Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong may not sue his younger siblings for the remarks they made against him during the 2017 Oxley Road spat but he has asked The Online Citizen (TOC), a local website, to remove an article repeating his sister Lee Wei Ling’s allegations or face legal action.
In 2017, a feud between PM Lee and his siblings spilled into the public domain when Dr Lee Wei Ling and Mr Lee Hsien Yang accused their elder brother of abusing his power to preserve their family home, against their late father’s willed desire to demolish the house, in order to bolster his grip on power.
Dr Lee Wei Ling and Lee Hsien Yang also alleged that PM Lee used state organs against them and that he was moulding his son, Li Hongyi, to enter politics. The siblings also said that the Government convened a secret committee to make a decision on the house.
PM Lee addressed the allegations against him in a Parliamentary debate where he declared that he has been cleared of all charges. He added that he will not sue his siblings for defamation since that would “besmirch” the names of their parents.
While PM Lee may not sue his siblings, he has warned a local website that he will take legal action against it if it fails to apologise and remove an article and a Facebook post that repeats the allegations made by his sister.
Yesterday (1 Sept), PM Lee asked The Online Citizen to remove an article and Facebook post that repeated “several false allegations” and asked the website to publish a “full and unconditional apology” through a letter issued to the website’s chief editor.
The letter, which was written by PM Lee’s press secretary Ms Chang Li Lin on his behalf, stated: “The article and the post repeat several false allegations against PM Lee that were previously made by his sister, Dr Lee Wei Ling.
“In particular, they allege that PM Lee misled his father, the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew, into thinking that the 38 Oxley Road property had been gazetted by the Singapore Government, and that it was futile for Mr Lee Kuan Yew to keep his direction to demolish it.
“PM Lee thereby allegedly caused Mr Lee Kuan Yew, who had originally wanted to demolish the house, to consider other alternatives to demolition, and to change his will to bequeath the house to PM Lee.”
Calling the allegations “completely without foundation,” the letter continued that PM Lee gave a full explanation on the allegations in Parliament and reaffirmed his father’s wish that their family home be demolished. It added:
“However, after hearing Cabinet’s unanimous views that the property should not be demolished, Mr Lee eventually came to accept that the Government was likely to preserve the property in the public interest.
“He was consequently prepared to be flexible and contemplate options short of demolition. With the rest of the family’s knowledge, he approved plans to redevelop/renovate 38 Oxley Road to remove the private spaces.”
Asserting that the TOC’s article and Facebook post made other false allegations, the letter read: “One such false allegation is that after it was revealed to Mr Lee in late 2013 that the 38 Oxley Road property had in fact not been gazetted, he removed PM Lee as an executor and trustee of his will.
“The truth is Mr Lee had not included PM Lee as an executor and trustee in any of his wills from 2011 onwards.
“Mr Lee had explained to PM Lee that he did not want to put PM Lee in a difficult position, if the Government were to acquire the property and his siblings took issue over the compensation.”
Calling such allegation “libellous,” the letter noted that PM Lee has has chosen “thus far not to sue his siblings” and has told Parliament that “suing them would further besmirch his parents’ names, and was therefore not his preferred course of action.”
Noting that PM Lee made it clear that he would have “sued immediately” under any other circumstances and that “his decision not to sue his siblings then did not mean that he would not ever take legal action, should this become necessary,” the letter warned that the PM’s “restraint in suing his siblings should not be misinterpreted by others as free licence to repeat and spread false and defamatory allegations against him.
“He has to rebut and deal publicly with such scurrilous attacks on his integrity and character, if necessary through legal action. This is especially as such attacks are also directed at his fitness to hold office as Prime Minister and to lead the Government.”
The letter stated PM Lee’s request that TOC immediately remove the article and Facebook post and “publish within three days, ie by Sep 4, 2019, a full and unconditional apology, plus an undertaking not to publish any similar allegations, prominently on your website and on your Facebook timeline.”
If this is not done, “PM Lee will have no choice but to hand the matter over to his lawyers to sue to enforce his full rights in law.”