Lee Kuan Yew estate appeals court decision in relation to interview transcripts

Mr Lee Kuan Yew speaking at a PAP rally in 1980.
Mr Lee Kuan Yew speaking at a PAP rally in 1980. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The children of the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew have appealed against the High Court's ruling on an agreement their father made with the Government regarding interviews he gave in the 1980s.

Dr Lee Wei Ling and Mr Lee Hsien Yang filed an appeal on Thursday (Oct 27), a day before the deadline.

The High Court had ruled last month that it was not the intention of the late Mr Lee for his estate to have free use or custody of interviews he had given in the early 1980s as part of a government oral history project.

Dr Lee and Mr Lee, as executors of their father's estate, had filed a court application to clarify the agreement their father made about the use of the interview transcripts.

They had sought to have the High Court declare that all rights to the interview transcripts belong to the estate following Mr Lee's death on March 23 last year.

But the Government had argued Mr Lee's right to grant permission for use of the transcripts, access to it, or for copies to be made, was personal to him, and he did not intend for this right to transfer to his estate after his death.


 


The transcripts contained accounts of affairs of state as observed and experienced by Mr Lee, who was Prime Minister then.


 


 

He had signed an agreement with the Cabinet Secretary and the Director of Archives in 1983 specifying terms for the transcripts' use and administration.

Under these terms, the transcripts would be kept in the Cabinet Secretary's custody until 2000, or five years after Mr Lee's death, whichever is later.

During this five-year moratorium period, no one is to have access to the transcripts or use them without prior written permission from Mr Lee.

After this period, the Government may hand the transcripts to the Director of Archives.

In his judgement last month, Justice Tay Yong Kwang ruled that while the estate does hold the copyright to the transcripts, it was only for the purpose of ensuring the Government's compliance with the terms of the agreement.

He added that extracts of past parliamentary debates showed that Mr Lee Kuan Yew did not give the interviews as a private individual, but as prime minister.

He disagreed with the estate's argument that the transcripts did not come under the Official Secrets Act.

Earlier this month, Dr Lee and Mr Lee had also applied to court to appeal a particular decision Justice Tay made in the course of the hearing: They had wanted to submit to court a detailed account of how their father's interview transcripts ended up with the Government after his death. But Justice Tay did not allow it, saying "the details were unnecessary and quite irrelevant" to the case.

The estate wanted to appeal this decision, but withdrew the application last week.

Based on the agreement between the late Mr Lee and the Government, the transcripts were to have been kept by the Cabinet Secretary.

But they were found at the late Mr Lee's Oxley Road home shortly after he died. There was no record of why the transcripts were there.

Sometime between March 23 and May 5 last year, a member of the late Mr Lee's family, thinking that the transcripts were official government documents, handed them to the Cabinet Secretary without the knowledge or consent of the estate.

The statement Dr Lee and Mr Lee had wanted to submit to court was to have provided more details on what transpired.

But Justice Tay said the details "would only serve to distract from the real issues".