June 28, 2017

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by Bertha Henson

IF PEOPLE aren’t getting tired of the FamiLEE saga, I would be surprised. Perhaps, attention has already, to use a popular word, wavered. It’s tough trying to recall every twist and turn of who did or didn’t do what before and after the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew died. Perhaps, that accounts for Ms Indranee Rajah’s “homework’’ on social media although as four-point listicles, they’re rather long.

For spectators, it’s rather tiresome to see both sides repeating the same answers over and over again and what’s worse, raising the same questions over and over again.

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I have asked enough questions of the G, especially over the ministerial committee, which in my view, is the weakest link in the whole G narrative (read more here). But I do have one question that I think the two Lee siblings must answer directly. It doesn’t have to do with who drafted the seventh will, because this should have been raised in probate court or a legal forum with an impartial adjudicator. It also doesn’t have to do with why the three Lee siblings have different interpretations of their father’s last wishes.

It has to do with the impact they are hoping to have on Singapore.

We all know the damage done to Singapore’s reputation. We rarely have political scandals and we have always been able look down our noses at the shenanigans in other countries. It is a source of pride for us. Now, it’s embarrassing to have dirty laundry aired, whether they are personal clothing or not. What do you tell a foreigner who asks what’s going on? My first instinct would be to say “Aiyah, family quarrel lah,’’ even though accusations of abuse of authority have surfaced. I am that embarrassed.

So it comes down to the Lee siblings’ intent when they fired the first shot on two weeks back on June 14 with their joint statement. They said that they were coming out into the open only because they were, to put in layman’s terms, being bullied by Big Brother, and if they, the siblings, can be bullied, what more ordinary mortals? Words used were very provocative but unsubstantiated – save for the first glimpse of a secret ministerial committee which the G has tried, not very well in my opinion, to explain.

What’s worse is Mr Lee Hsien Yang’s statement that his family intends to relocate because life has become difficult for him. That made me angry. I have asked him several times about this, even to the point of suggesting that it was irresponsible. What? You throw this grenade and then you go take cover? Lucky for him that he can but what about us lesser mortals? Do we have to clean up the mess after him?

Have things got so bad for him (how?) that he has to skip town? And leave his sister to stay in the Oxley Road house all alone to defend their position?

His statement is tantamount to saying that there is no resolution at all, which is why he is burning his bridges.

Is there really no resolution? What is the end-game? This is something that has been puzzling me from the beginning. Will the Lee siblings be satisfied only if the ministerial committee is disbanded and the decision on the house left to the government of the day when Dr Lee Wei Ling no longer lives in it?

Or are they forcing a decision on the G now? If so, Dr Lee could move out now and, since the house belongs to Mr Lee Hsien Yang, he can start asking for the relevant planning permission to demolish the house. We’ll see what happens then.

Is the intention to warn Singaporeans that their brother is not a nice man, and that since they have lost confidence in him, we should too? The words they used amount to a political challenge, not the mere misgivings of wronged citizens.

I can almost hear the late Mr Lee retorting that they should form a political party and take the G on at the polls. I don’t see that happening –  since Mr Lee Hsien Yang intends to leave town.

It is not for the siblings to use the excuses of failed politicians: that they cannot join politics because the State machinery will be against them. They are, after all, not ordinary mortals and can be somewhat assured of a following by, among other things, using the Lee name. Of course, they can argue that they don’t intend to join politics but they cannot keep silent because they have Singapore’s interest at heart. If so, there should be an end-point, a resolution or a compromise in sight because fighting words can fracture Singapore into small pieces.

So what is their point? That they don’t want a third-generation Lee in politics?

The PM has rubbished the suggestion that he harbours political ambitions for his son. His son rubbished it too. Even if the PM did, is that a bad thing? After all, their own father had political ambitions for his son too. If the Lee siblings are implying that the PM is using some nefarious means to pave the way – then that has to be substantiated. All parents, after all, harbour some kind of ambition for their children.

People might even ask if the Lee siblings harbour political ambitions for themselves too. But that cannot be – since Mr Lee Hsien Yang intends to skip town.

So again, what is the intent? That some politician would use the “ammunition’’ to unseat the PM or bring down the the G? Is this some kind of proxy game? The Lees should realise that the People’s Action Party’s dominant position wasn’t built overnight by their father. And while there might a section of people who oppose the G, a much bigger group endorses the Singapore system.

So what do the Lee siblings have in mind? Merely to have the house razed so that they can sell the plot to a developer for a ton of money? Yes, it is a very mean thing to suggest. But I cannot understand why the Lee siblings will not give a commitment on what to do with the land when or if that happens. That would settle speculation that the issue really is about filthy lucre, under the guise of fulfilling their father’s desires.

Today, it seems we have an answer of some sort. The siblings have said that they have suggested building a memorial garden over the razed land and that this was rejected by Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean and PM Lee. You wonder then about why they were so coy as not to disclose this much earlier. More importantly, does this intention still hold if they get their way with the house?

Even if we don’t get answers to specific questions, we, the people of Singapore, deserve to know the Lee siblings’ final intent. So, Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Lee Wei Ling, what about another late night missive answering the question?

 

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

  1. FamiLEE saga: Lessons on will-making (Jun 26)
  2. FamiLEE saga: The hoo-ha over Ho Ching… hmmm (Jun 24)
  3. FamiLEE saga: That internal ministerial committee should go (Jun 21)
  4. FamiLEE saga: Will parliament session end saga? (Jun 20)
  5. FamiLEE saga: Some leeway should be given (Jun 19)
  6. FamiLEE saga: 10 things from the academic paper “When I’m dead, demolish it”. (Jun 18)
  7. FamiLEE saga: Who’s involved (Jun 17) 
  8. FamiLEE saga: Is a grant of probate really final? (Jun 17)
  9. FamiLEE saga: Somebody should just sue (Jun 17)
  10. FamiLEE saga: PM Lee’s version of events (Jun 16) 
  11. FamiLEE saga: Let a third party tell all (Jun 16)
  12. FamiLEE saga: The past three days (Jun 16)
  13. FamiLEE saga: How Lee Suet Fern got LWL her inheritance, according to leaked emails (Jun 15)
  14. FamiLEE saga: Singaporeans react with confusion, humour and CSI skills (Jun 15)
  15. FamiLEE saga: From 38 Oxley Road to 1 Parliament Place, not just a family affair (Jun 15)
  16. FamiLEE saga: Headlines around the world (Jun 15)
  17. FamiLEE saga: Now about that mysterious ministerial committee (Jun 15)
  18. Not just a famiLEE affair (Jun 14)
  19. Third generation Lee weighs in (Jun 14)
  20. “We do not trust Hsien Loong as a brother or as a leader. We have lost confidence in him.” (Jun 14)
  21. Mystery deepens over secret tapes of Lee Kuan Yew (Sep 30, 2016)
  22. Time for the famiLEE to end the public spectacle (Apr 10, 2016)
  23. Dr Lee Wei Ling gagged? (Apr 2, 2016)

 

Featured image from Sean Chong.

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

 

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by Bertha Henson

I THINK I should make my will. After all, I might be struck by lightning anytime, or hammered into the ground, or trolled to death. I have to get a lawyer, or maybe two, in case one of them isn’t available when I need him/her.

Will: “A document in which a person specifies the method to be applied in the management and distribution of his estate after his death.”

I have sort of decided who should be left my meagre possessions, including a 99-year old leasehold apartment which happens to be on a hill. It’s just that I haven’t put names next to items.

It will be a simple will, without legalese, written with pristine clarity so that there wouldn’t be any second-guessing about my final desires. My lawyers would have to go through a writing test of my own devising. I will have it engrossed.

Engross: “To write or copy in a clear, attractive, large script or in a formal manner, as a public document or record: to engross a deed.”

I will try not to change my mind after my will is done. I will give a copy to every beneficiary, and I might even post it on my Facebook so that social media has access to it. I will include a glossary of legal terms, if die, die, my lawyers insist that there must be some to ensure that my estate gets distributed.

Estate: “Property or possessions.”

If I do change my mind, I will make sure I change my will fewer than six times. In fact, I might order the earlier wills destroyed completely, including getting a court injunction to ensure that earlier wills are not circulated on social media by pesky netizens out to tarnish my good name.

Injunction: “An instruction or order issued by a court to a party to an action, esp to refrain from some act, such as causing a nuisance.”

I will make sure that every change I make has my signature, including my IC number, so that no one is in any doubt that I was of sound mind should I leave my entire estate to charity. I might even record my conversations with my lawyers because email correspondence might not be enough to satisfy people who think I went crazy. Every beneficiary will have a new copy. This is despite my massive reading of detective novels in which the will-maker usually comes to an untimely end because of amendments made or to be made.

I suppose I will need to find an executor/s to administer my scanty belongings. They will be people whom I can trust to carry out my wishes to the bitter end – on pain of having me visit them if they don’t. I will ensure that they are briefed on exactly what they can or cannot do.

Estate executor: A person who administers the deceased’s estate.

They will have to retrieve all the keys to my apartment, hence to be labelled, the House, and ensure that it is securely locked and fastened when the inevitable happens (without me in it, of course). This is to guarantee that there will be no intermeddling, like someone shifting around my books which I have arranged in alphabetical order of authors and genres. I especially would not like my DVD collection of Chinese drama serials to be thrown down the chute, because someone thinks they can be viewed on the Internet. This is because I am passing my collection to the senior citizen’s daycare centre nearby, along with my DVD player.

 

 

Intermeddling: “To interfere in the affairs of others, often officiously”.

I am wondering if I should insert a destruction clause over my colouring projects. They are dear to me and I wouldn’t like to have grubby fingers all over them. I will instruct my executors to throw them into a bonfire, at Hong Lim Park if approval can be sought, and get the Pink Dot organisers to hold a carnival.

 

 

If approval is denied, then I will insert a second clause to say that they should be preserved in sanitary conditions, possibly in a bank safe deposit box, to be viewed only by immediate family members, which are very few. I will make sure I initial both clauses – and include my IC number.

I intend to have a Deed of Gift. I will donate all my journalism books to the crew of The Middle Ground – with a couple of covenants/conditions. The books must remain in the office and should be read only on the premises. The spine of every book must be labelled: Donated by Madam. TMG crew must personally accept the gift. I would suggest hiring a lorry.

Gift: According to property law, a gift is “a voluntary transfer of property or of a property interest from one individual to another, made gratuitously to the recipient. The individual who makes the gift is known as the donor, and the individual to whom the gift is made is called the donee.”

Deed: “A written instrument, which has been signed and delivered, by which one individual, the grantor, conveys title to real property to another individual, the grantee; a conveyance of land, tenements, or hereditaments, from one individual to another.”

I know that I will also have to get people to witness my will. They should be impartial people who also won’t predecease me. The condo gardener and pool cleaner would be my first choices, except that my management is in the habit of changing landscape and cleaning firms frequently. I will have to get my neighbours as witnesses, which means the will can only be done on a Sunday when they are at home and not busy making a living.

Witnesses: “One who is called on to be present at a transaction in order to attest to what takes place.”

I don’t suppose anyone would quarrel over my Lego sets which cost me a fortune even though they’ve been supplemented by cheap made-in-China bricks. If so, my executors should get probate done. This should be held in camera and presided by a judge who isn’t a friend of any of the beneficiaries. My executors will also ask for a gag order so details of any challenge will be kept private.

Probate: “The court process by which a will is proved valid or invalid. The legal process wherein the estate of a decedent is administered.”

Bertha’s Lego corner (photo from Bertha Henson’s Facebook).

If probate is given, my executors are to distribute my sparse possessions within a week. This includes selling the House and dividing the proceeds equally among the beneficiaries. This is unless my mother wants to move from her more palatial HDB flat and stay in it. If so, she can live in it for as long as she wants. The bonfire event should be held within a month, barring exceptional circumstances such as a committee of exceptional people being asked to ascertain whether my colouring projects are worthy of public display.

I think I should have tied it all up now good and proper. Then again, maybe I’ll live forever.

 

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

  1. FamiLEE saga: The hoo-ha over Ho Ching… hmmm (Jun 24)
  2. FamiLEE saga: That internal ministerial committee should go (Jun 21)
  3. FamiLEE saga: Will parliament session end saga? (Jun 20)
  4. FamiLEE saga: Some leeway should be given (Jun 19)
  5. FamiLEE saga: 10 things from the academic paper “When I’m dead, demolish it”. (Jun 18)
  6. FamiLEE saga: Who’s involved (Jun 17) 
  7. FamiLEE saga: Is a grant of probate really final? (Jun 17)
  8. FamiLEE saga: Somebody should just sue (Jun 17)
  9. FamiLEE saga: PM Lee’s version of events (Jun 16) 
  10. FamiLEE saga: Let a third party tell all (Jun 16)
  11. FamiLEE saga: The past three days (Jun 16)
  12. FamiLEE saga: How Lee Suet Fern got LWL her inheritance, according to leaked emails (Jun 15)
  13. FamiLEE saga: Singaporeans react with confusion, humour and CSI skills (Jun 15)
  14. FamiLEE saga: From 38 Oxley Road to 1 Parliament Place, not just a family affair (Jun 15)
  15. FamiLEE saga: Headlines around the world (Jun 15)
  16. FamiLEE saga: Now about that mysterious ministerial committee (Jun 15)
  17. Not just a famiLEE affair (Jun 14)
  18. Third generation Lee weighs in (Jun 14)
  19. “We do not trust Hsien Loong as a brother or as a leader. We have lost confidence in him.” (Jun 14)
  20. Mystery deepens over secret tapes of Lee Kuan Yew (Sep 30, 2016)
  21. Time for the famiLEE to end the public spectacle (Apr 10, 2016)
  22. Dr Lee Wei Ling gagged? (Apr 2, 2016)

 

Featured image from Bertha Henson’s Facebook.

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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SELAMAT Hari Raya Puasa! As usual, the annual Muslim festival is celebrated with plenty of pomp and vibrant decorations all over Singapore. There’s been the colourful Geylang Serai Bazaar, a giant light-up featuring Malay heritage icons and even jazzed-up trains. Two Hari Raya themed trains were launched last Thursday (Jun 22) to celebrate. This is the first time that trains are decorated for the occasion, with designs including ketupat decals on the windows. Some carriages are decorated to look like a fully-furnished living room; complete with carpet, couch and curtain decals.

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But in other parts of the world, it’s not just all celebration. We look at how muslims around the world would be spending Eid this year:

1. Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: holiday extended by a week

Image by Wikimedia Commons user Sreejithk2000.

Government employees in Saudi Arabia will be receiving a longer vacation than they had initially expected after the Saudi government extended the Eid holiday by a week on Wednesday (Jun 21). Previously, employees had the final ten days of Ramadan off work and some time away for Eid as well. Their break began on June 16 and will end on July 8.

However, employees in the private sector questioned the extra time off from work given only to government employees. One Twitter user felt that those in the private sector were “not counted as citizens of this country”.

2. Doha, Qatar: Families face tough decision on whether to leave amid blockade

Image by Flickr user Larry Johnson. CC BY 2.0.

To leave or to stay: This is the question that has been haunting at least 6,500 families with mixed citizenships, as reported by Qatar’s National Human Rights Committee. The Qatar blockade announced on Jun 5 cut off air, land, and sea links with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, and Egypt. The first three also told their citizens to leave Qatar by last Monday (Jun 19).

A Qatari single mother, whose ex-husband was a Bahraini, faced the prospect of being separated from her children. After getting divorced in 1999, she had since brought her three children up in Qatar. But her children’s Bahraini citizenship required them to leave the country immediately.

The timing of this crisis could not be more tragic with the Eid holiday fast approaching – a time when families traditionally reunite. “The social fabric of [the region] is being torn apart for political reasons and we will not allow ourselves to be a party to this injustice,” government spokesman from Saudi Arabia Sheik Saif bin Ahmed al Thani said last Monday.

3. Xinjiang, China: Annual gathering of Uighur Muslims closely watched by authorities

Image by Flickr user Carrie Kellenberger. CC BY 2.0.

Living as a Muslim in China can be controversial, given ethnic clashes in recent years. But that has not stopped the country’s 20 million Muslims from having vibrant celebrations of Eid-al-Fitr every year, albeit under the cautionary eye of the local authorities, which introduced fresh regulations clamping down on the community this year.

Of the country’s 56 ethnicities, over ten are majority Muslim – notably, the Uighur and Hui people, from the Xinjiang and Ningxia provinces respectively. In both provinces, Eid-al-Fitr is a public holiday for all residents, and the roads are toll-free on that day.The largest Eid gathering happens in the Uighur city of Kashgar, where the Turkic-speaking Uighurs gather at the Id Kah Mosque for prayers, followed by music and dancing on the streets.

The Chinese government forbids officials from taking part in the celebrations, given the state’s official stance on secularism. Earlier in April, the central government also banned wearing a veil and sporting an “abnormal” beard, a move which was widely criticised as targeting Muslims.

4. Cilvegozu, Turkey: Syrian refugees head home on foot

Image by Flickr user Fabio Sola Penna. CC BY-ND 2.0.

Syrian refugees in Turkey are heading back home this Hari Raya after the capital of Turkey, Ankara, gave them the right to return a month after the Eid festival. Many are thrilled at being given the opportunity to visit their homeland. But some have decided to leave Turkey for good because of the difficulties in finding jobs there. They believe that employment opportunities are better in Syria.

Although Syrians have been given work permits since 2016, they are still unable to make a living out of the scarce employment opportunities which often deprive them of employee rights such as being able to take a leave of absence.

Turkey currently hosts around 3.5 million refugees – the largest number of refugees worldwide. At least 3000 of them have crossed Turkish borders into Syria by foot on Thursday (Jun 15). Anyone who wishes to return to Turkey will be treated as new arrival and go through the normal immigration process.

Featured image from Flickr user Jnzl’s Photos. CC BY 2.0

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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.

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

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.

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YOU may be up to date with the latest famiLEE news, but are you up to speed on what else is happening in Singapore? The past few days also had news on the arrest of two Singaporean auxiliary police officers under the ISA, a report that long-term unemployment rates have increased, a Singaporean teenager setting a world powerlifting record, report that obesity rates have increased and the G said that new laws to battle fake news will be out next year.

We’ve summarised these developments in bite-sized form:

1. Terrorism: Two more Singaporeans arrested under ISA; radical publications banned

Two Aetos auxiliary police officers were arrested under the Internal Security Act (ISA) in May, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) revealed yesterday (Jun 20). Muhammad Khairul Mohamed, 24, has been detained for planning to fight against Shi’ites alongside the Free Syrian Army (FSA) militia in Syria. His colleague Mohamad Rizal Wahid, 36, has been issued a Restriction Order (RO) for failing to report Khairul and suggesting ways to get to Syria.

Separately, the G has banned nine publications by extremist Singaporean preacher Rasul Dahri under the Undesirable Publishing Act, the Ministry for Communications and Information announced yesterday. In some of his works, the preacher called for Muslims to reject secularism and establish an Islamic state. The Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) called Rasul Dahri “exclusivist” and “hardline”, advising Muslims to “avoid such teachings”.

2. Economy: 2017 growth forecast raised, exports shrunk, no improvement in long-term unemployment

There’s mixed news in the economic sphere. The job market remains tough as long-term unemployment is at an eight-year high of 0.8 per cent in March, up by 0.1 percentage point from a year ago. The majority of those retrenched are professionals, managers, executives and technicians, who are also finding it difficult to re-enter the workforce.

There are some silver linings though. Unemployment in the first quarter was lower than projected by the Ministry of Manpower. Some 4,000 workers were laid off between January and March, down by nearly 1,500 from a year ago. And projections for economic growth are up, with private sector economists predicting 2.5 per cent growth, up from their forecast of 2.3 per cent in March.

3. Sports: Singapore Athletics feud; SG teen sets powerlifting record

Disputes between Singapore Athletics (SA) and track and field coach Ms Margaret Oh over the schedule for Ms Shanti Pereira’s training sessions and participation in events have been resolved. Ms Margaret Oh is the coach of 200m champion Ms Pereira, who won gold at the 2015 SEA games. Ms Pereira told The Straits Times on Monday (Jun 19) that “they had a good, positive discussion.” Both Ms Oh and Ms Pereira have agreed to join the pre-SEA Games centralised training camp next month. Ms Pereira will be competing in the Women’s 100m and 200m at this year’s SEA Games.

On a happier note, 17-year-old Mr Matthew Yap set a new world squat record at the World Classic Powerlifting Championships in Minsek, Belarus on Sunday. He lifted 208kg in his third attempt, overtaking Kazakhstan’s Mr Dmitriy Chebanov on the leaderboard to win a Gold medal. In addition to the win, Mr Yap has also won a bronze medal in the bench press and a silver medal for the overall standing in the competition.

4. Health: Obesity and STIs

Singapore is a makan paradise for the foodies. But overeating can take a toll on the health of the average Singaporean. Findings from the Health Promotion Board (HPB) showed that while Singaporeans are exercising more, they are also eating more. Six in 10 are exceeding the recommended food intake.

What’s worrying is that obesity rates could reach 15 per cent in seven years. ST reported that on average, the median body mass index (BMI) score for adults last year was 23.15 – outside of the healthy range.

In other health news, the Department of Sexually Transmitted Infections Control (DSC) Clinic recently released figures that showed an increase in adolescents getting diagnosed with sexually transmitted infections (STI). In 2015, 421 boys and girls aged 10 to 19 contracted STIs. The year before there were 391 cases. This is an increase of 8 per cent from the year before, reported The Straits Times. The highest number of cases occurred in 2007 with 820 adolescents contracting STIs. Since then, the figure had been on a steady decline. Experts suggest that while adolescents here are generally aware that condoms are used as protection against STI, many simply choose to forgo using condoms.

5. Law: Fake news laws likely out next year

The G has decided to come up with new laws to battle fake news, Minister for Law and Home Affairs K. Shanmugam said on Monday at the opening of a two-day conference on fake news. Mr Shanmugam cited a poll by the G which showed the need for such laws. He said:“Around two-thirds [of Singaporeans] could not recognise fake news when they first saw it. And only around half are confident of their own ability to recognise fake news.”
In an ideal case, “most misinformation will be dealt with through a resilient society, responsible and effective media, and the innovation of Internet companies”. But in reality, the Minister said: “We cannot always rely on the content standards of the Internet giants… The Government will also need to update our toolbox.”

To achieve this, Minister Shanmugam said the G had surveyed the positions of three other jurisdictions: the European Union, Germany, and Israel. These jurisdictions are considering laws to compel social networks to take down illicit content.

 

Text by Sharanya Pillai, Danielle Goh, and Johannes Tjendro.

Featured image by Sean Chong.

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by Suhaile Md and Sharanya Pillai

MUSLIM sectarianism has reached Singapore.

AETOS Auxiliary Police Officer Muhammad Khairul bin Mohamed wanted to fly to Syria to “fight against the Shi’ites” there by “joining the Free Syrian Army (FSA)”, said the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) earlier today (Jun 20). The 24 year-old was issued with an Order of Detention (OD) under the Internal Security Act (ISA). Khairul’s colleague Mohamad Rizal bin Wahid was issued with a Restriction Order (RO) for “supporting” his “intentions” added MHA. Rizal is 36 years-old.

Khairul’s duties in Traffic Enforcement Division did not require him to be armed. Rizal, however, was an armed officer who conducted general security duties. “Rizal did not share Khairul’s desire to participate in armed violence”, said MHA. Both were deployed at Woodlands checkpoint.

An OD allows the G to detain Khairul without an open court trial for up to two years. The order can be “extended for a further period or periods not exceeding two years at a time”, as stipulated by the ISA. Under the RO, Rizal will not be allowed to change his residence and employment, or travel abroad without the prior approval of the Director of the Internal Security Division. He will also have to undergo compulsory religious counselling. It is not clear what Rizal’s job status is currently.* Khairul and Rizal were fired from AETOS on Jun 1. 

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Khairul’s radicalisation began online in 2012. He wanted to know more about the conflict in Syria after reading about it on mainstream media.

Said MHA: “He developed the view that the conflict in Syria was a sectarian struggle between Sunni Islam and Shi’ite Islam, and being a Sunni Muslim, he wanted to fight against the Shi’ites in Syria.”

Khairul saw the Syrian conflict as a “holy war” and he was prepared to die fighting in a bid to “receive divine rewards”, added MHA. So he planned to join the FSA, a group that aims to overthrow the “Syrian government led by President Bashar Al-Assad, who is backed by the minority Shi’ite Alawite sect”. In 2014, he “tried to reach out” to a foreign militant and “two other individuals whom he believed to be FSA supporters”, to figure out how to reach Syria.

Rizal had known about Khairul’s intentions since 2015 when Khairul confided in him. But Rizal did not report his colleague to AETOS management and instead “suggested to Khairul various ways to get to Syria and to die there as a ‘martyr’.”

“As an Auxiliary Police Officer, [Rizal] should have been aware of the prevailing terrorism threat and his failure to dissuade Khairul and report him to his superior officer was a serious lapse of judgment,” MHA said.

But Rizal was not the only one who knew of Khairul’s intentions. “Several relatives and friends knew of his intention to fight in Syria, but none of them came forward.” It’s not clear if MHA will take any actions against them. Neither is it clear if his family knew about his radicalisation.

MHA added that it takes seriously “anyone who supports, promotes, undertakes or makes preparations to undertake armed violence” regardless of where the violence takes place and especially if the individual is a public servant or a uniformed officer. This extends to anyone who “supports or abets another person’s radicalisation or intention to undertake violence”.

Over 457,000 Muslims reside here according to the G’s 2010 population census, the vast majority of whom are Sunni. Globally, up to 13 per cent of Muslims are Shi’ite. There are no firm numbers in Singapore, but a 2009 Pew report estimated less than 1 per cent of Muslims here are Shi’ites. According to a 1988 fatwa (ruling) issued by the Islamic Religious council of Singapore (Muis), Shi’ites are Muslims. The fatwa remains valid to this day.

It’s not clear what Khairul’s thoughts are on the minority Shi’ite community in Singapore. But a TMG investigation in May revealed that Shi’ite-Sunni relations in Singapore could be better. Read more here.

To report concerns about someone who seems to be radicalised, call the Counter-Terrorism Centre hotline at 1800-2626-473 (1800-2626-ISD).

Other ISA arrests since 2016:

On Jun 12, 2017, MHA revealed that it had arrested the first radicalised woman in Singapore. Syaikhah Izzah Zahrah Al Ansari (Izzah) was planning to take her 4 year-old daughter with her to war-torn Syria and marry an ISIS fighter.

On August 19, 2016, MHA said that four self radicalised individuals were arrested for their intention to move to Syria and fight there.

On July 29, 2016, MHA said that Zulfikar Shariff was arrested and detained for joining the hardline Hizbut Tahrir organisation in Australia, among other things like showing support for extremists online.

On May 3, 2016, MHA announced the arrest of eight other Bangladeshis who were planning to overthrow the government in Bangladesh.

On March 16, 2016, four more people were arrested under the ISA. Three of them took part in the sectarian conflict in Yemen, although one of them only did “sentry duties” and “did not fire” said MHA. The fourth was arrested for intending to join Kurdish militia to fight against ISIS in the Middle East.

On January 20, 2016, MHA said that 27 Bangladeshis were arrested in late 2015 for recruitment attempts as well as possessing materials that taught how to kill.

*The MHA update that Khairul and Rizal had lost their jobs on Jun 1 was received after publication.

 

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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.

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by Johannes Tjendro

CAN we really believe everything we see on the Internet? The answer is obviously “no”. In practice though, it is not always clear what is fake and what is real.

Here are some recent examples we have found of news that made rounds on social media and messaging apps, such as Facebook and WhatsApp. Guess which one is true and which one is false:

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1. Satay made of dog and cat meats at Bazaar Ramadhan 2017

 

2. No cash issued from your CPF after your death

 

3. $200 fine if you throw tissue “into bowl, on plate, or cup” 

 

Be careful if you thought any of them were true – they are all fake. But you are not alone if you could not tell that they were false.

According to a poll by the G, “around two-thirds [of Singaporeans] could not recognise fake news when they first saw it. And only around half are confident of their own ability to recognise fake news,” said Minister for Law and Home Affairs Mr K. Shanmugam earlier at a conference today (June 19). The two-day conference on fake news co-organised by The Straits Time opened this morning.

This warrants our concern, given that as many as “around 75 per cent of Singaporeans came across fake news at least occasionally”, and of the 75 per cent, a third of them “came across fake news frequently”.  Around 25 per cent also “shared information they later discovered to be false”, said Mr Shanmugam. Facebook and WhatsApp are cited as the platforms where people most often chanced upon fake news.

The Minister pointed out that these findings followed upon an increasingly worrying global trend of fake news spreading on the web, and a public that is not sufficiently discerning in their social media consumption (and production via sharing). This trend, dubbed “the rapid spread of misinformation online”, was identified by the World Economic Forum in 2014 as the top tenth trend in terms of global significance.

Significantly, one of the biggest fake news that has ever broken in Singapore was the hoax on the death of Mr Lee Kuan Yew. It happened on March 18, 2015, when a Singaporean student created a fake copy of a government website and posted a false announcement that Mr Lee Kuan Yew had passed away. Mr Lee died five days later.

Minister Shanmugam highlighted that “established news outlets like CNN and China’s CCTV fell for the hoax”. He also added that while “the news outlets did not intend to misinform… unintentional fake news can cause harm too”.

 

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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.