SINGAPORE: There is “not a reason” to convene a Committee of Inquiry (COI) or a select committee as of now on the Oxley Road issue, based on what his siblings Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Lee Wei Ling have said, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in Parliament on Tuesday (Jul 4).
He was responding to clarifications from MPs and Nominated MPs (NMPs) on what action he plans to take following a two-day debate in Parliament on allegations by his siblings that he has abused his power.
Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Lee released a six-page statement on Jun 14 saying that they felt "closely monitored and fear the use of organs of state against them".
“If they say more and it becomes necessary, we will consider it very seriously, and when such a formal forum is convened, I’m sure there’ll be processes to invite, subpoena, produce witnesses, and then to have the matter resolved to the best of our ability,” PM Lee said in response to NMP Kok Heng Leun.
Mr Kok had asked if having a COI or a select committee as a platform where Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Lee could be invited to make their presentations would help to resolve the matter.
“Whether they refuse or they do, that will actually help us move on,” he said, adding that more allegations are likely to come out.
PM Lee added that there is “nothing” to stop his siblings from holding a press conference, lay out all their facts and information and charges, and open themselves to questioning.
Workers’ Party (WP) secretary-general Low Thia Khiang sought clarifications in the same vein from PM Lee, asking what will happen if the younger Lee siblings make more allegations.
“It depends (on) what they say," said PM Lee. "When they say, we will assess. As I said, if there’s evidence of wrongdoing, or serious evidence of alleged wrongdoing, certainly I will have to decide what to do.” He added that a COI, a select committee and legal action are options.
PM Lee said in closing during the debate on Tuesday that facts and explanations have been put on the record, and that Singaporeans have been given a full account of how the Government works, and what the Government has done, in the case of 38 Oxley Road.
“The allegations have been aired and rebutted. People can see that there has been no abuse of power, by me or my Government,” he said.
“WE ALL PRACTISE MAKING MOUNTAINS OUT OF MOLEHILLS”: PM LEE
In response to Mr Low’s question on “the evidence of abuse of power allegation” that PM Lee’s wife Ho Ching was acting on behalf of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) regarding loaning items from 38 Oxley Road for an exhibition by the National Heritage Board (NHB), PM Lee said: “We all practise making mountains out of molehills.”
According to PM Lee, it was a “simple matter of a battleship telegram and three old letters” that Ms Ho had come across at 38 Oxley Road, and he had thought they were “significant and relevant” to the exhibition that the National Heritage Board (NHB) was organising.
“I facilitated it and arranged for her to pass to PMO and for PMO to send it on to NHB’s exhibition. That's all. You call that representing the Prime Minister’s Office? She didn't have a business card from PMO,” he said.
MINISTERIAL COMMITTEE SEEKS TO UNDERSTAND MR LEE KUAN YEW’S WISHES: DPM TEO
Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, who chairs a ministerial committee set up to consider options for 38 Oxley Road, also answered several clarifications regarding the committee's role. He had delivered a ministerial statement on Monday, along with PM Lee.
In response to WP MP Chen Show Mao’s question on whether the ministerial committee’s inquiries beyond Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s final will on his wishes will undermine the work of the probate court, DPM Teo said that the committee is “not replacing the work of the probate court”.
“We seek to understand what Mr Lee's wishes were, what Mr Lee’s thinking (was) and we make no judgement. We are not in a position to make judgment and we not make any judgment on the validity of Mr Lee's will,” he said.
As for Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC MP Sun Xueling’s question on how the ministerial committee plans to continue its work “given the strong feelings” of Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Lee, DPM Teo said he is “not quite sure why there’s a need for such furor”.
He said he is “quite puzzled” about the difference between the positions of the ministerial committee and the Lee siblings. “We agree that Dr Lee doesn’t need to move out now so no decision is needed. We agree on so many things - what some of the parameters are; we agree that rule of law needs to apply. I'm actually not quite sure why there's a need for such furor.”
DPM Teo said that he hopes the ministerial committee is able to proceed with its work “calmly, objectively in a concerted way” without “heightened emotions being involved”.
Non-Constituency Member of Parliament Leon Perera asked if an independent committee which excluded Cabinet members could have been a better alternative.
To that, DPM Teo responded: “Whether we set up another committee, we could end up having a debate on whether this committee actually is independent or not. Who are the members, how is it constituted and so on and then eventually, (we) still (have) to decide whether to accept the committee's recommendation or not.”
The important thing to know is that we have “processes in place” and “honest, upright people who can carry through these processes honestly, independently and properly”, he added.