By Leong Sze Hian
The dispute over the House and the Will should have been kept private. It is regrettable that our ministers are getting involved in what should have been a private matter. The right forum should have been a court of law.
I refer to the article “Oxley Road dispute: Indranee asks Lee Hsien Yang who drafted the late Lee Kuan Yew’s final will” (Straits Times, Jun 25).
It states that “Senior Minister of State for Law and Finance Indranee Rajah on Saturday (June 24) called on Mr Lee Hsien Yang, the younger brother of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, to identify the lawyer who drafted the final will of the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew.
On Saturday, her focus was on the will. She said Mr Lee Hsien Yang has insisted that Ms Kwa Kim Li from Lee & Lee had drafted it. But the lawyer, who prepared the first six wills, has denied having a part in the final document.
He also said his wife and her law firm Stamford Law, now Morgan Lewis Stamford, did not prepare the will.
But PM Lee recounted in a statutory declaration that his sister-in-law said she had got lawyer Ng Joo Khin from her law firm to handle it, which Mr Ng has not refuted, said Ms Indranee.
Calling on Mr Lee Hsien Yang to shed light on the matter, she said it raises questions on whether the late Mr Lee had received independent advice.
“Under our law, the lawyer drafting a will is required to be independent. If the lawyer has an interest in the will, the lawyer must make sure the person making the will gets independent advice,” she added.
The late Mr Lee made seven wills between August 2011 and December 2013, changing some of the terms over the years.
He had left a larger share of his estate to his daughter, Dr Lee Wei Ling, in the sixth will, but in the seventh will, all three of his children got an equal share.
This means Mr Lee Hsien Yang’s share increased, said Ms Indranee, adding: “As Mrs Lee Suet Fern is his wife, if she prepared the seventh will, then the question which will arise is what independent advice (Mr Lee Kuan Yew) received?””
As to “this means Mr Lee Hsien Yang’s share increased” – does it mean that the other beneficiary’s share also increased?
If this is the case – since we are on the subject of “interest” or arguably, “conflict of interest” – does it mean that all the beneficiaries whose share increased, may arguably, also have an interest or possible conflict of interest?
Is it also possible that the Minister in making these remarks may also arguably, have a conflict of interest as she is subordinate to one of the beneficiaries and she reports directly to one of the Ministers on the ministerial committee?
Since the Minister is not on the ministerial committee or the cabinet – in what capacity is she making these remarks?
Since the Prime Minister has lifted the whip on his own party and said that Members of Parliament (MPs) can ask all their questions on 3 July in Parliament – why is the Minister making these remarks now?
In this connection, I would like to requote what Mr Han Fook Kwang, former editor of the Straits Times wrote – “First, it is a valid question to ask how involved ministers should be on this issue. The only matter that concerns the Government is whether to preserve 38, Oxley Road, which it has the right to do under the Preservation of Monuments Act. Any other issue, including how the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew decided on his will and who his lawyers were, has nothing to do with the Government, or with you and me, least of all a committee of ministers.
Was it wise or necessary for ministers to be involved in such matters as Mr Lee’s will, which are difficult to ascertain? Should they not have confined themselves to deciding only on what to do with the house – demolish, preserve or some intermediate option?
In retrospect, ministers should have stayed clear of the dispute over the will. They should have told PM Lee: As the eldest child, please resolve the matter with your siblings. Do not involve us. We expect you to solve it, hopefully amicably. Involving the Government risks harming its good name and that of its ministers” (“Three key issues in the Lee v Lee saga“, Straits Times, Jun 21).
For the sake of Singapore, may I suggest that the Minister heed Mr Han Fook Kwang’s above remarks.
Mr Han also said “The family feud among the Lees is extremely damaging to Singapore” – the Minister should not arguably, add to the damage to Singapore as we are already the laughing stock of the world – let’s not continue to contribute to making us into the greatest laughing stock in the history of the world!
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