June 25, 2017

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by Bertha Henson

THAT was a masterly response from Madam Ho Ching! Read her post and you can see an Asian aunty tidying up after pampered children. You can see her with a broom and a dustpan carrying out the dutiful daughter-in-law responsibilities – or being a “dogsbody’’, as she put it rather old-fashionedly.

This image hardly tallies with the Lee siblings’ first description of her as a power hungry matriarch with too much influence over civil servants. She was, they said, the opposite of their mother, the late Madam Kwa Geok Choo.

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“Singapore has no such thing as the wife of the prime minister being a ‘first lady,’” they said in a joint statement released on June 14, 2017. “During those many years, his [Lee Kuan Yew’s] wife (our mother) consistently avoided the limelight, remaining his stalwart supporter and advisor in private. She lived discreetly, and set a high bar for the conduct of a prime minister’s wife. She would never instruct Permanent Secretaries or senior civil servants. The contrast between her and Ho Ching could not be more stark. While Ho Ching holds no elected or official position in government, her influence is pervasive, and extends well beyond her job purview.”

So far, the Lees have only brought up one example which they think is unwarranted intervention on her part and that is regarding the removal of items from the house. She was painted as the wicked daughter-in-law who removed items from the house even as the late Mr Lee was lying in hospital. “She had no business doing this when LKY was in ICU and it is deeply troubling that someone can represent the PMO despite holding no official position,” said Mr Lee Hsien Yang.

Then there was a mix-up over dates, which seems entirely to be the fault of the National Heritage Board. She only did so after Mr Lee’s funeral. Undeterred, Mr Lee Hsien Yang then calls her a thief. “This is even more troubling. By LKY’s will, the estate’s residual items, such as personal documents, fall under the absolute discretion of the executors Wei Ling and myself. Unapproved removal of these items, even by a beneficiary, constitutes both theft and intermeddling.’’

The incident looks clearly like a domestic saga among family members. Why should it concern the rest of us? It should, only insofar as the siblings clarify or justify their earlier statements on Madam Ho exceeding her role as Prime Minister’s wife. What sort of leeway should the spouse of a minister have with civil servants?

If she does direct civil servants to do something, should they do so? Is it implicit that what she wants is also what the Prime Minister wants?

She doesn’t have to say she is Mrs Lee Hsien Loong. People know. What is the bet that the ordinary person knows that Madam Kwa Geok Choo is Mrs Lee Kuan Yew?

Of course, this might be jumping the gun. It may well be that Madam Ho never tried to influence G agencies and that Lee siblings are talking nonsense. In Madam Ho’s case, it is imperative that she stays out of matters that are not under her purview given that her connection with Temasek Holdings already lays the Prime Minister open to charges of nepotism. After 15 years at the helm of this powerful entity, it has become a non-issue. She is a smart, capable woman in her own right. So let it remain that way.

As a contrasting case, the United States (US) has “a longstanding tradition of public service by First Ladies”. But even in the US, former First Lady Mrs Hillary Clinton was served with two lawsuits for leading a highly-secretive health-care reform task force, which counted government staff among its members. The American public seemed to shun a powerful First Lady whose public service was shrouded in secrecy.

Here in Singapore, Madam Kwa Geok Choo was well aware of her role as a staunch supporter of her husband. She once said: “I walk two steps behind my husband like a good Asian wife.”

Spouses and family members of leaders should be careful about keeping out of governance matters. There’s no problem rooting for your spouse or the political party he belongs to but it’s quite another to use them as leverage to get anyone to do anything, however pure the intentions.

G ministers here have a Code of Conduct last revised in 2005, which draws a line between the personal and the professional. It states that a minister must “scrupulously avoid any actual or apparent conflict of interest between his office and his private financial interests”. This may arise “from the exercise of powers or influence in a way that benefits or may be seen to benefit private interests held; or from using special knowledge acquired in the course of his activities as Minister to bring benefit or avoid loss in relation to his private financial interests”. It extends to: Ministers must not “use official information that comes to him… for his own private profit or the profit of any family member or associate”.

Perhaps the code should include some guidance for family members. Unlike in other countries, we’ve never had a problem with family members abusing their privileged position, we should keep it that way. Madam Ho is not the First Lady, but she must be Caesar’s wife.

 

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

  1. FamiLEE saga: That internal ministerial committee should go (Jun 21)
  2. FamiLEE saga: Will parliament session end saga? (Jun 20)
  3. FamiLEE saga: Some leeway should be given (Jun 19)
  4. FamiLEE saga: 10 things from the academic paper “When I’m dead, demolish it”. (Jun 18)
  5. FamiLEE saga: Who’s involved (Jun 17) 
  6. FamiLEE saga: Is a grant of probate really final? (Jun 17)
  7. FamiLEE saga: Somebody should just sue (Jun 17)
  8. FamiLEE saga: PM Lee’s version of events (Jun 16) 
  9. FamiLEE saga: Let a third party tell all (Jun 16)
  10. FamiLEE saga: The past three days (Jun 16)
  11. FamiLEE saga: How Lee Suet Fern got LWL her inheritance, according to leaked emails (Jun 15)
  12. FamiLEE saga: Singaporeans react with confusion, humour and CSI skills (Jun 15)
  13. FamiLEE saga: From 38 Oxley Road to 1 Parliament Place, not just a family affair (Jun 15)
  14. FamiLEE saga: Headlines around the world (Jun 15)
  15. FamiLEE saga: Now about that mysterious ministerial committee (Jun 15)
  16. Not just a famiLEE affair (Jun 14)
  17. Third generation Lee weighs in (Jun 14)
  18. “We do not trust Hsien Loong as a brother or as a leader. We have lost confidence in him.” (Jun 14)
  19. Mystery deepens over secret tapes of Lee Kuan Yew (Sep 30, 2016)
  20. Time for the famiLEE to end the public spectacle (Apr 10, 2016)
  21. Dr Lee Wei Ling gagged? (Apr 2, 2016)

 

Featured image from TMG file.

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For breaking news, you can talk to us via email.

by Bertha Henson

Looks like the G is digging in its heels over the internal ministerial committee. There is a very quick riposte to Mr Han Fook Kwang’s column yesterday (Jun 21) in The Straits Times on whether the committee was even necessary. Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) Teo Chee Hean, whom we knew only a few days ago heads the committee, said the Cabinet “cannot outsource decision-making”.

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He reiterated that the committee was only interested in the Will only insofar as it sheds light on the late Lee Kuan Yew’s wishes over the Oxley Road house.

That’s the problem isn’t it? A committee trying to come to a conclusion on a dead man’s wishes by interviewing family members, one of whom happens to be its leader.

Committee members, two of whom have spoken to the younger Lees before, would have known how fractious this would be given Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s suspicions over the validity of the will which he had spoken to Mr Teo about. Plus, some of the acrimony between the siblings has surfaced in public before this saga, such as the quarrel over documents kept in the house.

Evidently, the G thought its investigation would be kept quiet. They didn’t reckon that the Lees would make it public. Perhaps, the G believed that unless it said something first, no one else would take things out in the open without its say-so. It’s a common G affliction.

Mr Teo’s point is that the Cabinet has a responsibility especially since there are laws such as the Planning Act and Preservation of Monuments Act that need to be considered. So it has to consider the legislation plus the late Mr Lee’s wishes, to come to a demolish-preserve-hybrid decision.

What this means is that it is not accepting that the last wishes of Mr Lee in his will, that is, the demolition clause, could be final. (To a layman, it looks absolutely clear that he wanted it razed.) So the committee now has to do some detective work, which will surely upset the Lee siblings because the assumption is that the Will was “tilted’’ their way through some nefarious means.

The committee should be disbanded, because it is tainted.

The G can argue till the cows come home that it’s a routine committee and not “secret’’ but it would have to acknowledge that it could have been more transparent, if not with the public, at least with the Lee siblings on, say, the composition of the committee.

It can say that it has the right and responsibility to decide on the fate of the house but it can’t deny that the public would also be interested – just as they are interested in giving views about the Founders’ Memorial. In this regard, there has been some unbending: “But this [setting up of a Ministerial Committee] does not preclude public consultations or the involvement of some memorial committee at an appropriate time. Indeed members of the public have already written in offering suggestions.”

It can say it is only interested in ascertaining the late Mr Lee’s last wishes and nothing else, but is it also saying then that it would not get relevant agencies involved if there was some hanky-panky that went on?

In any case, the ministerial committee can’t make a “decision’’ on the house, because it can only recommend a position for the G of the day to take when Dr Lee Wei Ling vacates the place. That G of the day might choose to ignore its recommendations for whatever reason.

The Cabinet should have taken itself out of the picture, set up another committee to ascertain the last wishes, and later decide, without PM Lee, on whether to accept its recommendations. That would surely have been a neater method and would not be seen as an abdication of responsibility.

It’s likely that DPM Teo will speak in Parliament on July 3. He might first want to acknowledge that the G is in a pickle, rather insist that the committee did everything right.

 

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

  1. FamiLEE saga: Will parliament session end saga? (Jun 20)
  2. FamiLEE saga: Some leeway should be given (Jun 19)
  3. FamiLEE saga: 10 things from the academic paper “When I’m dead, demolish it”. (Jun 18)
  4. FamiLEE saga: Who’s involved (Jun 17) 
  5. FamiLEE saga: Is a grant of probate really final? (Jun 17)
  6. FamiLEE saga: Somebody should just sue (Jun 17)
  7. FamiLEE saga: PM Lee’s version of events (Jun 16) 
  8. FamiLEE saga: Let a third party tell all (Jun 16)
  9. FamiLEE saga: The past three days (Jun 16)
  10. FamiLEE saga: How Lee Suet Fern got LWL her inheritance, according to leaked emails (Jun 15)
  11. FamiLEE saga: Singaporeans react with confusion, humour and CSI skills (Jun 15)
  12. FamiLEE saga: From 38 Oxley Road to 1 Parliament Place, not just a family affair (Jun 15)
  13. FamiLEE saga: Headlines around the world (Jun 15)
  14. FamiLEE saga: Now about that mysterious ministerial committee (Jun 15)
  15. Not just a famiLEE affair (Jun 14)
  16. Third generation Lee weighs in (Jun 14)
  17. “We do not trust Hsien Loong as a brother or as a leader. We have lost confidence in him.” (Jun 14)
  18. Mystery deepens over secret tapes of Lee Kuan Yew (Sep 30, 2016)
  19. Time for the famiLEE to end the public spectacle (Apr 10, 2016)
  20. Dr Lee Wei Ling gagged? (Apr 2, 2016)

 

Featured image from TMG file.

If you like this article, like The Middle Ground‘s Facebook Page as well!

For breaking news, you can talk to us via email.

 

 

 

by Bertha Henson

SOME 20 years ago, the Lee family found themselves in a quandary, except that they closed ranks then. It had to do with corruption – whether they knew that the apartments they bought from local developer Hotel Properties Ltd. (HPL) came with a hefty discount.

Singapore was surprised when the issue was sprung in Parliament in 1996 with the then Prime Minister (PM) Goh Chok Tong saying that he had launched investigations into rumours regarding the purchases. Both then Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew and then Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong gave statements in Parliament. People were surprised because they thought the rumours were just that: rumours with no clear originating source. Plus, those were the days when social media wasn’t around to amplify them.

PM Goh said he had found nothing improper, that the Lees did not ask for nor even knew of the discounts, which had since been given to charity. There was a three-day debate in Parliament.

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Now, Prime Minister (PM) Lee Hsien Loong has told Singapore that he would make a statement in Parliament on July 3 refuting allegations that had been made by his siblings over the past few days. A wan-looking Mr Lee had himself video-taped with a message for the people.

It was a masterly job. He apologised; he said he had tried to keep it private. His parents would be anguished to see what’s been happening, he said. There were hints of frustration and embarrassment in his message which culminated in a fierce declaration to “repair the damage that had been done to Singapore”. This is the first time in a very long time that a prime minister has resorted to doing the equivalent of breaking into a broadcast news cycle to speak to the masses. It shows that he recognised the urgency of responding to the confusion that has taken hold of Singapore over the past few days.

So far, the Prime Minister has commented three times since Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Lee Wei Ling launched their campaign in the wee hours of June 14. The siblings said their aim was to tell about how their eldest brother was running roughshod over them because he wanted his way over their father’s will, especially over the Oxley Road house. PM Lee, who was holidaying abroad, responded with a post denying the allegations made by the two Lees. He concluded the post saying: “As my siblings know, I am presently overseas on leave with my family. I will consider this matter further after I return this weekend.”

He wasn’t allowed to holiday in peace, however, because his siblings went on to speak to media, made public private correspondence and other aspects of the squabble surfaced, such as PM Lee’s public and private utterances about their father’s wish for the Oxley Road house.

In turn, PM Lee launched a bombshell in the form of a summary of a statutory declaration he made to what the siblings described as a “secret ministerial committee’’. Most intriguing were his doubts that proper procedures had been followed in the drafting of the final will – not just about the demolition clause but also about share portions among the three siblings. Mrs Lee Suet Fern, who was involved/not involved (depending on who you believe) in the last will, became the new focus of attention.

Singaporeans watched all this, puzzled, bemused, and also upset. Some will say it is unseemly for such an illustrious family to bicker so openly over their father’s desires. They would rather close their ears. Others will wonder about whether PM Lee is as power-hungry as his siblings make him out to be. They would want evidence or a firm rebuttal. All, however, know that the dispute is damaging Singapore’s reputation and trust in the government, as PM Lee himself recognises.

Will the parliamentary session put the matter to rest? PM Lee has said that the People’s Action Party (PAP) whip will be lifted. This will be one of those rare occasions when PAP Members of Parliament (MPs) are allowed to speak their minds and vote their hearts. In previous occasions, the whip was lifted to acknowledge that MPs had their own religious beliefs to take into account, such as over abortion and the Human Organ transplant act, or where the legislation might affect their own work as MPs, such as the introduction of nominated MPs.

Doubtless, PM Lee doesn’t want it said that the PAP MPs were merely toeing the party line with soft questions. He has given them permission to speak and it will be for them to act as representatives, not of the party but of the people. He encouraged the non-PAP MPs to speak up too.

It will be an interesting debate not least because the PM seems to be encouraging a parliamentary inquiry into his words and actions, with himself as sole respondent. It will be tough for MPs to take his side given that people will watch for partisan comments and draw what conclusions they will. If, however, there is a sticking point about using parliament as a forum, it is about how comments are ‘privileged’, that is, no one can be sued for what they say in it.

Will a ‘full public airing’ dispel doubts about the political system here? MPs and political observers believe that it will allow the G to publicly address the serious allegations of abuse of power that have been made by the Lee siblings. Notably, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat hopes that this will “dispel doubts, and strengthen confidence in our institutions and system of government”, reported ST.

In the HPL case, Parliamentary hearings successfully quelled public disquiet. The then Nominated MP Walter Woon remarked positively that the debate proved: “That you do not have to give favours to civil servants or politicians, because it is not accepted; and that if there was any impropriety, no matter how high up, it will be rooted out and stamped on.”

Even the opposition MPs reportedly agreed that the discounts were not illegal. The then Singapore Democratic Party MP Ling How Doong said it loud and clear: “I am not taking part in the debate because there is no impropriety. There is no necessity to have this matter brought to Parliament.”

Mr Lee Kuan Yew even framed the occasion into a demonstration of the effectiveness of Singapore’s system of checks and balances: “I take pride and satisfaction that the question of my two purchases and those of the Deputy Prime Minister, my son, has been subjected to, and not exempted from, scrutiny… It is most important that Singapore remain a place where no one is above scrutiny, that any question of integrity of a minister, however senior, that he has gained benefits either through influence or corrupt practices, be investigated”

In the previous case, there was a gatekeeper, which was PM Goh. So, there was someone who could say he had the matter scrutinised, draw a line and declare it closed. There was also no one who could put up a meaningful challenge on the matter, since the allegations were “rumours’’ without a source. In this case, we have two high-profile individuals who do not mince their words.

A parliamentary session will not be as definitive as a court case because it cannot make judgments of guilt or innocence. Perhaps, the debate will be framed in the form of a motion which MPs can vote for or against or abstain, especially since the PAP whip is lifted.

It’s not likely though that matter will end with talk in Parliament. Some action will still need to be taken, like what to do about the house.

 

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

  1. FamiLEE saga: Some leeway should be given (Jun 19)
  2. FamiLEE saga: 10 things from the academic paper “When I’m dead, demolish it”. (Jun 18)
  3. FamiLEE saga: Who’s involved (Jun 17) 
  4. FamiLEE saga: Is a grant of probate really final? (Jun 17)
  5. FamiLEE saga: Somebody should just sue (Jun 17)
  6. FamiLEE saga: PM Lee’s version of events (Jun 16) 
  7. FamiLEE saga: Let a third party tell all (Jun 16)
  8. FamiLEE saga: The past three days (Jun 16)
  9. FamiLEE saga: How Lee Suet Fern got LWL her inheritance, according to leaked emails (Jun 15)
  10. FamiLEE saga: Singaporeans react with confusion, humour and CSI skills (Jun 15)
  11. FamiLEE saga: From 38 Oxley Road to 1 Parliament Place, not just a family affair (Jun 15)
  12. FamiLEE saga: Headlines around the world (Jun 15)
  13. FamiLEE saga: Now about that mysterious ministerial committee (Jun 15)
  14. Not just a famiLEE affair (Jun 14)
  15. Third generation Lee weighs in (Jun 14)
  16. “We do not trust Hsien Loong as a brother or as a leader. We have lost confidence in him.” (Jun 14)
  17. Mystery deepens over secret tapes of Lee Kuan Yew (Sep 30, 2016)
  18. Time for the famiLEE to end the public spectacle (Apr 10, 2016)
  19. Dr Lee Wei Ling gagged? (Apr 2, 2016)

 

Featured image from TMG file.

If you like this article, Like The Middle Ground‘s Facebook Page as well!

For breaking news, you can talk to us via email.

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by Bertha Henson

SO IS there an end in sight? Or should we brace ourselves for more dirty laundry and public acrimony? Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong is back to work today and I doubt that it will be the economy or security that engages his attention. He should be deciding on next moves in the famiLEE saga, but what would they be?

I have no clue.

But here’s what people seem to want to see happen.

a. Disband that internal Cabinet committee.

Never mind that Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean has given more details about the committee’s work, it’s tainted in the public eye. Whether secret or not, or whether it’s a routine part of Cabinet work, the idea that a committee of ministers are talking to their leader just doesn’t make the cut as an impartial panel.

It goes to show how the public views the leadership – as a monolithic group or collective unit that moves together as one. PM Lee can assert that he has no influence over the decision-making process; that’s almost like saying that he has no say over who should be the next Prime Minister.

It doesn’t help that PM Lee told DPM Teo of his worries about the final will. And it’s DPM Teo who is heading the four-minister committee. Could this have been set up with a certain angle that’s beyond DPM Teo’s declaration that the work was only about whether the will shed light on the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s wishes?

Then there is the role played by Law Minister K Shanmugam in the committee. According to the Lee siblings, he was involved in some way too in the final will, yet he is on the committee. No matter how Mr Shanmugam denies any conflict of interest, the layman will simply see it as one man standing on two boats. It’s also troubling that the siblings were never told of the composition of the committee. Why would the committee see the need to withhold names from the people it is asking to make representations? Unless, of course, PM Lee doesn’t know who is on the committee either…

b. Set up a new independent committee of heritage experts or historians.

What is coming through is an acknowledgement that private wishes must also take into account national heritage values. Or the other way round.

The late Mr Lee had himself acknowledged that the G could gazette the house for conservation, but hoped that if so, it be open only to family members. His concern went beyond his abhorrence for monuments, he was also concerned about privacy and economics. He didn’t want strangers traipsing through, the upkeep of the house would be expensive and there are neighbours for whom household values have been kept down because of strictures on plot ratio in the area.

All three points can be addressed without resorting to wholesale demolition. DPM Teo suggested something in between, such as razing the House but keeping the basement dining room where so many historic meetings about Singapore’s future had been held.

The independent committee, just like the committee on how to commemorate Singapore’s founding fathers, might want to canvass the public for a solution that would satisfy both private and national needs. Plenty of ideas have been thrown up: like relocating the house or creating a replica elsewhere or putting some of the furnishings on permanent display in a museum.

This means that the committee isn’t interested in the validity of the will. If PM Lee believes that something is wrong with the final will, he should use the legal route. It also means that the siblings must give way on their demolish-or-nothing position. In fact, this “demolition guarantee’’ they are seeking from the G is a privilege that had not been given to many others whose homes have been compulsorily acquired by the G.

c. While the above two points might help resolve the issue of the House, there is still the defamatory material that has been made public.

Singaporeans might be aghast at the idea of watching a legal battle among family members (which is actually common) or think that this sinks Singapore’s reputation in foreign eyes. But what many perceive to be a private matter has led to some very public words. Defamation must be answered, especially when it concerns the reputation of the Prime Minister. He must be whiter than white, to stay true to his mantra on the necessity of having politicians of integrity.

In other words, the matter of the House can be settled in some way or other. But words made public can never be taken back – unless a public apology is made. And that doesn’t look like it’s forthcoming.

Besides his father’s legacy, PM Lee should be concerned about his own legacy as well. How terrible it would be if his name is tarnished in the last few years of his leadership – because he wants to act like an older brother shielding his family from the public eye, rather than a prime minister concerned about his public standing.

 

The famiLEE affair has been brewing for a while now. Read our past 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)
  16. Mystery deepens over secret tapes of Lee Kuan Yew (Sep 30, 2016)
  17. Time for the famiLEE to end the public spectacle (Apr 10, 2016)
  18. Dr Lee Wei Ling gagged? (Apr 2, 2016)

 

Featured image by Sean Chong.

If you like this article, Like The Middle Ground‘s Facebook Page as well!

For breaking news, you can talk to us via email.

by Johannes Tjendro 

IS 38 Oxley road just a private residence or something more? Many people, including the G, think there is more to the house than just the place where the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew lived.

But many of us, it seems, are late in realising the significance of the house. Last year a thesis paper written by a then-graduate student at Columbia University, Ms Cherie-Nicole Leo, looked into the importance of the house and what it means for Singapore. We found this thesis publicly available online and thought that it was worth summarising. Here are 10 things we learnt.

1. The house isn’t just about Mr Lee Kuan Yew. It’s about colonial history and the foundation of his party.

The late Mr Lee moved into the colonial bungalow, which is now over a century old, at the end of the second World War with his mother. The house was originally built by a Jewish merchant and later occupied by Japanese forces. After the war, it came under the control of the office of the Custodian of Enemy Property, who rented it to Mr Lee for 80 Straits dollars a month.

The dining room in the basement of the house is an especially significant place, since it was where early People’s Action Party (PAP) members came up with the signature lightning logo and the party manifesto. Despite the presence of an official Prime Minister residence within the Istana, Mr Lee chose to live at 38 Oxley Road for over seventy years.

2. It’s also a key narrative in PM Lee’s upbringing and political career

One of the key reasons Mr Lee Kuan Yew chose to stay put was that he wanted to give his children as normal a childhood as possible. As reported in a 2015 article by The Straits Times (Mar 24), he did not want to give the three children “a false sense of life”, and hence had them grow up in the family home.

PM Lee also witnessed key political developments at 38 Oxley Road. During the 1955 election, postmen, union leaders and the founding members of the PAP would sit at the verandah dealing with “Vote for PAP” election bills, as documented in the book “Men in White”. In his eulogy to his father, PM Lee described feeling “excited by the hubbub at Oxley Road” when the house served as an election office during voting seasons.

3. Mr Lee Kuan Yew has publicly expressed hopes for the demolition since 2011

According to Ms Leo, the seemingly earliest documented instance of Mr Lee Kuan Yew publicly calling for the demolition of 38 Oxley Road was in 2011, during an interview with journalists from The Straits Times for the book “Hard Truths to Keep Singapore Going”. The issue came up when he was pressed on his thriftiness.

The then Minister Mentor revealed that he had owned the jacket he was wearing for over 15 years. When questioned on why the house had not been renovated or upgraded, he then volunteered that he had told the Cabinet to demolish it after his passing.

4. There are competing “values” in deciding whether to preserve the house

As Ms Leo noted at the start of her paper, the question of whether to preserve 38 Oxley Road is “emblematic of the difficult task facing heritage decision-makers, where there exists a multifaceted group of stakeholders who present competing, conflicting, or contradictory values, interests and positions”.

As illustrated in her diagram above, the house carries significance in the historic, social, symbolic, architectural and political regards. In the economic sense, it may go both ways. Mr Lee Kuan Yew, ever the pragmatist, was particularly concerned that it might be costly to upkeep a house with no foundation. He also noted that demolishing the house would probably raise the property value of his neighbours’ houses, and ease restrictions on how much they could build.

5. Taken at face value, LKY’s Will may seem incongruous with the principles that he himself espoused

In line with Singapore’s first national shared value of “nation before community, and society above self,” many stakeholders have argued that preserving 38 Oxley Road “is a matter of national interest that should take precedence over an individual wish for its demolition. The quandary here, though, is that this wish to demolish the house was put forth by the very person whose association forms the basis of those [same] values, which warrants its” preservation for future generations.

Thus, Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s wish to demolish the house may seem “out of character with his longstanding political mantra and the country’s foremost shared value of putting nation and society above self.” As Boston Globe journalist, Neil Swidey, wrote, “Lee’s demolition demand put his prime-minister-son in a jam, since it contradicts the founding father’s longstanding premise that Singaporeans should think of the state first and themselves second. Following Lee’s death, even the dutiful Strait Times [sic] quoted preservation specialists arguing that the greater good would be served by denying Lee’s last wish.” (Jun 20, 2015)

6. But upon closer look, his Will – while personal in nature – might not have been self-serving, as it was aimed at serving the collective national interest

It has become clear that his Will, while it may be seen as having “certain individual interests, is not totally self-serving after all; besides a concern for privacy, which may be seen as the most personal of his interests, Mr Lee Kuan Yew also requested the demolition of his house based on the fact that it could save public spending on renovating or maintaining it, and more importantly, that it would free up a prime downtown area for economic growth and progress.”

Ms Leo added: “Thus, even if Lee Kuan Yew’s will is, in a literal sense, an individual private wish, the underlying interests for his position on demolishing the house may equally be aimed at serving the collective national interest.”

“Just as other stakeholders argue for the preservation of the house to transfer the value narratives comprising associational, heritage tourism and branding, educational, and nation-building values to future generations, Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s economic arguments constitute a value narrative rooted in pragmatism that similarly works toward a future public good, albeit a different vision of what that might be.” She elaborated.

7. There are indications he may have been open to a “surrogate” memorial

In an interview with The Straits Times (2011), Mr Lee Kuan Yew famously said of his desire for the house to be demolished: “I don’t think my daughter or wife or I, who lived in it, or my sons who grew up in it will bemoan its loss. They have old photos to remind them of the past.”

In bringing up the concept of photos, Ms Leo notes that Mr Lee Kuan Yew may have been open to documentations and “surrogate” memorialising of the house and its history. She adds that policymakers may then strike a balance between Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s desire to demolish and the public interest in preserving the house, by working on more elaborate “surrogate” memorials.

As she writes: “While Lee Kuan Yew was strongly against personal hero-worship, he was not averse to the creation of a memorial that would honor the contributions of the team of founding figures and most importantly, the values upon which they built and governed the country.”

In his parliamentary address on Apr 13, 2015, PM Lee announced the formation of a Founders’ Memorial Committee to look at the idea of building a memorial commemorating the country’s founding fathers. He emphasised that it “need not be a grand structure” but should be “a place where we and future generations can remember a key period i n our history, reflect on the ideals of our founding fathers, and pledge to continue their work of nation-building”.

8. The outcome of reconciling the competing values has been falsely framed as a demolish vs. preserve dichotomy

This dichotomy can be seen as two different ways of protecting Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s legacy: (1) preserving physical association with Mr Lee vs. (2) forwarding pragmatic values associated with Mr Lee:

For preservation – Mr Lee Kuan Yew lived here and this is where history was made, where the nation was born. Its association to Mr Lee Kuan Yew and related historic events bring about numerous values to the site, which should be preserved.

For demolition – Pragmatism and progress over sentiment, which does not rely on or militates against that association for its transmission to the future. Instead, Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s legacy is preserved differently as forwarding different values that are ingrained in a pragmatic outlook on progress. Centred on maximising land value and economic growth, this approach relies largely on redevelopment of the 38 Oxley Road site rather than the preservation of its history.

9. A possible outcome – and the most effective in reconciling competing values – is the middle way of redevelopment with some form of preservation

Four physical scenarios:

  1. House remains on site and is preserved on site
  2. Redevelopment of the site with some form of preservation on site
  3. Redevelopment of the site with some form of preservation out of site
  4. Redevelopment with no preservation on site or out of site

The first three physical scenarios include some form of preservation and the last three include the redevelopment of the site. Scenarios 2 and 3 are therefore possible options where two goals of preservation and redevelopment overlap.

The values of the site “may be transmitted to future generations in a variety of ways that do not necessarily rely on the preservation of all or any of 38 Oxley Road’s physical attributes. Thus, an informed decision must look beyond these attributes in order to determine how these values are really spatialised in potential outcomes”.

From the above diagram, “it is evident that the most extreme physical scenario groupings had the fewest potential outcomes, while the two groupings in the middle had many more options. This immediately reveals how much potential for compromise is lost when the 38 Oxley Road case is framed as a dichotomy between preserve-versus-demolish positions as opposed to a spectrum of possibilities.”

Ms Leo further elucidated on the fact that “the options that capture the most values and most effectively negotiate between the competing value narratives are those which fall in the middle categories”. She said that “it is right between the two hybrid scenarios that the most creative and comprehensive combinations can be reached, through a redevelopment of the site with some form of” preservation occurring on site and out of site.

10. Such a compromise had been suggested before – reproduced here:

“I propose that historians and academics [A] properly document and catalogue all the items in the house. The ones of historic value should be [B] placed in a museum. Then, I propose that [C] the entire basement – which had the most historical significance due to the founding of the PAP – be recreated in the museum with the original furniture and fittings. Once that has been done, [D] the house can be demolished, and the site should be converted into a park, called the Lee Kuan Yew Memorial Park.

“This proposal will ensure that (1) the historical value is preserved and can be taught to future generations in the museum; (2) his wishes to destroy the house are respected, and (3) the address 38 Oxley Road will not be used for any other occupant and will be a place of national remembrance.”*

*This was written anonymously on the online Dialectic Forum in 2015.

In other words, in this proposal, historic associations will be upheld, while being in line with the pragmatic impulse of Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s will.

 

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.

If you like this article, Like The Middle Ground‘s Facebook Page as well!

For breaking news, you can talk to us via email.

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.

If you like this article, Like The Middle Ground‘s Facebook Page as well!

For breaking news, you can talk to us via email.

by Deanna Nabilah and Sharanya Pillai

IN A recent salvo against the Prime Minister, Mr Lee Hsien Yang insisted that the last Will of the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew is “final and legally-binding”, because it had been granted probate in Oct 6, 2015. Since then the word “probate” has dominated the news, being frequently used by the younger Mr Lee and his sister as a defence of the need to demolish 38 Oxley Road.

But is it impossible to challenge the probate in court? Lawyers TMG spoke to noted that it is possible to mount a challenge, just that there would be significant challenges.

1. What exactly is a grant of probate?

Wills are meant to be relatively straightforward documents, laying out the division of assets of the deceased. But not everything always goes to plan. This is where probate – a court process establishing the validity of a will – comes in handy.

According to lawyer Alyssa Mundo, who focuses on family law at Yeo & Associates, a will may not be fully recognised if it is not properly executed as per the Wills Act – for instance, if “there wasn’t any witness to the will” or the will was not carried out proper. Applying for a grant of probate in such cases would then require the will to be “proved” as valid and accepted as reflective of the deceased’s final wishes.

Corporate litigation lawyer Ronald Wong, from Covenant Chambers, explained that there are two different ways to prove a will in probate applications. The “common form” is a “straightforward application”, while the “solemn form” involves calling on witnesses to testify that the will represents the intentions of the deceased testator, and that the testator had the capacity to make a will.

The latter is an option for Executors of a will who foresee that the validity of the will might be questioned or challenged in future, he noted. If a will is proved by solemn form, this means that it becomes harder to challenge the grant of probate. It is not clear which form of probate was granted for Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s will.

2. Under what circumstances can probate be challenged?

The grant of probate can be revoked or amended if there are “sufficient causes”, according to the Probate and Administrative Act. However, Ms Mundo said that even that would be hard to prove because the “part on ‘sufficient causes’ is not defined in the act [Probate and Administration Act]”. The court also has discretion in such cases.

She added that the courts have, through previous cases, regarded “sufficient causes” as “undue and improper administration in total disregard of the interests of the beneficiaries.” The test is an objective one, which means that the court will evaluate if a reasonable person in the Executor’s position may have acted a certain way.

Some possible grounds for challenging probate include arguing that the will was forged, that the deceased lacked “mental capacity”, or that someone had exercised “undue influence on [the] deceased [such] that he or she was not really operating out of their free will at that time”, Mr Wong noted.

The Wills Act provides a guideline that probate can be challenged up to six months after it is granted. But lawyers interviewed by The Straits Times noted that one can still challenge a probate beyond that time frame, if “special reasons” are provided. (Jun 17) The final decision however, still depends on the discretion of the court.

3. Could conflicts of interest be an issue in this case?

Lawyers TMG spoke to declined to comment on the specifics of the Lee siblings’ dispute. But when asked if getting a relative to draft a will may present a conflict of interest, Mr Wong said that may not necessarily invalidate the will.

“[Beneficiaries] and certain immediate family members of the beneficiaries under the will are not supposed to be witnesses to the will,” he said. “But there is no necessary impairment of the deceased’s intention or will-making power as it were, just because the person drafting the will was a family member of a beneficiary, or there is some so-called potential interest in it.”

“However, a beneficiary or immediate family member of a beneficiary drafting the will may raise suspicious circumstances which make it harder for the party proving the will.”

Ultimately, challenging a probate still “goes back to the question of whether the will reflect the deceased person’s intention, and whether he was under any undue influence, or duress or whatever that impairs that intention”, Mr Wong added.

Much of the Lees’ public spat now centres on who drafted the final will. In his Facebook note, the PM raised suspicions about how the final will was drafted by Stamford Law, as Mrs Lee Suet Fern’s firm was then known. Mr Lee Hsien Yang then shot back neither his wife nor his company were involved in drafting Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s will.

It remains to be seen how this conflict of interest element of the case might play out, as the saga continues to unfold.

 

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)FamiLEE saga: Headlines around the world (Jun 15)
  11. FamiLEE saga: Now about that mysterious ministerial committee (Jun 15)
  12. Not just a famiLEE affair (Jun 14)
  13. Third generation Lee weighs in (Jun 14)“We do not trust Hsien Loong as a brother or as a leader. We have lost confidence in him.” (Jun 14)

 

Featured image from Google user Nick Youngson. CC BY-SA 3.0 

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by Bertha Henson

ANOTHER day, a few more missiles thrown. The FamiLEE saga has got technical, moving into the nitty-gritty details of who got involved when and over what in the matter of the last will of the late Lee Kuan Yew.

There are actually a lot more players in this than the three Lee siblings and their family members. Some have said things openly, like Kwa Kim Li who said that she was not involved in the preparation of the final will. Period. And like Morgan Lewis Bockius LLP of Mrs Lee Suet Fern, which said: “[Mrs Lee] will continue to spend a significant amount of time in Singapore as well as travel to Hong Kong, as she already does in support of her strong client relationships there, and as head of our international leadership team.” (Straits Times, Jun 16) Mrs Lee has stepped down from the position as managing partner of its combined practice in Singapore.

It seems that no one wants to take responsibility for that contentious last will. Perhaps, the late Mr Lee’s private secretary, Ms Wong Lin Hoe, will say something too as she was also intimately involved, or at least present, during those hours when the final will was settled on.

What’s the status of the saga now? A stalemate with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong insisting that Mrs Suet Fern was involved and the other side saying not true.

Is the fate of an old house worth such familial discord and national attention? How is this going to end?

Nobody is looking good here.

You can view PM Lee as a bully intent on getting his way or a son trying to do due diligence over his father’s will. What is his end-game? To preserve the house?

You may think that the siblings are making a mountain out of a molehill over the PM’s investigative attempts or that they truly believe their brother to be the tyrant of Singapore. What is their end-game? To demolish the house?

Is the house the be-all and end-all of this saga?

The Lee siblings said they wouldn’t have made things public if they didn’t think their eldest brother had gone too far. And that what can be done unto them can be done unto other mere mortals, although aside from the setting up of a secret ministerial committee, we are left wondering about other persecutorial moves.

They have a point though about the role of the ministerial committee; the Cabinet secretary didn’t go far enough with details. It is important that the G reveals more, or it would be seen as colluding with PM Lee (even though he said he has recused himself) in ‘persecuting’ the siblings.

PM Lee said he didn’t want to make open challenges during the probate hearing because it was essentially a family matter. He might want to change his mind now.

The fact is, the Prime Minister is being rubbished by his own siblings. This is a severe dent on his authority and image. He’s taken people to court for defamation for far less. Of course, the sticking point is that it would look really nasty to take family members to court. But the allegations of abuse of power, dishonesty and lying are too serious to let them go by. Never mind the family connection, the key issue is that he is the Prime Minister and his standing among the people he governs should be a prime consideration. He should practice what his G preaches, that only people of integrity should be in positions of power. He should take steps to defend assassinations to his character.

On the other hand, the two siblings might well do the same since the implication is that they, or at least, Mr Lee Hsien Yang and his wife, had connived to create a will that wasn’t in line with their late father’s intent. It does not matter that PM Lee had not challenged the will during probate. His statutory declaration to the mysterious ministerial committee has been made public and could be viewed as defamatory of the siblings.

Both Mr and Mrs Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Lee Wei Ling are people of some standing here and they, too, shouldn’t be content to let allegations go by. At least before leaving the country.

Maybe there will be those who do not have confidence in the impartiality of the judiciary. But seriously, where else or who else should mediate in this matter? The other members of Cabinet? The President? An impartial committee of public-spirited citizens?

At least, the public acrimony would be halted in the run-up to a court case and people can get on with living their own lives without witnessing the spectacle.

The other question is whether a court decision would end the squabble once and for all. At the very least, it would determine who was lying. Yes, this would have consequences for both winning and losing party.

To put it bluntly, this would be a case that PM Lee cannot afford to lose. If he wins, then the other side would have to eat humble pie and pipe down. If he loses, this opens a whole can of worms on whether the Prime Minister is a trustworthy man. There might be chaos in the aftermath but what really is the alternative to this? Will everyone shutting up do the trick? Or we all pretend nothing happened?

We should just let the lawyers handle this.

 

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 from Sean Chong.

If you like this article, Like The Middle Ground‘s Facebook Page as well!

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by Danielle Goh, Johannes Tjendro and Sharanya Pillai

IN REBUTTING his siblings’ allegations, the Prime Minister held back on neither the severity of his words nor the word count. In a 3991-word Facebook note, PM Lee Hsien Loong summarised the Statutory Declaration he made to the ministerial committee overseeing the fate of 38 Oxley Road, ending with a list of questions about what he said were suspicious circumstances surrounding the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s final Will.

PM Lee’s account is filled with anecdotes of email exchanges and allegations of curious behaviour, spanning across a total of two years. Perhaps more significantly, the statement was made under Oath, which means it can’t be easily dismissed. We lay out the sequence of events he described in chronological order:

 

Aug 20, 2011 – Demolition Clause’s origin

The Demolition Clause first appeared on Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s first Will. This Will gave each child an equal share of his Estate.

Date unspecified – Removal of Demolition Clause

The Demolition Clause remained in the second, third, and fourth wills. Mr Lee Kuan Yew had then given instructions to remove the Demolition Clause. It was absent in the fifth and sixth wills.

Nov 2, 2012 – The sixth Will

The sixth Will was signed, which gave Dr Lee Wei Ling an extra share of the Estate.

Dec 16, 2013, 7.08pm – Lee Suet Fern into the picture

Mrs Lee Suet Fern sent an email to Mr Lee Kuan Yew discussing the will, copying Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Ms Kwa Kim Li [who is a cousin of the Lee siblings]:

Dear Pa Pa

This was the original agreed Will which ensures that all 3 children receive equal shares, taking into account the relative valuations (as at the date of demise) of the properties each receives.

Kim Li

Grateful if you could please engross.

Mrs Lee appeared to have attached a file titled <LAST_WILL-LKY-Draft of 19 August 2011.DOC>.

Dec 16, 2013, 7.31pm – Kwa Kim Li out of the loop

Mr Lee Hsien Yang replied to the email. But this time, he replaced Ms Kwa with Ms Wong Lin Hoe (WLH), his private secretary:

Pa

I couldn’t get in touch with Kim Li. I believe she is away. I don’t think it is wise to wait till she is back. I think all you need is a witness to sign the will. Fern can get one of her partners to come round with an engrossed copy of the will to execute and witness. They can coordinate it with Lin Hoe for a convenient time.

PM Lee was not clear with “what efforts LHY or LSF had made to get in touch with KKL”. Neither was he clear with “why LHY thought there was an urgency to the matter”. It was nevertheless interesting to PM Lee that Mr Lee Hsien Yang “suggested that his wife, clearly an interested party, and her partners would prepare the new will”.

Ms Kwa subsequently told Mrs Lee the following afternoon (Dec 17), having learnt what had happened, that “she did not seem to have received LSF’s Email.”

Dec 16, 2013, 8.12pm – Wong Lin Hoe to make arrangements for signing of the Will

Mrs Lee Suet Fern sent an email to Ms Wong, copying Mr Lee Hsien Yang and a colleague at Stamford Law Corporation [today known as Morgan Lewis Stamford LLC], Mr Bernard Lui, to “inform WLH that BL had the will ready for execution and that WLH could reach BL directly to make arrangements for the signing of the will”. PM Lee believes that this was done before any response from Mr Lee Kuan Yew.

Dec 16, 2013, 9.42pm – LKY agreed to sign the new Will

Mr Lee Kuan Yew replied the email and “acquiesced to LHY’s suggestion not to wait for KKL and agreed with LHY’s suggestion to sign the new will”.

Dec 17, 2013, 11.05 am – LKY signed his last Will

Mr Bernard Lui and Ms Elizabeth Kong, lawyers from Stamford Law sent by Mrs Lee Suet Fern, arrived at 38 Oxley Road.

Mr Lee Kuan Yew signed his final Will. Unlike his previous six wills, this one was not prepared by Ms Kwa. The final Will includes the Demolition Clause, which had been removed from the previous two versions. PM Lee said that Mr Lee Kuan Yew might not have been aware that the Clause was reinstated.

Dec 17, 2013, 11.20am – Lawyers from Stamford Law witnessed the signing

The two lawyers were only at the house for 15 minutes and “plainly came only to witness Mr Lee signing the Last Will and not to advise him”.

Dec 17 2013, afternoon – Wong Lin Hoe received fax copy of the last Will

Ms Wong received a fax copy of the last Will, and then sent Mr Lee Kuan Yew an email saying: We have received a faxed copy of the signed document for Mr Lee to re-read in the office”.

PM Lee thinks that this is suspicious because Ms Wong “was not present when Mr Lee signed the Last Will and could not have known whether he had read it in the first place”, and there was no indication that Mr Lee Kuan Yew had asked her for a copy.

Dr Lee and PM Lee were not copied in the emails on Dec 16 and 17.

Jan 3, 2014, 10:30am – Wong Lin Hoe sent email with LKY’s codicil attached

Ms Wong sent an email to Mrs Lee Suet Fern copying Mr Lee Kuan Yew, PM Lee, Dr Lee, Mr Lee Hsien Yang, Ms Ho Ching, and Ms Kwa, attaching a copy of Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s codicil. A codicil is a legal document containing additional clauses to a will. The codicil dealt with the bequest of carpets, and thus PM Lee “did not feel that there was any need” to read the whole email chain.

PM Lee revisited this email thread after he spoke in Parliament on May 13, 2015. He “looked up old family emails” only after hearing the last Will and a dispute between PM Lee and siblings on making the full Demolition Clause public had escalated.

July 2014 – Dr Lee emailed Ho Ching about her extra share of the Estate

Dr Lee emailed Ms Ho Ching that “Mr Lee [Kuan Yew] had told her [LWL] a couple of years ago that he had left her an extra share of the Estate”.

“Many months later”, Dr Lee raised suspicions about Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Mrs Lee to Ms Ho. He quoted messages from Dr Lee:

If that is what Pa wants, so be it. But I don’t trust Fern, n she has great influence on Yang”; “Later, Fern sent a “sweet” email to kim li about what had been done”; “If it is Pa’s decision, I am ok with it. But I hv a sense that Yang played me out”; “I was very upset that Yang did it to me”; and “I would hv preferred that it was 3 equal lots all along without needing to suspect Yang and Fern. The money I don’t get does not upset me. It is that yang and fern would do this to me”.

Thus, it appeared to PM Lee that: “LWL herself believed that LHY and LSF did her in by either suggesting or facilitating the removal of her extra share, which happened the Last Will prepared in great haste by LSF and her law firm.”

PM Lee recounted that later on: “LWL admitted that she had been suspicious as to whether the change in shares was really Mr Lee’s decision or one that was instigated by LHY and LSF but claimed that she no longer held this suspicion. But she did not explain how or why her suspicions had now come to be so conveniently dispelled.”

PM Lee was of the opinion that: “LSF’s Email distinctly and clearly gave Mr Lee [Kuan Yew] the impression that the new will would change only the division of shares, with the result that each child would have an equal share, just like in the First Will. Yet, the Last Will that LSF and her law firm prepared and got Mr Lee [Kuan Yew] to sign went beyond that.”

Significantly, the demolition clause was re-inserted.

Apr 12, 2015 – Last Will read out to the family

PM Lee heard the contents of the last Will when it was read out to the family. The three siblings, Mrs Lee Suet Fern, Ms Ho and two lawyers from Stamford Law, Mr Lui and Mr Ng Joo Khin, were present. PM Lee was struck by how Mrs Lee voluntarily said that Mr Lee Kuan Yew had asked her to prepare the last Will, but to avoid conflicts of interest, she had gotten Mr Ng to do it. Mr Lui then said that he had been a witness at the signing of the Last Will. PM Lee further alleged that their statements looked “rehearsed”.

Mr Lui checked the will and confirmed it was the one he had witnessed. Mr Ng read out the will.

At the reading, Mr Lee Hsien Yang “repeatedly insisted on the immediate demolition of the house”. PM Lee disagreed, saying that the announcement might make the G gazette the site. The dispute ended when Ms Ho asked Dr Lee if she wanted to continue living in the house – to which the latter said “yes”.

Apr 13, 2015, between 1:30pm – 5:41pm –  PM Lee’s statement in Parliament

PM Lee read out in Parliament Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s letter dated Dec 27, 2011, and the Demolition Clause of the final Will. Dr Lee and Mr Lee Hsien Yang had “strenuously objected” to the Clause being made public, claiming of the Official Secrets Act. The Official Secrets Act is an act to prevent the disclosure of official documents and information.

PM Lee “also told Parliament that the Government would only consider the question of what to do with the House as and when LWL ceased to live in it”.

Apr 23, 2015 – DPM Teo in the loop

Because PM Lee was “so struck” by the volunteered statements, he recounted it to Deputy PM Teo Chee Hean.

May 13, 2015 – Codicil resurfaced

PM Lee asked Mr Lee Hsien Yang about the codicil, and he replied that PM Lee had been copied in a previous email thread. PM Lee was unable to locate it, and obtained a forwarded copy of Ms Wong Lin Hoe’s email containing the codicil, dated Jan 3, 2014, from Mr Lee. PM Lee claimed that Mr Lee “cut out and did not send me [PM Lee] the incriminating exchanges in the email chain that followed which showed LHY’s and LSF’s involvement in the making of the Last Will in December 2013.”

It therefore appeared to PM Lee that Mr Lee Hsien Yang and his wife had “believed that I [PM Lee] had not paid attention to these matters [the different wills and the varying terms each of them contained], nor fully appreciated the import of the 16 and 17 December 2013 emails.”

Looking for the codicil led PM Lee to review the 16 and 17 December 2013 emails between Ms Lee Suet Fern and Ms Wong Lin Hoe in preparation for the last Will. PM Lee claimed 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.”

He added that: “I am also not aware of anything which shows that NJK had met or communicated with Mr Lee on the Last Will. I therefore do not understand how Mr Lee could have given instructions to NJK on the preparation of the Last Will.

June 2015 – PM Lee obtained first six wills

Ms Kwa provided PM Lee with the family copies of the first six wills, with explanations from Mr Lee Kuan Yew on why he executed these wills. It was only then that he was able to compare the previous wills to the final one.

End of Aug 2015 – Ho Ching found old emails from Dr Lee

Amid the dispute, Ms Ho Ching went to check old emails and found the Jul 2014 emails where Dr Lee raised suspicions about Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Mrs Lee Suet Fern.

By this time, PM Lee felt “very troubled by the circumstances surrounding the Last Will”.

Even then, PM Lee “was prepared not to delve further into those circumstances if the disputes within the family could be resolved amicably and privately”. Thus, to address Dr Lee and Mr Lee Hsien Yang’s expressed unhappiness that 38 Oxley Road was bequeathed to PM Lee, he then offered to transfer it to Dr Lee for a nominal $1, under the condition that if the property were to subsequently be transacted or taken over by the G, all proceeds should be donated to charity. But the siblings did not reach a consensus.

Furthermore, PM Lee claimed that: “Dr Lee and Mr Lee Hsien Yang threatened to escalate their attacks against me, coinciding with the September 2015 General Elections. I was not prepared to be intimidated.”

Sept 2015 – “My questions… went unanswered”: PM Lee

PM Lee made enquiries into circumstances surrounding signing of the last Will, but says that “contrary to what my siblings claim, my questions… went unanswered”.

Sept 2015 (after the General Elections) – Consensus reached to transfer 38 Oxley Road

Dr Lee and Mr Lee Hsien Yang agreed to PM Lee’s latest proposal to transfer 38 Oxley Road to Mr Lee Hsien Yang at full market value, with the same condition that both brothers donate half the value to charity each. PM Lee proceeded to donate half of the value of 38 Oxley Road to charity. He further claimed that: “Although not required under the agreement, I also donated a sum equivalent to the other half of the value of 38 Oxley Road to charity.” However, PM Lee believed that “LHY was and continues to be unhappy about” PM Lee’s insistence not to retain proceeds from the house. PM Lee noted that Dr Lee now appeared to be unhappy as well.

 

At the end of his statement, PM Lee then summarises his main contentions with the signing of the last will, and expresses “grave concerns” over the Demolition Clause. However, what is also noteworthy is that in Dec 2015, the three siblings released a joint statement announcing the brothers’ donations and expressing hope that the 38 Oxley Road will be demolished.

Mr Lee says that he acted to keep a family dispute private, but his siblings argue otherwise. The saga continues.

 

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 from PM Lee’s Facebook page.

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by Bertha Henson

SO MUCH has been disclosed in the famiLEE saga that you wonder why some trigger-happy Singaporean hasn’t filed a police report. The insinuations of foul play, skullduggery and underhand tactics are material enough for a movie and far more exciting than any family dispute over inheritance that we have seen played out in court.

That’s the big question then: Why not turn to the courts to sieve the truth from mere words? Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had his chance to mount a legal challenge when the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s Will was undergoing probate in 2015 – but he didn’t. One can assume that he did not want what he described as a family matter to be made public. Or that new information came to light only after that.

Which brings us to the question of whether this mysterious ministerial committee led by Minister Lawrence Wong is supposed to act as a proxy court – to determine the validity of that last – and seventh – Will.

Given the amount of words levelled at either side of the famiLEE fence, you can probably make a case for defamation as well. There must be facts to back up the assertions of Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Lee Wei Ling that their eldest brother is a liar. Likewise, there must be facts to bolster PM Lee’s claim that Mr Lee Hsien Yang and his wife had not been honest about the way the last Will was drafted. To the layman, it sounds almost criminal.

Singaporeans reading the shots that have been fired over social media over the past three days at all hours of the day and night are left wondering about what the real issue is here.

Is this about the Oxley Road house being preserved or demolished? Is this about PM Lee’s unhappiness over the process of the will-making which he said he had been kept in the dark about? Is it about the Lee siblings’ angst over the domineering attitude of their eldest brother and his wife?

It began as a quarrel over the house. Now, remember that all three have stated publicly that they want to fulfill their father’s wish to have the house demolished eventually, especially if Dr Lee no longer wished to stay there.

Here’s the state of play about the house: It was bequeathed to PM Lee, who sold it to his brother. PM Lee offered it at $1 but with strings attached, such as leaving it open for the G to acquire it if it wants to and for any money eventually made from the house to go to charity. In each case, the deal fell through and became an outright sale at the market price but on condition that both PM Lee and his brother stump up half the value of the house to charity.

Reading his statutory declaration, PM Lee painted his brother as being too quick to want the house demolished and both siblings were unhappy about future proceeds going to charity. Read: they wanted the money which would be extremely substantial given its prime location.

TMG asked Mr Lee Hsien Yang about this and he replied: “I have paid market value for the house, and a further half its valuation as a donation to charity. Wei Ling has the right to live there for as long as she wishes. My only reason to buy it is to fulfill my parents wish one day. ”

So, we asked: Since the house is his anyway, why can’t he simply have it razed in line with what the siblings said were their parents’ wishes? “I cannot demolish the house while Wei Ling lives there. If she moves out, I would demolish it as soon as possible.”

Over the past two days, the siblings have been saying in public what G detractors have been complaining about for eons: That the G, or rather the Prime Minister, is so all-powerful that he can utilise all the G resources to stymie any move he disagrees with. The siblings go even further: that his alleged persecution of the siblings have made Mr Lee and his wife decide to re-locate.

It is heartbreaking to see the amount of distrust that had been brewing in what most people had assumed to be a tight-knit family under its late patriarch, Mr Lee Kuan Yew. What we now know is that familial relationships have been fraying for some time, even while the late Mr Lee was alive. Dr Lee’s inheritance, for example, had been subjected to changes and we are told of open quarrels between her and father and the interventions of her sister-in-law, Mrs Lee Suet Fern.

But seriously, what is this to us? Why is it important to know about the last Will and whether Mrs Lee, a corporate lawyer, played a role in drafting it? After all, it is a family matter.

It matters because there are allegations of impropriety on the part of the Prime Minister, the top political leader here, and this must surely affect his standing among the people. We probably wouldn’t care much if they were ordinary citizens but one of the parties happens to be the Prime Minister whose government has always upheld the principle of honesty and integrity. PS. Think of the number of lawsuits individual ministers have levelled against those who make far less damning comments about them.

Is PM Lee really a despot who die, die wants to preserve Oxley Road house for his own political advantage? Or are the siblings trying to do him in out of greed or whatever personal reason?

Looking at the exchanges, both sides do not seem to be engaging each other.

PM Lee is focused on the role Mrs Lee Suet Fern played in the drafting of the Will. As a daughter-in-law, she should not have taken part, he said, and challenged his siblings to give their side of the story. His brother, however, said his wife was never involved and had told the ministerial committee so several times.

Screenshot of the Summary of Statutory Declarations shared by PM Lee on his Facebook page.

Then the Lee siblings are focused on PM Lee’s public and private comments. PM Lee had told Parliament that the demolition was what his father wanted and which he would like to fulfill in his personal capacity as a son, but he then raised questions about his father’s thinking and wishes to the ministerial committee. The siblings said that this showed his ability to “misuse” his position and influence “over the Singapore government and its agencies to drive his personal agenda,” in a joint statement posted on Facebook (Jun 14).

Picture from Mr Lee Hsien Yang’s Facebook page.

If either side doesn’t want to answer the other and throws up their own spin to the public, how is anyone to be clear about what is happening?

Much light can be shed if the mystery over the ministerial committee is answered. Besides Minister Lawrence Wong, who else is on it? Why was it set up when it looks likely that Dr Lee would live in it for some time? For some unfortunate, unforeseen incident? What are the representations that have been made and can they be made public? If the committee does come up with recommendations, will they be made public?

Why the need for such secrecy? If it has to do with the late Mr Lee’s legacy for Singapore, shouldn’t the public be privy to it too? The opacity over the committee’s work is what makes this famiLEE saga even more intriguing.

So let’s hear no more from either Lee side but from the G itself, the people in the mysterious committee. Who are you? What do you do? What have you concluded? This is no longer a famiLEE affair, nor should it be a state secret.

 

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.

If you like this article, Like The Middle Ground‘s Facebook Page as well!

For breaking news, you can talk to us via email.