38, OXLEY ROAD DEBATE

Oxley Road: WP gives PM Lee Hsien Loong benefit of doubt, but can’t say if charges are baseless, says Low Thia Khiang

Workers' Party chief Low Thia Khiang asks if it is "double standards" if Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong does not sue his siblings but ministers had, in the past, not hesitated to sue political opponents.
PHOTO: GOV.SG

Claims made by PM's siblings have not been fully probed, so WP will keep an open mind, says Low

The Workers' Party (WP) cannot conclude whether the allegations made against Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong by his two younger siblings are baseless, as their claims have not been thoroughly investigated yet, party chief Low Thia Khiang said in Parliament yesterday.

Declaring that his party will keep an open mind, he added: "We are prepared to give the benefit of the doubt to the Prime Minister.''

He also said that "personally, I will not be convinced until the entire allegation is given a convincing or conclusive airing".

Mr Low (Aljunied GRC) was responding to Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, who had asked him to state clearly his position on whether the accusations of abuse of power Dr Lee Wei Ling and Mr Lee Hsien Yang had levelled at PM Lee were baseless.

PM Lee's siblings made the claim in a June 14 statement on social media, alleging that he abused his power in his bid to thwart the demolition of the family home in Oxley Road. It spilt into the open the family feud, with the accusations calling into question the integrity of the Government.

For Mr Goh (Marine Parade GRC), the debate reminds him of a 1996 episode when he, as Prime Minister, investigated Mr Lee Kuan Yew and then Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on their purchase of discounted condominium units in Nassim Jade.

He found that they had acted with integrity.

NOT CONVINCED YET

We keep our minds open, we are prepared to give the benefit of the doubt to the Prime Minister... For me personally, I will not be convinced until the entire allegation is given a convincing or conclusive airing, that means we should know what else do they have.

WORKERS' PARTY CHIEF LOW THIA KHIANG

Mr Low was already an MP then, and declared that he was convinced the two Lees were blameless.

But the ongoing dispute over the Oxley Road house was different, Mr Low said yesterday.

First, the Nassim Jade case was a "market rumour" without any allegation of corruption or wrongdoing.

Second, the person at the centre of the Nassim Jade episode - property developer Ong Beng Seng - issued a public statement to explain the matter to clear the air before the Parliament session.

Third, the people in the dispute were neither the prime minister nor the head of the Government at the time.

However, in the current case, he said, the Prime Minister, who is the head of the Government and secretary-general of the People's Action Party (PAP), is accused of wrongdoing.

"This episode, there is no investigation done, it is ownself defend ownself in Parliament with the PAP MPs," he said.

 

"I wonder how would you convince me, my party and Singaporeans that it is conclusive and something we can all be convinced of entirely?" he added.

Mr Low felt the court was the correct platform to settle the dispute, a point he made on Monday, the first day of the two-day debate.

Yesterday, however, he said he understood the difficulty PM Lee faced in taking legal action against his siblings. Still, he hoped the PM would clarify why he did not sue.

Was he not worried his reluctance to sue his siblings would be seen as double standard, he asked.

Mr Low also pointed out that when Mr Goh was prime minister, he had sued WP politician Tang Liang Hong for making a defamatory police report in 1997.

"Does not this also show that blood is thicker than water? Own sibling cannot sue... but political opponents and critics, sue until your pants drop."

In a swift rejoinder, Mr Goh described Mr Low's remarks as "political sophistry", and added: "As for Tang Liang Hong, he is not (my) brother."

Mr Goh also chided WP MP Png Eng Huat (Hougang) for reading out the allegations the Lee siblings made in their statement.

In doing it on Monday, he was "spreading rumour" when he should have stated his position on what was being read, Mr Goh said.

Replying, Mr Png said he read aloud the allegations because he was seeking clarification on them.

 

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 05, 2017, with the headline 'WP gives PM benefit of doubt, but can't say if charges are baseless'. Print Edition | Subscribe