38, OXLEY ROAD DEBATE

Call for further probe into allegations by select committee or inquiry panel

MPs yesterday called for further investigations into the allegations of abuse of power made against Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong by his siblings.

Nominated MP Kuik Shiao-Yin called for a select committee of Parliament, or a commission of inquiry with the "full authority to investigate the accusations" made by the siblings in their ongoing dispute with PM Lee over the fate of the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew's house at 38, Oxley Road.

Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Lee Wei Ling should have an independent, neutral space where they can be held to account for their words, and put down their side of the story on official record, she said.

She noted that details on the allegations are vague and "the people who can supply more detailed evidence to these questions are not in this room".

"If the allegations are true, the accused must be held to account. If the allegations are false, the accuser must be equally held to account," she said.

Ms Kuik also highlighted the importance of accountability in an age of social media in her speech.

"In our culture shaped by social media, where words are allowed to flow fast and free, it has become all too easy to forget why things like Statutory Declarations and Hansards matter," she said. "They remind us that for society to be strong, for a democracy to be resilient, we must all allow the law to call us into account for our words."

Other MPs also suggested setting up a special select committee of Parliament, comprising members from all parties, to look into the allegations.

They included Workers' Party MP Pritam Singh and Non-Constituency MP Leon Perera; People's Action Party MPs Zaqy Mohamad and Louis Ng; and Nominated MP Mahdev Mohan.

Mr Singh (Aljunied GRC) said he did not believe a parliamentary debate about allegations of abuse of power made by Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Lee would "put the matter to rest".

Mr Singh contrasted the current debate to one in 1996 when Parliament spent three days debating the sale of private condominium units by developer Hotel Properties Limited (HPL) at discounted rates to then Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew and then Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Then Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong said that while he did not doubt the two ministers' integrity, he had to protect the integrity of the Government. Mr Goh ordered an investigation and even questioned Mr Lee Kuan Yew and Mr Lee Hsien Loong. The parliamentary debate on the case had shone light on the issue and showed there was no wrongdoing.

"In the matter before us today, can we honestly say that we are apprised and fully aware of the evidence and facts relevant to the allegations of the Prime Minister abusing his power so as to come to the same conclusion?" Mr Singh asked.

He suggested forming a select committee of Parliament to tackle the issue, since PM Lee had earlier indicated he would prefer not to take the legal route: "Its remit would simply be to look into the truthfulness of the allegations and get to the bottom of the matter."

Mr Perera said the allegations made by PM Lee's siblings cannot be dismissed "without allowing to the accusers a public platform to defend and expand on their views, share their evidence and be cross-examined".

In response, Senior Minister of State Janil Puthucheary said it was "more interesting that there are no specifics, there is no evidence, there is no substance to the allegations", adding that this was a point brought up by MPs on all sides of the House. He also pointed out that a select committee was empowered by Parliament, and would have to report to it. Parliament would ultimately decide on the actions taken based on its recommendations.

"If we are going to choose these routes, the one thing we cannot do is say that Parliament isn't an appropriate place to deal with these matters," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 04, 2017, with the headline 'Call for further probe into allegations by select committee or inquiry panel'. Print Edition | Subscribe