PM Lee asks The Online Citizen to remove 'libellous' article and Facebook post, or face legal action

In a photo taken on Nov 7, 2018, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong delivers a speech at the International Conference Singapore 2018.  PM Lee has asked Mr Xu to remove the article and post immediately and publish a "full and unconditional" apology by Sep
In a photo taken on Nov 7, 2018, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong delivers a speech at the International Conference Singapore 2018. PM Lee has asked Mr Xu to remove the article and post immediately and publish a "full and unconditional" apology by Sept 4, 2019.PHOTO: ST FILE

Letter says they repeat false allegations over 38 Oxley Road made against him by his sister

SINGAPORE - Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has asked The Online Citizen (TOC) website to remove an article and Facebook post repeating "false allegations" against him with regard to 38 Oxley Road, or face legal action.

In a letter addressed to TOC chief editor Terry Xu on Sunday (Sept 1), PM Lee's press secretary Chang Li Lin said the allegations in the article "PM Lee's wife, Ho Ching weirdly shares article on cutting ties with family members" and a post on TOC's Facebook page containing a link to the Aug 15 article, are libellous.

PM Lee has asked Mr Xu to remove the article and post immediately and publish a "full and unconditional" apology by Wednesday.

Ms Chang said the article and post repeat several false allegations against PM Lee that were previously made by his sister, Dr Lee Wei Ling.

The TOC article had commented on how PM Lee's wife, Ms Ho Ching, had shared a link on Facebook titled "Here's why sometimes it is okay to cut ties with toxic family members". That same TOC article also referenced a Facebook post that Dr Lee made in May.

Ms Chang said the TOC article and post allege that PM Lee misled his father, the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew, into thinking that the 38 Oxley Road property had been gazetted by the Singapore Government, and that it was futile for Mr Lee to keep his direction to demolish it.

"PM Lee thereby allegedly caused Mr Lee Kuan Yew, who had originally wanted to demolish the house, to consider other alternatives to demolition, and to change his will to bequeath the house to PM Lee."

These allegations are "completely without foundation", Ms Chang said.

In July 2017, PM Lee gave a full explanation on matters related to 38 Oxley Road in Parliament, after his siblings made similar allegations and accused the Prime Minister and his Government of abuse of power, she noted.

PM Lee had reaffirmed that Mr Lee's personal wish was for the 38 Oxley Road property to be demolished after his passing, Ms Chang said.

"However, after hearing Cabinet's unanimous views that the property should not be demolished, Mr Lee eventually came to accept that the Government was likely to preserve the property in the public interest.

"He was consequently prepared to be flexible and contemplate options short of demolition. With the rest of the family's knowledge, he approved plans to redevelop/renovate 38 Oxley Road to remove the private spaces."

The TOC article and Facebook post also made other false allegations, Ms Chang said.

One such false allegation, she said, is that Mr Lee removed PM Lee as an executor and trustee of his will, after it was revealed to Mr Lee in late 2013 that the 38 Oxley Road property had in fact not been gazetted.

The truth is Mr Lee had not included PM Lee as an executor and trustee in any of his wills from 2011 onwards, she added.

"Mr Lee had explained to PM Lee that he did not want to put PM Lee in a difficult position, if the Government were to acquire the property and his siblings took issue over the compensation."

Ms Chang also noted that PM Lee had chosen thus far not to sue his siblings.

"As he told Parliament, suing them would further besmirch his parents' names, and was therefore not his preferred course of action," she said.

"PM Lee also made clear to Parliament that under any other circumstances, he would have sued immediately, and that his decision not to sue his siblings then did not mean that he would not ever take legal action, should this become necessary."

However, PM Lee's restraint in suing his siblings should not be "misinterpreted by others as free licence to repeat and spread false and defamatory allegations against him, as the article and post have done", said Ms Chang.

"He has to rebut and deal publicly with such scurrilous attacks on his integrity and character, if necessary through legal action. This is especially as such attacks are also directed at his fitness to hold office as Prime Minister and to lead the Government."

Besides removing the article and post immediately, PM Lee has asked Mr Xu to publish a full and unconditional apology, plus an undertaking not to publish any similar allegations, prominently on TOC's website and on its Facebook timeline.

Should Mr Xu not comply, "PM Lee will have no choice but to hand the matter over to his lawyers to sue to enforce his full rights in law", she said.

Checks found that the article was no longer available on the TOC website as of 7.15pm on Sunday, but the Facebook post was still up.

The Straits Times has contacted Mr Xu for comment.