by Robin Chee
The parliamentary debate may be over but it has left several of the most pertinent questions ignored and instead raised more doubts about the Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and the government.
1. PM’s refusal to sue his siblings despite their grave accusations on his integrity and reputation. His reason, after all the tear-jerking drama, is that he doesn’t want to aggravate this family quarrel and that he wanted to fulfil his father’s wish to look after his siblings. So, it’s blatantly clear that the PM has placed his personal interests/desires over those of his nation. Because from what the political leaders have espoused over the years (including the wise statements by ESM Goh Chok Tong), not suing (regardless of the party responsible for the defamatory remarks) is akin to an admission of wrong-doing.
In previous instances, when quizzed on why it was not enough to just refute the remarks made by an accuser, political leaders have reiterated that suing is the ideal manner to clear one’s name as the Court would be the most appropriate/fair/qualified arbiter. By refusing to sue, the PM left many citizens wondering if he did have something to hide (even if he didn’t) and severely damages the nation he governs as many local and foreign observers would now view the nation with doubtful and suspicious eyes.
More importantly, if the PM could place his siblings above the perceived reputation of the country, we have to ask if there’s anything at all that’s more important than the perceived reputation of the country that would prompt the PM to sue his own siblings. It’s one thing to be labelled incompetent in formulating certain policies but it is DANGEROUS for a leader to be willing to disregard the perceived reputation of his nation and his own recommended policy (of suing) for the self-serving purpose of keeping his family intact.
2. PM remarked that the issue would be further escalated and aggravated if he were to sue his siblings as the process of doing so could take years and it would lead to a full-scale Korean drama. But is this really true? When you take legal actions against the accusers, the accusers would be (reasonably expected to be) fearful or concerned enough not to post anything defamatory or potentially defamatory in the meantime (unless they have substantial evidence that their accusations are true). So, in this case, how would suing prolong the drama? And would not suing reduce the drama? No. Because even the PM did admit that he wouldn’t be able to control his siblings from posting any more allegations after the Parliamentary debate.
3. Why was the Ministerial Committee set up in the first place if it cannot make any binding recommendation? Sure, you can claim that it’s just the “normal procedure” but is it really necessary for valuable resources to be channelled to this largely impotent committee? As the issue of what must be done to the said property would probably not need to be addressed until 20-30 years later, what’s the point of setting up the committee as the recommendations would probably be deemed outdated or invalid by the government of the day 20-30 years later?
Even if Dr Lee Weiling were to move out suddenly tomorrow, surely, we can rely on our supremely talented and well-paid ministers to convene a committee and make a decision before long? I think it all boils down to the inflexibility and inefficiency of this government primarily as the result of too many draconian rules and red tape. I can still remember the Director of the Ministry I was interviewing with animatedly false-banging his head against the window to demonstrate to me how red tape had tortured him to no end.
4. Minister Lawrence Wong claimed that even though public opinion was considered in considering whether the said house should be abolished or preserved, it was eventually not followed as “public opinion can change from time to time”. He established that one poll showed that the majority of the public wanted the house preserved after the publication of “Hard Truths”, another poll showed that most wanted it to be demolished after LKY died.
Could Mr. Wong please enlighten us which polls he was referring to and whether the polls were representative and statistically significant? And even if he wanted to showcase that the public is fickle-minded, he would need to showcase that the same group or largely the same group of people were interviewed, right? And does it mean that public opinion can be followed only when the opinion remained the same over years, decades, centuries? If so, what’s the point of engaging the public as it would be impossible or unbelievable that public opinion would remain unchanged over a period of time? So why can’t he take the latest public opinion (assuming it’s statistically significant) and just follow it? Or can he educate us when would the government actually follow public opinion?
For instance, must it be strong and unchanging over decades, and it must also correspond with the guidance and suggestions of “experts”? And since preservation of monuments is geared primarily to benefit the people, shouldn’t the citizens have more say on the matter instead of some pseudo experts, including those in the committee, many who are not even trained in the significance of social memory.
This post was first published as a comment on TOC’s fanpage