As expected, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s anticipated elucidation of his family saga in Parliament was the opposite of compelling political drama — he made a very long statement, had the verbal support of other ministers, and didn’t really answer the questions posed to him. Surprisingly though, some of his subordinates in the ruling party directed some not-so-soft queries of their own. In the Order Paper published about today’s Parliamentary session, only six out of the 124 filed questions were about the Oxley Road dispute — only Workers’ Party members were interested in posing PM Lee about the allegations. Other Members of Parliament (MPs) were occupied with queries about electric vehicles, employment passes, covered footpaths and other boring things.
In other words, it turned out exactly the way you’d expect the whole thing to be. The parliamentary debate won’t end the public drama between him and his siblings Lee Wei Ling (LWL) and Lee Hsien Yang (LHY) though, who’ve accused the prime minister of abusing his power as it relates to their father (Lee Kuan Yew)’s will.
Just like you, we’re pretty worn out from the walls of text issued from both sides of the party, so here’s a TL;DR summary of things revealed in Parliament today. Let’s just get this bloody over with. Parliament will sit again tomorrow morning.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong
PM Lee claims that his dad, Lee Kuan Yew (LKY), was concerned about strong public pushback about his published desire for 38 Oxley Road — his longtime home — to be demolished. In 2011, LKY was said to have consulted newspaper editors for their views — all of whom said the home needed to be preserved given its historical importance.
PM Lee: LKY accepted a proposal to demolish private living spaces but keep the basement intact because of historical significance. LKY met with the Urban Redevelopment Board and approved plans to reinforce foundations and renovate house, with all involved parties kept in the loop.
PM Lee was surprised by LHY’s willingness for the house to be demolished immediately.
PM Lee states that recused himself from all decisions involving 38 Oxley Road, and Ministerial Committee was set up for ministers to explore possible options.
PM Lee assures he has no say in the Ministerial Committee, and that Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean is in charge of it. “I myself do not deal with the matter at all. I take no part in discussions or decisions concerning the house.”
PM Lee says that real abuse of power would be him requesting LKY’s house to be demolished immediately. “Suppose instead that I had decided as PM to knock the house down, and had pushed that decision through without allowing the Government to consider the alternatives, weigh the considerations, and go through due process, just because it was what my father wanted. That would have been a real abuse of power.”
PM Lee agreed to sell his share of house to LHY, with all proceeds going to charity. According to PM Lee, give the proceeds from the sale of the house was something which LKY was willing to consider.
Difference in views: Siblings believe that LKY absolutely wanted to demolish 38 Oxley Road, but PM Lee believes LKY was prepared to consider alternatives should government decide otherwise.
PM Lee said he was entitled to see deed of gift as a son, disagreed with siblings’ accusation that the deed of gift had been improperly obtained.
Responding to allegations of nepotism, PM Lee denies his son Li Hongyi is pursuing politics and claims that he has no intention to push him into it. He added Ho Ching would be dealt with by Temasek Board, president and presidential council of advisors if she behaved improperly.
PM Lee adds that preservation of house has no political gain and would be in a sad state if he needed these magic properties to bolster his power.
No legal action will be taken as it will besmirch parents’ name and it would drag on for years, says PM Lee. Despite past history in taking legal action for slighter remarks.
PM Lee says current government upholds the law and operates transparently and impartially and agrees no one is above the law. Not even his dad.
PM Lee calls Workers’ Party’s filed questions “striking” because he sees them as “broad” and contain no specific allegations or facts about wrongdoing.
PM Lee lifted Party Whip in order to receive “robust questioning” and vigorous grilling by all MPs to “dispel all the doubts, innuendo and tittle tattle that has been planted and circulated.”
PM Lee hopes to one day resolve the unhappiness within his family. He apologizes again to Singaporeans who are, like him, tired and upset of his family dramas. “As a son, I am pained at the anguish that this strife would have caused my parents to feel if they were still alive.”
Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean
DPM Teo states there is rarely a need to announce formation of Ministerial Committees, because they report to the cabinet
DPM Teo: Government has responsibility to consider public interest aspects of all properties with historical significance. Government also has powers to gazette or acquire such properties.
LKY listened to the views of Cabinet ministers, and had reflected on the matter of the demolishing of his house, DPM Teo claims.
MP Low Thia Khiang
Workers’ Party chief Low Thia Khiang calls family feud unnecessary. “This saga is distracting the government, distracting Singaporeans, and distracting the international audience and damaging the Singapore brand”.
Low disapproves of Lee sibling’s reckless accusations, which appear to be calculated to undermine PM Lee’s authority.
Low also disapproves of Prime Minister and fellow politicians chiming in about the saga via Facebook posts. “It does not help that the Prime Minister and some of his colleagues have responded in kind on Facebook and even making counter allegations on the motives and character of the other party.”
Low urges PM Lee to settle dispute privately in court instead of continuing squabble in public.
“…this is not Korean drama show”, Low says. “It is a serious matter because it affects the credibility of our entire country.”
MP Sylvia Lim
“The government needs to move on… this is not Korean drama show, it is a serious matter because it affects the credibility of our entire country,” Low says. Mic drop.
Workers’ Party chair Sylvia Lim voices concern that Singapore’s current Attorney-General, Lucien Wong, used to be PM Lee’s personal lawyer.
Conflicts of interest could arise — Lim questions if Attorney General has recused himself as well from Oxley Road discussion since he represented PM Lee before as a beneficiary.
Lim adds that deputy AG was also a former People’s Action Party MP. ““Will he recuse himself from the matter too, since his former party leader, the Secretary-General, is personally involved?”
MP Pritam Singh
Workers’ Party MP Pritam Singh also believes that family saga should be settled privately in court.
Singh brings up irony of PM Lee refusing to sue his siblings. “The anomaly in this matter before the House surrounds the decision taken by the PM, ironically it must be said, not to sue in spite of the many allegations of abuse of power much to the surprise of many Singaporeans. Singaporeans have been sued for defamation for much less.”
Singh suggests the setting up of another committee to look into the allegations made against PM Lee in order to seek any truth in the accusations.
MP Png Eng Huat
Workers’ Party MP Png Eng Huat echoed Lim, questioning why it wasn’t disclosed that AG Wong was PM Lee’s former personal lawyer.
Senior Minister of State for Law and Finance Indranee Rajah
Rajah affirms that there was nothing wrong with Wong’s appointment as AG, which was decided after a thorough and rigorous process. “The Prime Minister consulted the Chief Justice and the chairman of the Public Service Commission and the incumbent Attorney-General on the appointment.”
NMP Kok Heng Leun
Nominated Member of Parliament Kok Heng Leun urges government to consider setting up independent inquiry instead to look into allegations of abuse of power.
He believes that the public wants to hear from LHY, LWL and all other parties involved in the dispute as well.
“…Parliament might be the right place to air the Government’s position but may not be the right place to settle this issue once and for all, as some of the members have wished for.”
NMP Kuik Shiao-Yin
NMP Kuik agrees with Kok. Calls for an independent select committee to investigate allegations by Lee siblings.
Kuik suggests that the siblings should have an independent, neutral space to put down their side of the story on official record and share evidence to back their arguments.
“I agree with the Workers’ Party’s approach that the crux of the family issue surrounding 38 Oxley Road is for the family to resolve privately or in court, and that Parliament should only be concerned with allegations of abuse of power and the harm this has caused to Singapore and our political institutions.”
NMP Mahdev Mohan
Mahdev questions if government is even going to consult the public about the fate of 38 Oxley Road, since it’s such a matter of public interest.
NMP Chia Yong Yong
Chia doesn’t contribute any questions, simply expressing deep disappointment that national issues that actually matter to Singaporeans aren’t in the focus. Oh snap.
MP Murali Pillai
PAP MP Pillai questions if there was any conflict of interest when Minister for Law K Shanmugam advised LKY or any of his family members about 38 Oxley Road prior to becoming a member of the Ministerial Committee
MP Rahayu Mahzam
PAP MP asks PM Lee to clarify why didn’t challenge LKY’s will outright and instead sought out to allude to the ministerial committee about the questionable circumstances the will might have had during its execution.
“This may appear to be a backdoor approach in challenging the validity of the will. Could you therefore clarify why you found it necessary to affirm the statutory declaration and your intentions in doing so?”