make arrangements for the last will after Ms Kwa was out of the loop on Dec 16, 2013. The last will included the Demolition Clause that was previously removed from the fifth and sixth wills.

The clause is the most contentious part of the will. PM Lee said that Mr Lee Kuan Yew “gave instructions to remove the Demolition Clause.” In a speech to the parliament, PM Lee said that in Dec 2011, Mr Lee Kuan Yew attended a “special Cabinet meeting” to “discuss 38 Oxley Road.”

After the meeting, Mr Lee Kuan Yew wrote to the Cabinet: “Cabinet members were unanimous that 38 Oxley Road should not be demolished as I wanted. I have reflected on this and decided that if 38 Oxley Road is to be preserved, it needs to have its foundations reinforced and the whole building refurbished. It must then be let out for people to live in. An empty building will soon decline and decay.”

However, in a joint statement released by Dr Lee and Mr Lee Hsien Yang, Mr Lee Kuan Yew was reportedly “despondent” and told Dr Lee Wei Ling that: “I should not have listened to Loong and gone to meet Cabinet.”

PM Lee said that he “only learnt about the contents of the last will on April 12, 2015, when it was read out to the family.”

PM Lee also claimed that at 8.12pm, Dec 16, 2013, Mrs Lee Suet Fern sent an email to Ms Wong and copied Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Mr Bernard Lui, a lawyer from Mrs Lee’s law firm, Stamford Law Corporation [now Morgan Lewis Stamford LLC]. In the email, Ms Wong was reportedly informed that Mr Lui “had the will ready for execution” and that Ms Wong could contact Mr Lui “to make arrangements for the signing of the will.” The next morning (Dec 17), two lawyers from Stamford Law Corporation, Mr Lui and Ms Elizabeth Kong, witnessed Mr Lee Kuan Yew signing the last will. PM Lee claimed that Ms Wong was not present at the signing of the last will.

Later in the afternoon, Ms Wong emailed Mr Lee Kuan Yew stating that “We have received a faxed copy of the signed document for Mr Lee to re-read in the office”. Questions were raised by PM Lee on how Ms Wong would know that Mr Lee Kuan Yew had read the will, if she was supposedly not present when Mr Lee Kuan Yew signed the last will. It is not confirmed if Ms Wong was there to witness the signing.

Mr Lucien Wong

At around 7am today (Jun 17), Mr Lee Hsien Yang once again retaliated in a Facebook post. This time, he showed a comparison of contradictory statements by PM Lee on how Mr Lee Kuan Yew felt about having monuments to himself after his death. What’s noteworthy is the second quote from a letter by A-G Wong to the lawyers of Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Lee Wei Ling. A-G Wong was PM Lee’s personal lawyer at that time. He was recently sworn in as A-G on Jan 16, this year, and will be serving a three-year term. The Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) is led by the A-G, and is the principal legal adviser to the government.

Along with this picture, Mr Lee Hsien Yang said in the post: “Lucien Wong was LHL’s personal lawyer, and now the Attorney-General of Singapore.”

And from the younger siblings’ joint statement referencing the Deed of Gift: “However, after the gift’s acceptance we soon received letters with spurious objections from Hsien Loong’s then personal lawyer, Lucien Wong. Lucien Wong was made Singapore’s Attorney-General in January 2017.”

There’s an insinuation that A-G Wong may not have been appointed for purely meritocratic reasons (read more here).

It behoves the AGC to issue a public statement to clear his name and office. Why is A-G Wong still silent?

Stamford Law Corporation lawyers

Mr Bernard Lui is a partner in Morgan Lewis Stamford LLC, formerly known as Stamford Law Corporation. In an email Mrs Lee Suet Fern sent to Ms Wong, which she copied to Mr Lui, it was mentioned that Mr Lui “had the [last] will ready for execution.” The email also instructed Ms Wong to contact Mr Lui directly to “make arrangements for the singing of the will.” Mr Lui, together with another lawyer from Stamford Law, Ms Elizabeth Kong, went to 38 Oxley Road on Dec 17, 2013 to witness Mr Lee Kuan Yew signing the will.

Mr Lui and Mr Ng Joo Khin, also a lawyer from Stamford Law Corporation, were present for the reading of the last will on April 12, 2013. At the reading, PM Lee reported that Mrs Lee Suet Fern said that while Mr Lee Kuan Yew had asked her to prepare the last will, she did not want to be “personally involved”. Thus, she got Mr Ng to handle the preparations for the last will instead. However, while reading the email correspondence on the preparation of the final will, PM Lee said that “there was nothing to show that Mr Ng Joo Khin [NJK] had been involved in the preparation of the Last Will as LSF had claimed during the reading of the Last Will.”

According to Ms Lee Suet Fern’s email, Mr Lui had the final will ready. Surely he should know who drafted it? Or the other lawyer who witnessed. Do either of them know who drafted the will? And finally, a question for all who were involved: Have any of them been summoned by the internal ministerial committee to give statements?

More questions are raised as both sides continue to hurl allegations at each other. So far, PM Lee has raised suspicions about the involvement of Mrs Lee Suet Fern in preparing the last will. While Mr Lee Hsien Yang has maintained that Stamford Law did not draft the final will. More significantly, we now know more about the ministerial committee.


Updated June 18: The famiLEE affair has been brewing for a while now. Read our articles on the issue:

  1. FamiLEE saga: 10 things from the academic paper “When I’m dead, demolish it” (Jun 18)
  2. FamiLEE saga: Who’s involved (Jun 17)
  3. FamiLEE saga: Is a grant of probate really final? (Jun 17)
  4. FamiLEE saga: Somebody should just sue (Jun 17)
  5. FamiLEE saga: PM Lee’s version of events (Jun 16) 
  6. FamiLEE saga: Let a third party tell all (Jun 16)
  7. FamiLEE saga: The past three days (Jun 16)
  8. FamiLEE saga: How Lee Suet Fern got LWL her inheritance, according to leaked emails (Jun 15)
  9. FamiLEE saga: Singaporeans react with confusion, humour and CSI skills (Jun 15)
  10. FamiLEE saga: From 38 Oxley Road to 1 Parliament Place, not just a family affair (Jun 15)
  11. FamiLEE saga: Headlines around the world (Jun 15)
  12. FamiLEE saga: Now about that mysterious ministerial committee (Jun 15)
  13. Not just a famiLEE affair (Jun 14)
  14. Third generation Lee weighs in (Jun 14)
  15. “We do not trust Hsien Loong as a brother or as a leader. We have lost confidence in him.” (Jun 14)


Featured image by Sean Chong.

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