38, OXLEY ROAD DEBATE

Oxley Road: Rule of law and due process must prevail, say MPs

MPs attending the parliament session on July 3, 2017.
MPs attending the parliament session on July 3, 2017.PHOTO: GOV.SG

LKY set example by upholding communitarian laws over individual interests in land acquisition: NMP Chia

The late Mr Lee Kuan Yew upheld communitarian laws over the interests of individuals when it came to land acquisition, so it is hard to imagine him insisting that his personal wishes on the Oxley Road house must prevail, Nominated MP Chia Yong Yong said yesterday.

"I cannot imagine Mr Lee banging tables and insisting on the demolition of the house," said Ms Chia.

"As one who upheld communitarian laws over the interests of individuals, I cannot imagine (him) insisting his individual interest must prevail over communitarian interests.

"As one who defended the Government's land acquisition laws, I cannot imagine (him) insisting the Government cannot acquire his property. If in life he submitted himself to the rule of law, I cannot imagine him overruling that in death."

Speaking during yesterday's debate in Parliament, she added: "We must give due weight to Mr Lee's wishes (but) it will not be right to demolish the house solely because he had wished it. We cannot compromise the rule of law.

"The Mr Lee I grew up respecting would not put his personal desires above the interests of the country.

"There must be due process, we must consider the interests of the country as opposed to the wishes of a family."

 

DEEPLY DISAPPOINTED

Personally, I am deeply disappointed that national resources are consumed for what should have been a private family affair. But because the rule of law in Singapore has been called into question, and with it the integrity of the highest political offices of our land and organs of the state, we are here in Parliament debating the issues.

NOMINATED MP CHIA YONG YONG

On the importance of that rule of law, Ms Chia noted: "Allegations have been made against the Prime Minister for alleged abuse of power, cronyism, and against ministers and state organs for failing to act independently, or worse.

"Personally, I am deeply disappointed that national resources are consumed for what should have been a private family affair. But because the rule of law in Singapore has been called into question, and with it the integrity of the highest political offices of our land and organs of the state, we are here in Parliament debating the issues."

Ms Sun Xueling (Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC) said it appeared ironic that those who accused the Prime Minister of abusing his power were asking for an exemption from the rule of law, and an upfront commitment to the demolition of the house.

She added that this relied only on the first half of Mr Lee's will, ignoring the fact that he knew the laws of the land would always prevail - a point mentioned in the second part of his will.

Ms Sun also noted yesterday that the Preservation of Monuments Act had been in place since the 1970s, when the late Mr Lee was prime minister.

It was clear he knew that the decision to gazette a house for preservation or conservation lay with the Government, she added, and that he would have expected due process to be followed when it came to his own house as well.

Nominated MP Mahdev Mohan said some felt that acceding to an individual's wishes without due process and consideration by local institutions such as the National Heritage Board might establish an unwanted precedent for future preservation or conservation cases.

Dr Tan Wu Meng (Jurong GRC), added that land acquisition laws should apply equally, regardless of background.

Highlighting the link between the rule of law and due process, he also said that there were questions to be asked about the ministerial committee looking at 38, Oxley Road.

For example, could the task have been assigned to the Founders' Memorial Committee?

He also asked why the ministerial committee should be studying the late Mr Lee's will - an issue raised by some members of the public.

Such issues need to be explained, said Dr Tan, as the rule of law did not just depend on equal application and due process, but public confidence in this process as well.

 

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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 'Rule of law and due process must prevail, say MPs'. Print Edition | Subscribe