Oxley Road: 6 key points from Workers' Party MPs in Parliament

Clockwise from top left: Workers' Party chief Low Thia Khiang, chairman Sylvia Lim, Png Eng Huat and Pritam Singh.
Clockwise from top left: Workers' Party chief Low Thia Khiang, chairman Sylvia Lim, Png Eng Huat and Pritam Singh. PHOTOS: THE NEW PAPER, LIANHE ZAOBAO

SINGAPORE - Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, towards the end of his ministerial statement on the Oxley Road dispute, called on opposition Members of Parliament (MPs) to raise any questions they might have during the debate in Parliament.

He noted that it was striking the Workers' Party (WP) had filed questions concerning broad principles that contain "no specific allegations or facts about any wrongdoing or impropriety".

PM Lee added that he and his ministers will give comprehensive answers because they have nothing to hide.

WP's Low Thia Khiang, Sylvia Lim, Pritam Singh, Png Eng Huat and Leon Perera all spoke on the first day of the parliamentary debate on Monday (July 3).

Here are six points they raised:

1. How the saga affects Singapore

Mr Low - the first opposition MP to speak - outlined his party's "simple and broad position" on the saga: how it affects Singapore.

The WP chief went on to suggest that the acrimony between PM Lee and his two siblings, Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Lee Wei Ling, has much deeper roots than just the fate of the house, as all sides seem to be willing to risk the national interest by bringing a private matter into the public domain.

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

2. Blurred line between public and private

Mr Low said a "bright red line" needed to be drawn as it had been crossed too many times.

He said both the Government and the younger Lee siblings had handled the matter badly in what he termed a "Facebook brawl".

 
 

The Government should have been more dignified and not engaged Dr Lee and Mr Lee Hsien Yang on social media, he added.

3. Not a Korean drama

Urging the Government to take steps to end the dispute, Mr Low said the ongoing saga was not a "Korean drama show".

Faced with such serious allegations, he said PM Lee needed to address them in a proper manner.

"As the PM once said himself, such matters cannot be just 'you say, I say', it is the hallmark of the PAP (People's Action Party) government in the past to get to the bottom of such matter(s) via the court," Mr Low said.

Not doing so, he added, risked giving the impression that the Government was "afraid of what the Lee siblings will say or reveal".

WP MP Pritam Singh, noting that Singaporeans have been sued for defamation for much less in the past, said PM Lee has to go to court to rebut his siblings' allegations, or else "more Facebook posts will continue".

4. Conflict of interest

Mr Low called on PM Lee to clarify the role of Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam in the matter, given that he was a personal friend of Dr Lee and Mr Lee Kuan Yew, and is also part of the ministerial committee looking at options for the house.

Also called into question was the appointment of lawyer Lucien Wong as Attorney-General, given his role as PM Lee's personal lawyer in the dispute.

WP chairman Sylvia Lim, who disputed the appointments of Mr Wong and his deputy Hri Kumar Nair, a former PAP MP, wondered whether the Attorney-General's Chamber would act independently where the Government and Prime Minister were involved.

Ms Lim also asked if Mr Wong and Mr Nair would recuse themselves from matters concerning the house.

"I'm concerned about conflicts of interest. How would the AGC act on advising the Government on any decisions to take on Oxley Road?" she asked. "Are they already giving advice? Who is giving advice?"

In response, Senior Minister of State for Law and Finance Indranee Rajah said Mr Wong is "widely acknowledged as a top legal mind", while Mr Nair is among the "top six to seven litigators" in the country, and that there was no reason to pass them over for the jobs on the basis of these previous ties.

This is because "the rules of conflict are very clear... the Attorney-General and Deputy Attorney-General will not be involved where there is any conflict. There is no basis to suggest that either have not observed these rules," she said.

5. Special committee

Mr Singh said another option is for Parliament to convene a special select committee to look into allegations by Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Lee.

Casting doubt over whether a parliamentary debate would be able to lay the matter to rest, he added: "It is the allegations of abuse of power that must be decisively addressed, or else an odour will linger.

"The longer this sad episode drags on, Singapore's reputation will be cast in serious doubt."

6. How important is 38, Oxley Road?

Questioning the significance of the house in the larger context of Singapore's history, Hougang MP Png said it was clear to him that a political party was founded in the basement dining room of 38, Oxley Road, not modern Singapore.

Mr Png echoed PM Lee's earlier comments that the fate of the house "is really a family matter" and should not be outsourced to the Government to decide.

He said: "Years from now, how do Singaporeans want to remember 38, Oxley Road? A place where Mr and Mrs Lee Kuan Yew once raised their family or a house where bitterness resides?

 

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