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:
- FamiLEE saga: Will parliament session end saga? (Jun 20)
- FamiLEE saga: Some leeway should be given (Jun 19)
- FamiLEE saga: 10 things from the academic paper “When I’m dead, demolish it”. (Jun 18)
- FamiLEE saga: Who’s involved (Jun 17)
- FamiLEE saga: Is a grant of probate really final? (Jun 17)
- FamiLEE saga: Somebody should just sue (Jun 17)
- FamiLEE saga: PM Lee’s version of events (Jun 16)
- FamiLEE saga: Let a third party tell all (Jun 16)
- FamiLEE saga: The past three days (Jun 16)
- FamiLEE saga: How Lee Suet Fern got LWL her inheritance, according to leaked emails (Jun 15)
- FamiLEE saga: Singaporeans react with confusion, humour and CSI skills (Jun 15)
- 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)
- FamiLEE saga: Now about that mysterious ministerial committee (Jun 15)
- Not just a famiLEE affair (Jun 14)
- 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)
- Mystery deepens over secret tapes of Lee Kuan Yew (Sep 30, 2016)
- Time for the famiLEE to end the public spectacle (Apr 10, 2016)
- Dr Lee Wei Ling gagged? (Apr 2, 2016)
Featured image from TMG file.
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