38, OXLEY ROAD DEBATE

Oxley Road: Dispute should be resolved in court, says WP chief Low Thia Khiang

The dispute over the house at 38 Oxley Road should be settled in court said Workers' Party chief Low Thia Khiang.
People in Raffles Place watching a replay of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's speech in Parliament addressing the 38, Oxley Road issues yesterday.
People in Raffles Place watching a replay of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's speech in Parliament addressing the 38, Oxley Road issues yesterday.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

If not, it risks people thinking Govt is afraid of what Lee siblings may say in legal hearing

The dispute involving Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his siblings over their late father's house should be settled in court, and not be allowed to play out over social media, Workers' Party chief Low Thia Khiang said yesterday.

Mr Low (Aljunied GRC) urged the Government to take steps to resolve the matter, telling Parliament: "I am personally perplexed and lost, as are many Singaporeans, on the Lee family saga. However, this is not (a) Korean drama show. It is a serious matter because it affects the credibility of our entire country."

He was responding to ministerial statements made by PM Lee and Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean. PM Lee had addressed allegations of abuse of power made against him by his siblings, and said he preferred not to take the legal route. But Mr Low said: "The Prime Minister is faced with serious allegations, (and) these need to be addressed in the proper manner. Such matters cannot be 'you say, I say'; it is a hallmark of the People's Action Party Government in the past to get to the bottom of such matters via the courts."

He added that if this is not done, the tit-for-tat exchanges will play out over social media between the Lee siblings and the Government.

It also risked giving the impression that the Government was "afraid of what the Lee siblings will say or reveal" in a court hearing.

Noting that PM Lee and the Government had taken people to court in the past, he said: "There is no reason why this time it should be different because it comes from the Lee family, and, in fact, the allegations are much more serious."

Mr Low, the first WP MP to speak on the issue, said his party was concerned about how the dispute would affect Singapore.

 

LET THE COURTS DECIDE

It is a hallmark of the People's Action Party Government in the past to get to the bottom of such matters via the courts.

WORKERS' PARTY CHIEF LOW THIA KHIANG

That it had played out on social media had hurt Singapore's reputation, and even caused countries that once had high regard for Singapore to "laugh at us", he said.

He added that the allegations of misuse of power had shaken international confidence in Singapore.

"This saga is distracting the Government, distracting Singaporeans, distracting the international audience, and damaging the Singapore brand," he said.

Admonishing the Government as well as the two Lee siblings - Dr Lee Wei Ling and Mr Lee Hsien Yang - he said both sides had handled the matter badly in what he termed a "Facebook brawl".

On one hand, the siblings had waged a continuous media campaign to keep Singapore in suspense and had not substantiated their serious allegations.

"If the accusers have details and concrete evidence that the Prime Minister has been lying and abusing his power, allowing his wife to influence the appointment of public officials, they should have made all of them public by now," he said.

On the other hand, the Government should have been more dignified and not engage them on social media, he added. "Cabinet members, more than anyone else, should refrain from making insinuations about the character and motivations of the accusers."

He pointed out that ministers have been "unnecessarily drawn" into what was essentially a family dispute. Consequently, the issue has also caused the line between what is public and private to be blurred and "crossed too many times" by PM Lee, his siblings and the Government.

Mr Low noted that there are serious challenges facing the country, such as terrorism, transforming the economy, fixing the transport infrastructure and navigating a volatile geopolitical environment.

"The ministers need to focus on rallying Singaporeans to be united in facing the challenges and not be participating in a divisive dispute," he said, urging PM Lee and his Cabinet to take all necessary steps to resolve the matter as soon as possible.

The Government has the power to "act decisively in the national interest", he added.

He said: "What further deliberations does the committee intend to make and how much more time does it need to come to a decision? End this saga now."

 

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 04, 2017, with the headline 'Dispute should be resolved in court: WP chief'. Print Edition | Subscribe