38, OXLEY ROAD DEBATE

Oxley Road: Suing siblings cannot be my preferred choice, says PM Lee

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in Parliament on Jul 3 that even though he has a "strong case", suing his siblings will further besmirch his parents' names.
From left: Mrs Lee Suet Fern; Mr Lee Hsien Yang; then Chief Justice Yong Pung How; Dr Lee Wei Ling; Mr Lee Kuan Yew and his wife, Madam Kwa Geok Choo; Mr Lee Hsien Loong and Ms Ho Ching at a celebration on Mr Lee's 80th birthday in 2003. In his parli
From left: Mrs Lee Suet Fern; Mr Lee Hsien Yang; then Chief Justice Yong Pung How; Dr Lee Wei Ling; Mr Lee Kuan Yew and his wife, Madam Kwa Geok Choo; Mr Lee Hsien Loong and Ms Ho Ching at a celebration on Mr Lee's 80th birthday in 2003. In his parliamentary address yesterday, PM Lee said that while family disputes do happen, every family will understand these are not matters to flaunt in public, and that is why he has done his best to deal with it out of the public eye.ST FILE PHOTO

Legal action would sully parents' names and drag out process for years, causing more distress to S'poreans

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said suing his younger siblings "cannot be my preferred choice" because doing so would further besmirch their parents' names and prolong the dispute.

Many people, he said in his ministerial statement yesterday, have asked why he has not sued Dr Lee Wei Ling and Mr Lee Hsien Yang for defamation for accusing him of abusing his power in the matter of their late father's wishes for the family home at 38, Oxley Road.

They have also asked why he has not challenged the validity of the last will of the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew in court or taken some other legal action to end the dispute and clear his name.

"In normal circumstances, in fact, in any other imaginable circumstance than this, I would surely sue," he said, adding that their allegation of abuse of power, while baseless, is a "very grave attack" not just on him, but also the whole Government.

He also believes he has a strong case, after taking advice and considering his options very carefully.

"But suing my own brother and sister in court would further besmirch our parents' names," he said. "At the end of the day, we are brothers and sister, and we are all our parents' children."

PM Lee also noted that legal action would drag out the process for years and "cause more distraction and distress to Singaporeans". "Therefore, fighting this out in court cannot be my preferred choice," he said.

 

ON THE CONTRARY

Suppose instead that I had decided as PM to knock down the house, and had pushed that decision through without allowing the Government to consider the alternatives, weigh the considerations, and go through due process, just because it was what my father wanted. That would have been a real abuse of power.

PRIME MINISTER LEE HSIEN LOONG

The bitter feud erupted into the public sphere on June 14, when the two younger Lees posted a six-page statement on social media accusing the Prime Minister of abusing his power to thwart their father's wishes for the Oxley Road house to be demolished, to further his political agenda, and that of his wife Ho Ching.

The duo also said they had lost confidence in his leadership and feared the use of state organs against them, with Mr Lee Hsien Yang declaring he felt compelled to leave the country as a result.

In his parliamentary address, PM Lee said that while family disputes do happen, every family will understand these are not matters to flaunt in public.

That is why he has done his best to deal with it out of the public eye, for instance, by keeping his submissions to the ministerial committee private. But he said he had no choice but to defend himself and release a statement when his siblings accused him in public.

"I stand by the statements I have published but I really don't want to go further if I can help it," he said.

PM Lee had earlier said his statements during the debate will be separately issued outside the House, and not covered by parliamentary privilege, which exempts MPs from defamation suits for remarks made in Parliament.

This means he can be sued for making wrong remarks - a step that comes after Mr Lee Hsien Yang said he had no confidence there would be a fair hearing in Parliament, as only PM Lee's side of the story will be aired "with no promise of truthfulness due to parliamentary privilege".

SEE OPINION: 'Singaporeans entitled to full answer from me and my Govt'

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 04, 2017, with the headline 'Suing siblings cannot be my preferred choice, says PM Lee'. Print Edition | Subscribe