SINGAPORE - The allegations of abuse of power that were made against Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong by his younger siblings in relation to their late father's wishes for the family home at 38, Oxley Road are too serious to ignore, said Nominated MP Azmoon Ahmad in Parliament on Tuesday (July 4).
Echoing calls made on Monday by several MPs, including Nominated MPs Kok Heng Leun and Kuik Shiao-Yin and Workers' Party MP Pritam Singh (Aljunied GRC), Mr Azmoon called for an independent committee for the accusers to present their case, and for the allegations to be further investigated.
"Any allegations on our Prime Minister shall not be downplayed nor dismissed, and it must be substantiated with evidence of such," he said, adding that he believes the issue warrants attention despite the hitherto lack of "clear nor conclusive evidence". This is because the accusers, Dr Lee Wei Ling and Mr Lee Hsien Yang, are figures of authority who hold respected positions in their own fields. Furthermore, they are the children of the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore's most respected leader.
Mr Lim Biow Chuan (Mountbatten) also made a similar call for the allegations to be closely scrutinised. But he agreed with Senior Minister of State Janil Puthucheary's comments on Monday that Parliament is the proper platform for such issues to be discussed. "If PM does not defend the allegations in Parliament, where (else) does he do so?", Mr Lim asked.
Mr Zainal Sapari (Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC) also raised questions about whether there had been any abuse of power involved in the handling of the deed of gift from the Lee family and the unusual terms that came with it by officers from the National Heritage Board (NHB).
"If there were NHB officers who were instructed (by any minister in charge) to accept the terms although they were unusual, this can be considered as abuse of power."
CONFLICT OF INTEREST AND UNDUE PRESSURE
Mr Liang Eng Hwa (Holland-Bukit Timah GRC) also raised similar points in relation to the allegations of abuse of power. While he is satisfied that there were no financial implications or misuse of public funds in the dispute over the fate of the Oxley Road property, he asked about the Cabinet's meeting with Mr Lee Kuan Yew in July 2011 about the property.
PM Lee on Monday (July 3) had said that while the late Mr Lee wanted the house to be demolished after his death, the public, newspaper editors, and Cabinet ministers disagreed with his view on the matter. At a meeting in July 2011 with the new Cabinet, the ministers were unanimous in saying that they were opposed to knocking the house down. Mr Lee Kuan Yew later accepted a proposal to redevelop his house at 38, Oxley Road, said PM Lee on Monday.
"Did the Cabinet ever put pressure on Mr Lee Kuan Yew to change his decision on 38, Oxley Road? Or did the Cabinet mislead Mr Lee by saying that, no matter what his decision is, the Oxley house will be retained?"
Mr Lim asked if any of the decisions made by the ministerial committee overseeing 38, Oxley Road were influenced by PM Lee, despite the fact that PM Lee had recused himself from all government decisions concerning the matter.
"Did the committee consult PM before any decision was made even though he had recused himself from any decision on the property? How can members of the public be assured that Cabinet members involved in the decision would make rational decisions and not worry that they would lose their jobs if they were to make a wrong decision about Oxley Road?" He asked for Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean to respond to these questions, "as any reply by PM (Lee) would be seen to be self- serving".
Mr Zainal also asked why there was a need to form a ministerial committee over 38, Oxley Road, given the existence of a 15-member Founders' Memorial Committee, which was set up in 2015 to gather views on what kind of memorial would best honour the legacy of Mr Lee and the first generation of political leaders. "Since its members comprise individuals that are considered to be independent, this would have been a better approach and the government can prevent any negative perceptions," he said.
SALE OF 38, OXLEY ROAD
Both Mr Lim and Ms Cheng Li Hui (Tampines GRC) asked about the sale of the 38, Oxley Road to PM Lee's siblings. PM Lee had offered to sell the Oxley Road house for the nominal sum of $1 to Dr Lee Wei Ling, and when this was declined, PM Lee subsequently sold the house to Mr Lee Hsien Yang for full market value.
Noting that DPM Teo had engaged Mr Lee Hsien Yang several times in mid-2015, before the sale of the house, Ms Cheng asked if DPM Teo had made any indication to Mr Lee Hsien Yang that the Government was agreeable with demolishing the house.
"If not, why would Mr Lee want to buy the house?", she asked. Mr Lim also asked if Mr Lee Hsien Yang had been aware that the Government was still deliberating about what to do with 38, Oxley Road when PM Lee offered to sell the property to him at full value.
PUBLIC SERVICE DIVISION POLL
Mr Charles Chong (Punggol East) asked for clarification on a poll conducted by the Public Service Division (PSD) in June, which asked public officers for their views on the ongoing spat between Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his siblings.
The PSD said that this poll was conducted as the allegations involved went beyond private matters and involve the integrity of the public sector. But Mr Chong said that questions remain as to whether such a poll was appropriate, as it is unclear what action will be taken with the survey results.
He asked for the results of the poll, what the data from the poll will be used for, and what concrete action will be taken to follow up on the poll results.