Retired diplomat Bilahari Kausikan has apologised for erroneously suggesting that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong sold his childhood home to his brother Lee Hsien Yang for a single dollar after Lee Wei Ling set the facts straight in a Facebook post published this afternoon (14 July).
In a social media post published on Cooling Off Day, Mr Bilahari ferociously questioned Mr Lee Hsien Yang’s involvement in opposition politics. Mr Lee recently joined the Progress Singapore Party (PSP) and urged voters to support the opposition fearlessly in the latest election.
Responding to these remarks, Mr Bilahari claimed that Mr Lee was attacking the system even though he benefited from it because he was “prevented from monetising” his family home by his elder brother.
Calling Mr Lee a hypocrite for joining a political party while maintaining that Singapore does not need another Lee in power, the retired diplomat said that Mr Lee was “trying to cause trouble without responsibility” and that this was “cowardly”. He wrote:
“I have two comments/ questions: first, you are a beneficiary of the ‘privilege’ you now eloquently attack. Why? Because you were prevented from monetising the property your brother sold you?
“Second, if you are really so upset, why faff around the margins, trying to cause trouble without responsibility? Your excuse for not standing for election, that there need not be another Lee in politics is hollow: what are you doing if it is not politics? Cowardly!”
Mr Bilahari made his distaste for Mr Lee more apparent in the comments section of his post but perhaps his most egregious remark was when he claimed that the Oxley home was sold to Mr Lee for a dollar when he actually had to fork out 150 per cent of the house’s market value to buy it from his elder brother.
In the comments section of the post, Facebook user Lucy Tan asked Mr Bilahari whether Mr Lee was given the house or whether he bought it. Mr Bilahari responded: “His brother (PM) inherited the house and when LHY started bitching about it, sold it to him for SGD 1 dollar.” The former Ambassador-at-Large even asked Lucy Tan to do her research when he himself did not have his facts right.
Several netizens pointed out that Mr Bilahari was making false claims.
According to TODAY, PM Lee inherited 38 Oxley Road but sold the house to Mr Lee Hsien Yang at market value in 2015. Both brothers then each donated half the value of the house to charity. This means that Mr Lee Hsien Yang forked out 150 per cent of the market value of the house – 100 per cent went to his elder brother and the remaining 50 per cent was donated to charity.
Mr Bilahari seemed to acknowledge his error but justified it by saying he was “too upset over the sheer hypocrisy” and that his larger point remains valid, despite the misinformation he had earlier spread. In a subsequent comment he added, “I really do not at all mind disagreement but hypocrisy raises my blood pressure, particularly in this case!”
This afternoon, Lee Wei Ling rebuked Mr Bilahari for making baseless suggestions on the sale of the Oxley house. Asserting that the retired diplomat has “no basis” to make such a statement, Dr Lee wrote on social media:
“Bilahari has falsely claimed that my brother Yang bought Oxley Road for $1 and that Yang is angry because he is prevented from monetising the property. Bilahari has no basis to make such a statement. Yang did not buy the house for $1. He paid market price for the house to buy it from Loong, and made a further 50% of the value of the house as a donation to charity.”
Clarifying that her younger brother, Mr Lee Hsien Yang, had not bought the house with an intention to monetise it like Mr Bilahari had claimed, Dr Lee added: “Furthermore, Yang bought it knowing that Pa had given me the right to live in the house for as long as I wished.
“He also bought it knowing that URA and NHB had issued a statement in Apr 2015: “In view of the historical significance of the property, if a decision is made to allow for the demolition of the house, the Government is likely to disallow the site to be redeveloped in a way that would diminish its historical significance, for example, for commercial or intensive residential development.”
She asserted: “To suggest that Yang bought the house with a view to making a profit is completely baseless and false.”
Less than half an hour after Dr Lee published her post, Mr Bilahari acknowledged his error and apologised. He wrote in a comment: “I stand corrected on that point and apologise for the mistake.”
Netizens responding to the prominent establishment figure’s apology, however, said that the damage was done and pointed out how those who spread false claims about the establishment had to face the consequences even after issuing apologies:
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