Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong rebutted the allegations made against him in the Oxley Road saga. After delivering a ministerial statement on the dispute in Parliament, which involved him apologising to Singaporeans for the public spat, the PM addressed questions raised by Members of Parliament over two days of debate.
PM Lee called on all MPs to “examine the issues thoroughly” and question him and his Cabinet colleagues “vigorously.” This call followed the lifting of the party whip and another call by Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob earlier this week for all MPs to ensure that the debate is robust.
But was it? Was the lifting of the party whip adequate to allow PAP MPs to question their party chief thoroughly? The PM would probably agree since he declared that the members seated in the house have proven that the allegations are baseless – even though the accusers weren’t given a platform to air their evidence.
Aside from one PAP MP who leveled 10 “tough questions” to the PM, what were the other questions that his own party members asked him that led the PM to declare with such finality that the claims against him are moot? Was there any truth to early speculation that PAP MPs would refrain from thoroughly grilling the PM, so as to protect their own rice bowl? Did weak questions allow the PM to absolve himself of wrongdoing?
Let’s take a look at how PAP MPs questioned PM Lee on the matter:
MP Rahayu Mahzam, Jurong GRC:
“As a grant of probate has been granted and there is no challenge, the will should be taken as valid and proper. You (PM Lee) have, however, in your statutory declaration submitted to the ministerial committee alluding to certain questionable circumstances upon which the will was executed,
“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?”
“Why could you not just rely on the words of the will which in itself contemplated a situation where the house is not being demolished?”
MP Murali Pillai, Bukit Batok SMC:
Pillai asked whether the Minister for Law, K Shanmugam, advised the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew or any of his family members on matters regarding the house prior to becoming a member of the Ministerial Committee: “If he has, why is he of the view that he is not in a conflict-of-interest position in assuming a position in the committee that is focused on looking at the options for the house?”
MP Zaqy Mohamad, Chua Chu Kang GRC:
“Wouldn’t it have sufficed to have URA, NHB or any other relevant Government agency assess the matter and give its recommendations for Cabinet to consider?”
MP Sun Xueling, Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC:
After questioning why PM Lee did not challenge Lee Kuan Yew’s last will despite his grave concerns of how it was drawn up, Sun asserted: “It appears that he (Lee Hsien Yang) wants to bring down the Prime Minister. I suspect that when an individual chooses to look at the world through a distorted lens, there are conspiracies and shadows everywhere. A clarification becomes an act of aggression, cleaning house becomes inter-meddling and theft.”
MP Charles Chong, Punggol East SMC:
Chong questioned if the poll by the Public Service Division on its officers over the Lee’s house dispute is appropriate: “What were the results of the poll? What was the data of the poll used for? Will there be any concrete action taken after the poll?”
MP Lim Biow Chuan, Mountbatten SMC:
Declaring that he “felt a sense of dismay” when WP MPs asked the Prime Minister to settle the matter once and for all in court, Lim asked, “How many of us would want to sue our family members? Is not blood thicker than water?”
The Marine Parade Town Council Chairman then questioned PM Lee’s statutory declaration, asking him why he did not challenge the will if he had doubts, before questioning Lee Hsien Yang’s wife, Suet Fern’s alleged role in Lee Kuan Yew’s will.
Pointing out that rule 46 of the professional conduct rules prohibit a lawyer from acting on behalf a client who intends to make a gift to a family member of the lawyer, Lim asked: “Why did Lee Hsien Yang say that Kwa Kim Li draft the will? Why did he say that Lee Suet Fern had put the will ‘into language’? Is that a roundabout way of saying that she had drafted the will? This is of significance because it may mean the Demolition Clause may not be valid. If this is so, it is no longer a private matter. No one should be above the law.”
His questions are one among many (like Sun Xueling’s insinuations against the intentions of Lee Hsien Yang) that highlight how unfortunate Lee Wei Ling, Lee Hsien Yang and his wife are for being unable to speak for themselves in the arena PM Lee has selected to rebut allegations.