Why are Lee Hsien Yang and Lee Wei Ling so angry with Lee Hsien Loong (and Ho Ching)? This is fundamental to an understanding of the Lee family dispute over 38 Oxley Road. The spat will not go away after the July 3 Parliament sitting and the “debate” will not conclusively solve or clarify the issues. The battle will continue in social media.
Put in the most basic way, the younger Lee siblings are unhappy that they are unable to carry out what their father, Lee Kuan Yew, had clearly wanted – get rid of 38, Oxley Road. His wills say so, they say. And all the legal documents say so. No ifs, no buts.
And they are particularly upset that their older brother has been somehow allegedly manipulative in the manner in which he has been trying to “undermine” the Lee patriarch’s wish. The setting up of a ministerial committee to look at the options seemed to go against the grain of what should have been a fait accompli, since probate has already been determined and granted.
And in the current ongoing public exchanges between the siblings, the elder brother, according to Hsien Yang at least, has been unethically unleashing his ministers, in particular Indranee Rajah, onto them. The Second Minister for Law and Finance has pointedly asked LHY to identify the lawyer who drafted the final will of LKY. The use of state organs and sitting Cabinet ministers to fight out a family dispute seemed an alleged abuse of state power.
The proper decorum would be for ministers who deemed it necessary to wade in on the dispute to be more circumspect and balanced, if at all they have to make a statement. After all, you are dealing with the children of LKY and not enemies of the state.
Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean has taken a more objective approach. For example, I would give greater credence to his comment:
“I met Mr Lee Hsien Yang several times between April and July 2015. I informed him that PM Lee had recused himself on Government decisions relating to No. 38 Oxley Road…I conveyed Cabinet’s deep respect for Mr Lee Kuan Yew and that Cabinet will take very seriously Mr Lee’s wishes regarding the house, as expressed in his Will, at a time when a decision has to be made regarding the house.
“I also informed him that there are indeed a range of viable intermediate options between these. Mr LHY seems supportive of some of the intermediate options we are studying. So there should be no need to disagree on studying the options for the time when a decision needs to be made.”
Beyond the allegation of a “dishonorable son” going against the wishes of the late father and trying to overturn a patriarchal decree, the younger Lee siblings seem to be expressing a fairly deep dissatisfaction about the state of affairs in Singapore.
Lee Wei Ling’s running feud with Singapore Press Holdings says much about her lack of confidence that the mainstream media can ever be other than the unrelenting well-oiled state propaganda machine to serve whoever is in power. So she cannot expect that her comments are ever going to be projected objectively. There is also some historical no love lost baggage between her and some establishment media players. Too much bad blood.
Next, Lee Hsien Yang has already declared total lack of faith in the Singapore Parliament in giving a fair hearing to the dispute.
He said on Thursday that he has “no confidence” that a “fair, transparent or complete account of events” will be told in Parliament .
“Only his (PM Lee’s) side of the story will air, with no promise of truthfulness due to parliamentary privilege,” he said on his Facebook page. He added: “We believe that key issues such as his abuse of power will be simply swept under the carpet. The accused controls both process and outcome in this forum.
“This parliamentary session is a forum that again places Hsien Loong before his subordinates. They lack both sufficient background and evidence of the numerous instances of abuse and conflicts of interest, many yet to be raised. Many MPs will fear career repercussions if they speak out against their superior.” Touche.
Critics of the People’s Action Party cannot find better criticism of the stifling political banyan tree dominance of the ruling party than those words just expressed by the son of Lee Kuan Yew, on whose shoulders the party has grown so tall and strong.
Listen more carefully to what Hsien Yang and Wei Ling are saying and what we are seeing is a pervading unhappiness about being shut out of their place in the sun. If they can be shunted aside unchecked, what more others not so privileged?
Monday’s Parliamentary sitting will simply amplify Hsien Yang’s misgivings. Perhaps the misgivings of many Singaporeans too.
Sense And Nonsense is a weekly series. Tan Bah Bah is a former senior leader writer with The Straits Times. He was also managing editor of a local magazine publishing company.