All quiet on the western front?

by Teo Soh Lung

Several of my friends tell me that they are sick and tired of the Oxley Gate saga. They view it as a private family squabble and are disappointed that it has drawn international attention, bringing much embarrassment to Singapore and Singaporeans.

I too did not pay any attention to the family feud initially. Many months ago I heard that there were some contentious matters before the High Court pertaining to Lee Kuan Yew’s estate. It was none of my business to be curious about the lives of rich and powerful people. But when Lee Wei Ling and her brother Lee Hsien Yang (the Executors) released their joint statement on 14 June 2017, I sat up.

Allegations of abuse of power by a prime minister should concern all of us. The prime minister is the head of his cabinet and the leader of Singapore. He controls all our wealth. He oversees every government department. A squeak from him will send his subordinates scurrying to do the “right thing”.

The allegations of abuse of power by the prime minister were about (a) the setting up of the “secret ministerial committee” to look into the preservation of Lee Kuan Yew’s house at 38 Oxley Road after the prime minister’s sale of the property to his brother and after agreeing he had agreed to recuse himself from the matter; (b) appointment of the prime minister’s lawyer, Lucien Wong as the attorney general which opens up claims of conflict of interest. Apparently Lucien Wong is a renown corporate lawyer but has never been a litigator or a prosecutor and has passed the official age of retirement; (c) gift of objects through the prime minister’s wife who allegedly represented herself as the contact person for the PMO; and (d) the manner in which the prime minister obtained a copy of the signed deed of gift from NHB when he is not the executor of Lee Kuan Yew’s estate.

In a poor attempt to calm Singaporeans and save his image, the prime minister called for a parliamentary session, urging all PAP MPs to speak their minds. It was as good as telling the dog to bite its owner.

The prime minister dismissed the Executors’ claims as “vague allegations”. He and his deputy spoke at length about Lee Kuan Yew’s wish to demolish 38 Oxley Road and tried to read his intent from six revoked wills. DPM Teo even gave an unsolicited eulogy for Lee Kuan Yew, claiming that he and Singaporeans are sons and daughters of Lee Kuan Yew! It was most inappropriate to go so overboard. Fortunately, Chen Show Mao brought him back to earth when he said Lee Kuan Yew is not his father.

Members of the Workers’ Party urged the prime minister to sue the Executors as the PAP had always maintained that it was the right way to get to the truth. Alternatively, they called for the setting up of a parliamentary select committee to investigate into the allegations of abuse of power.

Regrettably, the prime minister declined to take up the challenges. He lamely dismissed the suggestion of suing, saying that that it will further besmirch his parents’ name.

At one stage of the proceedings, the prime minister made light about his wife, Ho Ching signing off as contact person for PMO when she delivered five items belonging to the estate to the National Heritage Board. He called the allegation “making a mountain out of a molehill!”

But was it really a molehill which the Executors have made a mountain of? I decided to check.

What I found in the facebook of Lee Wei Ling is the expression of a very distressed person. In an entry dated 1 July 2017, she said that soon after the death of Lee Kuan Yew, Ho Ching took “sabbatical” to “help sort out Lee family affairs”.

“She spent days at 38 Oxley Road “getting the photographer from ministry of Communication and information to photograph and catalog items which she would pack into plastic boxes to send to storage…

NHB accepted without protest many things Ho Ching wrongfully took and handed over, so many that they had enough to create a “Lee Kuan Yew Museum.” …”

If what Lee Wei Ling wrote is true, the items disclosed by the Executors in their statement were probably just a sample of the many gifts made to NHB by Ho Ching who has no business to give away Lee Kuan Yew’s properties as she is not the executor of his will.

At the end of the two day parliamentary session, we heard the prime minister and DPM Teo congratulating themselves about their performance, telling the public that all is well even though they have not rebutted any of the serious allegations of abuse of power.

The parliamentary session did not satisfy Singaporeans.

Gilbert Goh and his friends called a public rally “Singapore Belongs to Singaporeans and not to the Familee” at Hong Lim Park a week after. About 400 to 600 people attended the rally. Speakers called upon the president of Singapore to set up a commission of inquiry.

The government can and I am sure it will, ignore their call. But should we do nothing and let the matter rest in peace?

I think we can do a little for ourselves.

For a start, we should be alert and not let government propaganda overpower us. It is important that we make time to think, discuss and analyse. Remaining silent and shutting our eyes and ears will result in our demise in a most painful way one day.

The serious allegations of abuse of power should continue to bug us until the matter is fully thrashed out in court or an independent commission of inquiry.