PM Lee caught between a rock and a hard place

By June 17, 2017Current

TL;DR – Do also wrong. Don’t do also wrong.

The #FamiLee feud has just dragged on and on. PM Lee released a summary of the statutory declarations he made to the ministerial committee.  That statement explained why he was concerned about the circumstances that led to the execution of the last will of Lee Kuan Yew. PM Lee claimed that Stamford Law, where Lee Hsien Yang’s wife is a managing partner, drew up the last will.

Lee Hsien Yang has since come out to refute PM’s claim. Lee Hsien Yang claimed that the Lee Kuan Yew’s last will was drafted by Ms Kwa Kim Li of Lee & Lee, who had prepared his previous wills. In response to that claim, Ms Kwa Kim Li said:

“No, I did not prepare the last will”

Lee Hsien Yang then clarified in a Facebook post that the last will was simply the first will, which was indeed drafted by Ms Kwa, re-executed. In that post, he also clarified that the role of the lawyers from Stamford Law were merely to witness the execution.

The bigger issue is NOT about the will

Some people have wondered why Singaporeans should even be bothered by this feud amongst siblings. Isn’t this a family matter? Maybe we should all just stop commenting, stop paying the various Facebook posts any attention. Let the siblings sort this out privately. Give them a chance to heal the rift amongst them.

It sounds tempting. That surely would be sound advice IF the siblings didn’t accuse PM of nepotism and abusing his power for personal gain.

Unfortunately, they did. They have done so openly in that bombshell of a statement that sparked this entire saga off. And they have done it more insidiously. Just look at this post by Lee Hsien Yang:

What was his intention for highlighting that Mr Lucien Wong was PM’s personal lawyer and now is the Attorney-General (AG) of Singapore? Whether he meant it or not, there are now Singaporeans who are using this as “proof” that Mr Wong’s appointment as the AG was a reward for his service to PM. In other words, this was nepotism.

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The bigger issue about this entire saga is therefore completely relevant to Singapore and Singaporeans. It’s about whether PM was nepotistic and abused his power for personal gain.

What would Lee Kuan Yew have done?

Lee Kuan Yew would never have let an accusation of nepotism or abuse of power for personal gain go unanswered. He would sue the pants whoever dared make any of those allegations. Former Senior Minister Prof S. Jayakumar once explained Lee Kuan Yew’s practice of defamation suits like this:

“He (Lee Kuan Yew) is prepared for a robust criticism of his policies. He can be criticised for foolishness, maybe even for incompetence, for arrogance, but his red line was — not on reputation and integrity. So whether it’s opposition politician or any other source, if you allege his integrity, say corruption for example, he would want to demonstrate that that is a red line … He’s prepared to justify his record… (he wanted) establish a threshold here that you have people of integrity, including himself, in government, in Cabinet and they are prepared to defend the integrity.”

Indeed, PM Lee is no stranger to initiating defamation suits. Take Roy Ngerng for example. Roy Ngerng wasn’t someone who was particularly influential nor were the things he wrote widely read. And even those who read his stuff take it with enough salt to give you instant kidney failure.

Yet, PM Lee though it necessary to sue Roy Ngerng. Why? Because if PM hadn’t done so, then there is a possibility that some foreign institutions (e.g. governments, MNCs) may actually believe that there is a nugget, however small, of truth in what Roy Ngerng had said.

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And now, we have two of Lee Kuan Yew’s children accusing his eldest child, who also happens to be the Prime Minister of Singapore, of nepotism and abusing power for personal gain.

PM Lee’s siblings are far more influential than Roy Ngerng. Surely their allegations must be met with an equally, if not more, robust response than Roy Ngerng’s. Surely, if we applied the same principle that Lee Kuan Yew held in similar instances, PM Lee needs to act decisively to publicly prove that those allegations are baseless.

But PM Lee is also their brother

If PM Lee took his siblings to court, it will be extremely ugly. That would definitely end all hopes of reconciliation amongst the siblings. And that will definitely sadden PM Lee greatly. Sure. He is our PM. But he is also a person, a son, a brother, an uncle. He surely would not want to see FamiLee irrevocably torn asunder.

So what is PM Lee to do?

He’s caught between a rock and a hard place. On one hand, he has a duty to his country. On another hand, he has a duty to his family. Either options he chooses will be wrong. He can only make a choice that is less wrong, and find ways to mitigate any negative consequences.

And what about the siblings?

We wonder what the siblings were thinking about when they released their statement. Do they really have conclusive evidence that can stand up to close scrutity to prove that PM Lee did abuse his power for personal gain? If they do, then to protect Lee Kuan Yew’s greatest legacy (no, not 38 Oxley Road, but Singapore), they should produce those evidence.

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But if the siblings don’t have such evidence, then they shouldn’t even have made those allegations. They shouldn’t just sling mud at him on Facebook.  Sure. They could have called PM Lee an unfilial son, and even a terrible brother. But, if they don’t have conclusive evidence, they shouldn’t have claimed that he abused his power.

In so doing, they have shown that they are, at best, thoughtless, selfish, and petty. Did they not think about the negative consequences on Singapore that such baseless allegations would have? Do they not know that this would hurt Lee Kuan Yew’s legacy?

So what now?

Whatever the case is, the siblings should stop using using Facebook as a platform for such exchanges. That’s so immature. If this is just a petty squabble, then they need to do this:

Settle it privately. Don’t drag Singapore into this.

As for the rest of us, we should heed the advice of Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong:

So. Lee Hsien Yang and Lee Wei Ling, unless you have conclusive evidence that can stand up to scrutiny which proves that PM Lee abused his power for personal gain, you really need to stop this rubbish. Stop embarrassing Singapore.

~Editor’s note~
DPM Teo Chee Hean has shed light on the formation of the so-called secret committee.


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Author CRC

Working on a startup is a scary crazy process. To destress, I write random stuff.

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Join the discussion One Comment

  • Loke Weng Keong says:

    Today, the sky has opened up and our founding father is crying out loud over this sad episode of immature behaviour. Do you not hear his cries and wishes for this facebook nonsense to stop? If you are an adult, do the responsible thing and go thru the right channels to express your views, be it thru our legal system or parliament. Not to do so and to cast doubts on the system built up by our founding father without presenting strong evidence for a serious charge of nepotism, is most unbecoming of a Singaporean and unfilial of a son. For the daughter in law, you made a good living practising as a lawyer in this country and yet you do not trust the system you work to uphold? What irony.

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