Veteran diplomat Tommy Koh has questioned why former Ambassador-at-Large Bilahari Kausikan has such an intense dislike for Lee Hsien Yang, after Mr Bilahari rebuked Mr Lee in a public social media post that was published on Cooling Off Day.
Mr Lee, the youngest son of Singapore’s founding PM Lee Kuan Yew and younger brother of current PM Lee Hsien Loong, joined the Progress Singapore Party (PSP) ahead of the latest general election. Mr Lee’s involvement with the opposition comes about three years after a fierce dispute with his elder brother over their late father’s last will became public.
Although he has been supporting the PSP by making public appearances, Mr Lee decided against contesting the election since he does not believe that Singapore needs another Lee in power. Mr Lee has also been speaking directly to voters in videos and interviews, urging them to give their support to the PSP.
In his final video recording on the campaign trail, Mr Lee urged Singaporeans to send a “wake up call” to the government and vote “fearlessly” for the opposition. He added: “No more blank checks. We must rescue the future of the country we love.”
Mr Bilahari Kausikan went on attack mode on Cooling Off Day, ferociously questioning Mr Lee’s intentions in standing with the opposition. Sharing a news article covering Mr Lee’s final election campaign comments, the retired diplomat 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’s post quickly went viral. Some Singaporeans seconded his views while others stood up for Mr Lee. Distinguished diplomat Dr Tommy Koh joined the fray and asked Mr Bilahari why he is so antagonistic towards Mr Lee. Dr Koh wrote: “Why such venom against LHY”
Dr Koh’s question was one of the top comments on the social media post. While Mr Bilahari did not respond to Dr Koh’s comment, a netizen replied to Dr Koh and said: “I consider your ability to remain objective and frank to be a quality that is lacking amongst politicians today.”
Unlike establishment figures like Mr Bilahari, Dr Koh has a reputation for being more progressive. Dr Koh, who serves as Ambassador-At-Large at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Professor of Law at the National University of Singapore, has publicly shared views that other establishment figures shy away from on multiple occasions and is well-respected by people from all political persuasions in Singapore.
While the arguments Mr Bilahari made in his post has drawn criticism, the retired diplomat has also attracted scrutiny for publishing the post on Cooling Off Day – the eve of polling day on which no campaigning is permitted. One Singaporean was so concerned that Mr Bilahari’s post constituted a violation of the law that he made a police report against the former ambassador over the matter.