Separating state issues from the gossip

by Ghui

The family drama that has erupted in Singapore’s first family has all the trappings of a Korean drama. It is so riveting that I may consider taking a break from watching the latest season of the House of Cards. Speculation aside, this saga raises some serious issues that are worthy of consideration.

In a statement released by PM Lee yesterday, he has indicated that his siblings did not respond to questions raised by a ministerial committee that appears to have been set up to consider options in relation to 38 Oxley Road (Oxley Property).

Given that it is a ministerial committee, one has to assume that it is official and therefore funded by public coffers. Do we really need a committee constituted by the state to deal with what is essentially a private residence?

There is no doubt that Mr Lee Kuan Yew (LKY) is synonymous to Singapore. However, that should not be confused with LKY as an individual. This is a private matter and he had a will! If there are disputes with regards to the will, it should be privately settled between the Lees. Why is the state or the ministers involved in the first place?

LKY, prominent as he may have been was an elected politician He was not the head of state like the Queen or the President of Singapore. The Oxley Property therefore has absolutely no bearing on state affairs. It is not the Istana, which has official connotations and status!

Apart from the allegations of the misuse of state organs for personal political gain, which has already been raised, I would like to go back to the beginning of the debacle and ask why there was a ministerial committee in the first place?

Singapore is not a monarchy and political power is not inherited. Given Singapore’s unique political system which has been dominated by one party that is closely associated with one family, the distinction between what constitutes the state and what forms the “first” family is all the more crucial. Why has this issue been so seemingly fudged by the powers be?

Despite how juicy this saga is, we need to be able to pick out the state issues from the gossip fodder:

  1. Why is the government involved in the Oxley Property, which has no bearing on state issues, being a private residence?
  2. Who authorised the ministerial committee and is it funded by the state? If so, how much costs has this committee incurred?
  3. Do we need the committee if it is incurring state resources?
  4. What state organs have been misused?
  5. Who authorises which state organ to do what?

This drama may be considered entertaining to Singaporeans but until these prescient questions are satisfactorily answered, this incident will have served no purpose apart from racking up state resources and boosting a few days worth of popcorn sales.