SINGAPORE, July 6 — The dispute over 38 Oxley Road is far from achieving closure, but as far as the allegations of abuse of power by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong are concerned, the air has been cleared pending new evidence brought to light.
This was the general view of most People’s Action Party (PAP) Members of Parliament (MPs) and Nominated MPs (NMPs) who spoke to TODAY, following the two-day parliamentary debate earlier this week over the allegations that saw 29 MPs speak about the issues.
Reflecting the views of several of his colleagues, Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC MP Zainal Sapari said: “There is no closure regarding the family dispute, but I am very satisfied that there wasn’t any abuse of power by PM or the organs of state, based on what I have heard in Parliament.
"Also, after going through his siblings’ accusations, I can see there is no verifiable or substantive evidence.”
However, at least two NMPs — Kok Heng Leun and Azmoon Ahmad — said they were not satisfied with the outcome of the debate, while Workers’ Party MPs approached by TODAY declined to comment.
For the other MPs who spoke to TODAY, they felt that concerns which have been allayed included the claims of conflict of interest over the appointment of Attorney-General Lucien Wong, who was PM Lee’s personal lawyer, and the workings of the Ministerial Committee set up to explore the options for 38 Oxley Road.
They were also assured of the robustness of the checks and balances on possible abuses of power, and were satisfied with the explanation from PM Lee and other political officeholders on the controversy over the Deed of Gift for several items from the house, which PM Lee’s siblings accused the PM of obtaining improperly.
Nevertheless, they noted that several questions remained unanswered, including that of who drafted Lee Kuan Yew’s last will.
Some of them reiterated the call for a Committee of Inquiry (COI) to be set up.
PM Lee had said there is no need to convene a COI or a Parliamentary Select Committee, as there were “no specifics to the headline charge of abuse of power”.
Nevertheless, if his siblings continue to make accusations and there is proof of alleged wrongdoing, PM Lee said he would assess these options.
Mountbatten MP Lim Biow Chuan said: “The allegations are very bare. But I still want to know who drafted the last will. There are still questions as to whether it contradicts (Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s) intentions.”
Nee Soon GRC MP Louis Ng said he maintains the view that setting up a Select Committee is “the way forward” should new evidence surface.
Kok said that Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Lee Wei Ling would have to be “questioned openly” for their serious allegations.
“An investigation by a Select Committee or COI is an important step towards making everyone accountable for the things they say,” he said.
“I don’t think the debate sufficiently addressed my concerns … This parliamentary debate only allowed us to hear the government’s side of the story.”
While he acknowledged that there was “no real evidence” of wrongdoing by PM Lee or the Government, Azmoon felt that an independent inquiry should be conducted to allow both sides to be heard.
He lauded PM Lee’s intention of bringing the matter into the open by calling for the parliamentary debate.
But he pointed out: “You open the can, but you don’t close it … we are not satisfied as we don’t have a conclusive situation where we can say, ‘The matter is closed’.”
On Tuesday, Emeritus Senior Minister (ESM) Goh Chok Tong raised eyebrows with his suggestions that Lee Hsien Yang and his wife were seeking to bring PM Lee down, and there were “deep cracks within the family” beyond the disagreement over the property.
Goh’s press secretary, Heng Aik Yeow, said the former prime minister did not wish to comment further at this juncture.
MPs who spoke to TODAY said they did not want to speculate on what Goh had meant. “I am sure that ESM has his reasons for saying that. It is not our place to question,” said Chua Chu Kang GRC MP Zaqy Mohamed.
Sapari noted that Goh knows the Lee family quite well and “probably made the comments based on his relationship with (them)”.
Meanwhile, PM Lee waived his parliamentary privilege yesterday, by releasing to the media his ministerial statements and the accompanying material, including email exchanges between family members. These were delivered in the House during the parliamentary debate on the matter.
“As I stated I would do in my Ministerial Statement on July 3, 2017, I am reproducing the speech that I made in Parliament here as a statement made by me outside of Parliament which is not covered by parliamentary privilege,” PM Lee said.
Parliamentary privilege refers to the legal immunity that prevents MPs from being prosecuted for statements made in Parliament or as part of their parliamentary duties. This immunity allows MPs to speak freely on issues without fearing legal consequences.
These may include being sued for defamation. Waiving this privilege means that if any part of an MP’s statement is disputed, further legal action can be pursued. — TODAY