Singapore — There has been mounting criticism on social media of former Ambassador-at-Large Bilahari Kausikan over a Facebook post about Mr Lee Hsien Yang, especially after the latter shared a rebuttal published by his sister, Dr Lee Wei Ling.
In a social media post published on Cooling Off Day, Mr Bilahari had lashed out at Mr Lee after the latter urged voters to support the opposition fearlessly in the recent election. Asserting that Mr Lee was attacking the system even though he benefited from it because he was “prevented from monetising” his family home, the retired diplomat said Mr Lee was “trying to cause trouble without responsibility” and that this was “cowardly”.
In the comments section of his post, Mr Bilahari went on to claim that the Oxley Road house was sold to Mr Lee for a dollar when he actually had to fork out 150 per cent of its market value to buy it from his elder brother, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. Suggesting that PM Lee only did so because his younger brother “bitched” about it, Mr Bilahari had said: “His brother (PM) inherited the house and when LHY started bitching about it, sold it to him for SGD 1 dollar.”
Several people pointed out online that Mr Bilahari did not have his facts straight. PM Lee inherited 38 Oxley Road but sold it to his brother 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.
When he was criticised online, Mr Bilahari acknowledged 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!”
On Tuesday (July 14), Dr Lee ticked off Mr Bilahari for making baseless suggestions on the sale of the Oxley Road 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.’
“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.”
Mr Lee Hsien Yang shared his sister’s post but Mr Bilahari did not issue an apology there.
Some people online called his apology on Dr Lee’s page feeble since he did not address the matter on his own page and since the contentious post and the comment about the sale of the Oxley Road house still remains up on his page.
More than 1,200 people have reacted to Mr Lee’s post sharing his sister’s rebuttal, including Singapore Democratic Party Chairman Dr Paul Tambyah.
Those who commented on the post criticised Mr Bilahari for being so antagonistic towards Mr Lee and said that he should have done his homework before making such a comment.