The estate of Lee Kuan Yew, the first Prime Minister of Singapore, has filed an application to the High Court for consent to appeal against court orders in a case involving the late Mr Lee’s oral history transcripts.
On behalf of the estate, Lawyers from Rajah & Tann said in a statement that the court orders “relate to the decision of the High Court to disallow a further affidavit to be filed by the estate, and to seal or expunge certain affidavits, portions of affidavits, and other Court documents, from the Court file”.
Last week, the High Court dismissed the application by Mr Lee’s two children, Dr Lee Wei Ling and Mr Lee Hsien Yang.
Dr Lee Wei Ling and Mr Lee Hsien Yang first filed a court application in September last year for rights to use, and have copies, as well as have control over access to a series of interviews given by the late Mr Lee to the Government’s Oral History Department between July 1981 and July 1982.
In the court ruling, Judge of Appeal Tay Yong Kwang ruled that the interview transcripts come under the purview of the Official Secrets Act (OSA).
In his judgment released late last month (29 Sept), Justice Tay Yong Kwang ruled that the content of the interviews was of a politically sensitive nature that Mr Lee himself had wanted to safeguard its confidentiality, by way of an agreement that he had signed after the interviews.
And since these interviews were conducted when Mr Lee was in office, and were part of a Government project, they would fall under the OSA, Justice Tay said.
He granted Mr Lee’s estate copyright to the transcripts, but ‘only for the purpose of ensuring the Government’s compliance with the terms of the interview agreement’.
He also stated, the transcripts were also to remain in the custody of the Cabinet Secretary.
After the ruling, the estate had said, “The estate is reviewing the court’s ruling that the copyright vested in the estate is limited to ensuring the Government’s compliance with the interview agreement, and does not include a right to use or make copies of the tape recordings and transcripts.”
“The estate believes that such an interpretation of the interview agreement runs contrary to the context, language and purpose of the interview agreement, and is considering an appeal against this ruling.”
“The estate is also considering seeking leave to appeal against the court’s decision to expunge parts of affidavits and documents filed for the purpose of the hearing,” it had said.
Justice Tay said in his judgement that the estate had filed an application during the early stages of the case to submit an affidavit to set out how the transcripts came into the possession of the Cabinet Secretary after Mr Lee’s death.
The affidavit explained that the transcripts were in Mr Lee’s home at 38 Oxley Road at the time of his death.
A member of Mr Lee’s family took the transcripts and handed them over to the Cabinet Secretary some time between March 23 and May 5 last year, thinking they were official government documents.
Mr Lee’s two younger children became aware of the transcripts on May 10, when they were handed the Cabinet Secretary’s official receipts of the documents by the family member.
But Justice Tay said the details surrounding the discovery of the transcripts “were unnecessary and quite irrelevant to my decision on the issues”.
He concluded, “Accordingly, I dismissed the Plaintiffs’ application and expunged those parts of any affidavits and other documents which set out or referred to the same details.”