Defamation trial: LKY’s lawyer Kwa Kim Li’s handwritten notes reveal PM Lee Hsien Loong “has free rein”, “can handle Cabinet”

Prime Minister “Lee Hsien Loong has free rein” and “He can handle Cabinet” were among the words handwritten by the late Lee Kuan Yew’s lawyer Kwa Kim Li in her email correspondence with the Lee patriarch.

This was revealed in court on the fourth day of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s defamation suit trial against TOC chief editor Terry Xu on Thursday (3 December).

Ms Kwa, the niece of the late Mr LKY’s wife Kwa Geok Choo, was the lawyer tasked with drafting Mr LKY’s will and had admitted being part of drafting six of the seven wills from 2011 to 2012.

In his examination of Ms Kwa this afternoon, Mr Xu’s lawyer Lim Tean referenced an email sent by Ms Kwa to Mr LKY on 2 October 2012.

Mr Lim asked Ms Kwa if the handwritten notes were penned by Ms Kwa herself, to which she confirmed that she did.

“And you see the first of the handwritten words there, “Lee Hsien Loong has free rein”. Is that a reference to Lee Hsien Loong?” Mr Lim questioned.

“Yes. Yes,” Ms Kwa replied.

“And the words, “He can handle Cabinet”, is that also a reference to Lee Hsien Loong?” Mr Lim further probed.

“The answer would be privileged,” Ms Kwa responded.

Justice Audrey Lim, however, disagreed with Ms Kwa, stating that “this is what is written”.

She then sought clarification from Ms Kwa as to who “he” in the “He can handle Cabinet” referred to.

“He would be Lee Hsien Loong,” said Ms Kwa.

Kwa Kim Li searched for document on whether 38 Oxley Road was gazetted at least twice

Citing an email from Mr LKY to her and Dr LWL with the subject “Osley” (sic), dated 6 September 2012, Mr Lim asked Ms Kwa if she had received the email.

“Yes,” Ms Kwa replied.

“And are the handwritten notes in this email yours?” Mr Lim further probed.

“Yes,” Ms Kwa responded.

Mr Lim then asked Ms Kwa to read the handwritten words, following which the latter read out: “I can’t find gazette. Told him.”

When Mr Lim proceeded to ask her when she had searched for any indication or information on the gazetting of 38 Oxley Road, Ms Kwa replied: “It would be around this time in September 2012.”

Mr Lim then asked Ms Kwa if she had searched for the gazette after receiving the aforementioned email.

Ms Kwa replied that she could not remember “whether it was before or it was after”.

“Right. So you can’t remember whether you searched for the gazette before or after this email?” Mr Lim questioned.

“Yes,” Ms Kwa replied.

When asked by Mr Lim as to how many times she had conducted a search on whether 38 Oxley Road was gazetted and when she had carried out the searches, Ms Kwa replied that she had done so on at least two occasions.

“The first time I searched was around the time of this email. I had asked my librarian to check for me,” she said, referencing 6 September 2012.

“And the second time I checked or rather I searched it was perhaps a few days after. I have asked one of my colleagues one of the lawyers to check for me,” Ms Kwa testified.

Mr Lim then asked her: “So to the best of your knowledge, can you tell us again how many times did you search for the gazette?”

“I can’t exactly remember, but it would be twice … At least twice,” she said.

Mr Lim then asked her she had notified Mr LKY “on all the occasions” after conducting her searches, to which Ms Kwa replied that the matter would be privileged information.

While agreeing that the matter would be privileged if it was part of Ms Kwa’s solicitor-client relationship with Mr LKY, Justice Lim queried Ms Kwa as to who the “him” in “I can’t find gazette. Told him” referred to.

Ms Kwa then confirmed that it referred to Mr LKY.

Mr Lim later cited an email sent by Mr LKY to Ms Kwa on 16 October 2012.

When asked as to whether she had received the email from Mr LKY, Ms Kwa said that she did.

She also confirmed that the handwritten notes in the email were hers when asked by Mr Lim.

Referencing Ms Kwa’s last handwritten sentence in the email, which read “I can’t find Oxley gazette”, Mr Lim asked Ms Kwa if she had — around the time she wrote an email to Mr LKY on 16 October 2012 — checked on whether 38 Oxley Road had been gazetted.

“I can’t remember,” Ms Kwa replied.

Justice Lim then interjected: “Yes, but just to clarify, “I can’t find Oxley gazette” means you can’t find a gazette — sorry, you can’t find a document that shows Oxley the house had been gazetted?”

“That is correct,” said Ms Kwa.

When asked again by Mr Lim if she made another search on whether 38 Oxley Road was gazetted around 16 October 2012, Ms Kwa reiterated that she could not remember.

Handwritten notes on 17 August 2011 email included certain words and language “subsequently inserted into” Mr LKY’s will

Mr Lim earlier questioned Ms Kwa if she had drafted the six wills of Mr LKY between 20 August 2011 and 2 November 2012, to which she answered yes.

He then asked her if all but last two of the six wills contained the demolition clause for the 38 Oxley Road property, to which she replied in the affirmative.

When questioned by Mr Lim on whether the handwritten notes in an email sent from Mr LHY’s wife Lee Suet Fern to Mr LKY were penned by Ms Kwa, Ms Kwa confirmed that it is true.

The email, dated 17 August 2011, was copied to Mr LHY and Dr LWL.

Mr Lim then asked Ms Kwa if her handwritten notes in the email had included “certain words and language” which were “subsequently inserted into” Mr LKY’s will, dated 20 August 2011.

Ms Kwa responded that she did.

Kwa Kim Li forwarded documents to all three Lee siblings with a letter

Ms Kwa also disclosed during Mr Lim’s examination of her evidence that she had sent documents alongside a letter to PM Lee, Mr LHY and Dr LWL “as the only beneficiaries” of Mr LKY’s estate on 4 June 2015.

In the letter, Ms Kwa wrote that PM Lee had requested “file records” Mr LKY’s previous wills “for notes, emails, whatever information on Lee Kuan Yew’s instructions to you regarding Oxley”.

Ms Kwa also confirmed that she had sent a letter to the three Lee siblings on the subject matter of the estate of Lee Kuan Yew on 22 June 2015.

Mr Lim then asked her if she did attach the three categories of documents set out at the bottom of her letter, namely:

  • The draft will of 19 August 2011 with cover email;
  • The email trail of 16 December 2013 from Mrs Lee Suet Fern; and
  • The email trail of 3 January 2014 from Lin Ho, Mr LKY’s private secretary.

Ms Kwa confirmed that she did.

“And can I just ask you to confirm that when you mentioned Fern, it is a reference to Lee Suet Fern?” Mr Lim questioned.

“Yes,” Ms Kwa replied.

Ms Kwa, a senior partner at Lee&Lee, previously told The Straits Times that she did not prepare Mr LKY’s last will.

Dr LWL, however, alleged that Ms Kwa had “extensively” discussed changes Mr LKY wanted to make to his will before he signed the December 2013 will — the seventh and final will.

Mr LHY similarly previously claimed that the will was “drafted by Kwa Kim Li of Lee&Lee”.

Both PM Lee’s and Mr Xu’s sides are expected to send written submissions to the court in January.

Correction (4 Dec): When Justice Lim queried Ms Kwa as to who the “him” in “I can’t find gazette. Told him” referred to, Ms Kwa had said it referred to Mr LKY, not PM Lee as previously stated. We apologise for the error.

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