Court application filed over Mr Lee Kuan Yew's oral history interviews

Mr Lee Kuan Yew during an interview on Aug 14, 2009.
Mr Lee Kuan Yew during an interview on Aug 14, 2009. PHOTO: ST FILE

Mr Lee Kuan Yew's two youngest children are taking the Government to court over interviews he gave more than 30 years ago.

Dr Lee Wei Ling and Mr Lee Hsien Yang, in their role as executors of the late Mr Lee's estate, believe control over the use of these interviews belongs with the estate.

Earlier this month, on Sept 2, they applied to the High Court to clarify the agreement that their father made in early 1983 over the use of these interviews, which were conducted by the Government's then Oral History Department.

A statement from Dr Lee and her younger brother, explaining why they decided to go to court, said they had asked for copies of the transcripts of the interviews given in 1981 and 1982. "These transcripts were in fact in the possession of the LKY estate," the statement added, without elaborating.

It went on to say that this request was in line with the interview agreement the late Mr Lee made with the Government. "The Government has disagreed that the LKY estate is entitled to use and have copies of the transcripts and the executors and trustees have filed an application to the High Court for an interpretation of the agreement," it added.

The interviews, which were done between July 8, 1981 and July 5, 1982 consist of transcripts and tape recordings. In 1993, the Oral History Department was merged with the National Archives to form the National Archives of Singapore, which collects and manages records pertaining to the nation's history.

When asked about the court application, a spokesman for the Attorney-General's Chambers told The Straits Times: "The executors of the estate of the late Mr Lee have filed an application to seek the Court's guidance on the proper interpretation of an interview agreement between the late Mr Lee and the Government.

"The agreement relates to the custody and use of certain interviews given by the late Mr Lee to the Oral History Department. The Government will establish the proper interpretation and status of the agreement before the Court."

The Attorney-General, being chief legal adviser to the Government, is a party to the court proceedings.

It is understood that the estate executors, represented by Rajah & Tann, do not want the transcripts accessed by anyone until five years from the date of Mr Lee's passing, unless written permission is obtained from the estate.

The elder Mr Lee died on March 23 at the age of 91, resulting in an outpouring of grief from Singaporeans in the year of the country's Golden Jubilee. He was prime minister from 1959 to 1990, before going on to become senior minister, then minister mentor.

A pre-trial conference was held yesterday and the next case management conference has been scheduled for Oct 27.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 23, 2015, with the headline 'Court application filed over Mr Lee's oral history interviews'. Print Edition | Subscribe