Singapore — Former senior Straits Times journalist Bertha Henson has blogged on the Disciplinary Tribunal report finding Mrs Lee Suet Fern, the wife of Mr Lee Hsien Yang, younger son of founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, guilty of grossly improper professional conduct in handling LKY’s last will.
Henson writes: “So, really, what would LKY say? Everyone’s trying to second-guess a dead man,” as it is at this point impossible to determine what the original PM Lee wanted in his will.
In the first of a two-part article entitled “FamiLEE saga: What would LKY say?” published on Feb 23 and 24, Henson said it made her sad that the country’s founding Prime Minister is no longer present to set the record straight concerning the circumstances surrounding the execution of his last will, which is the issue of contention at the centre of the matter.
She was made even sadder still “to think that the man might have been so frail and feeble to have been snookered by his own son and daughter-in-law to do something against his own judgment”, which is what the tribunal report says.
Henson writes: “This was not the Lee Kuan Yew we knew,” quoting the following passage from the report: “Mr Lee, who was very frail and in poor health, was misled by the very people whom he trusted: His son, Mr LHY, and daughter-in-law, the respondent.”
She reiterates that the state of mind of the older Mr Lee is difficult to ascertain, although, as she points out, he had the presence of mind to ask who had drafted the will he was affixing his signature to, and quotes one lawyer present as saying “LKY appeared frail and his speech was slurred, but his mind was certainly lucid he asked us who drafted the will and specifically instructed us to date the will today”.
In the eye of the storm is Mrs Lee Suet Fern, with the question being whether or not she exercised undue influence in the preparation of LKY’s last will.
Henson writes: “The case before the tribunal isn’t about the house per se but the role Mrs Lee played. Was she acting merely as a daughter-in-law as she claimed or was she really doing the work of a lawyer? If she was acting in a legal capacity, then she was breaking the rules because her husband, Mr Lee Hsien Yang, was a beneficiary of the will.”
However, Henson voices concern as to whether there is an underlying issue at hand. “At the end of it all, I’m wondering what the issue is about. If the will didn’t represent the late Mr Lee’s intentions, there must be some other way to have a court decide on it, rather than have a tribunal address the question of whether what Mrs Lee did was improper conduct for a lawyer. It’s like addressing a symptom and not the illness.”
In her second article, Henson writes that it is the family property in Oxley Road that is perhaps the heart of the matter. “So the house, the subject of so much debate, is really the big deal when it comes to deciphering the late Mr Lee’s intention. Nothing about demolition was in the fifth and sixth wills. And if it is a fact that Mr Lee wanted to revert to the first will, is it possible that he didn’t realise it included the demolition clause? Or did he want this done because it did? After all, he read and initialled every page.”
At the end of the day, while the tribunal seems convinced of Mrs Lee’s wrongdoing, Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s real intent remains an unknowable. But Henson poses another question at the end of her second article: “But to the layman, even if what she (Lee Suet Fern) did was wrong and she should be punished in some way for this, would it have mattered to LKY?” /TISG