SINGAPORE — A Straits Times article, entitled “Lee Hsien Yang hints at never returning to Singapore, says he is unlikely to see his sister again”, reported on Tuesday (7 Mar) that Mr Lee Hsien Yang (LHY) in his recent Facebook post, expressed the possibility of never returning to Singapore amid an ongoing police investigation into him and his wife, Mrs Lee Suet Fern (LSF).
LHY is the younger son of Singapore’s first prime minister, the late Lee Kuan Yew and the brother of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (LHL).
The ST article, which does not have a byline, reported how LHY revealed the deteriorating health condition of his sister, Dr Lee Weiling, who was diagnosed with progressive supranuclear palsy in August 2020.
The Straits Times report highlighted that Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean had informed Parliament last Thursday about the ongoing police investigations into LHY and his wife for possible offences of lying under oath.
It noted that the couple had left Singapore after refusing to attend a police interview that they had initially agreed to, according to Mr Teo’s written reply.
Police stated that LHY and his wife left Singapore after being engaged in June 2022 and have not returned, wrote ST.
The report also mentioned the Court of Three Judges and a disciplinary tribunal finding the couple guilty of lying under oath during the disciplinary proceedings against Mrs Lee over her handling of the last will of Lee Kuan Yew, who died in 2015.
It goes on to state how LSF had been referred to a disciplinary tribunal by the Law Society over her role in the preparation and execution of Lee Kuan Yew’s last will, which differed from his sixth and penultimate will in significant ways.
Among the differences was a demolition clause related to the demolition of his 38 Oxley Road house after his death, which had not been in the sixth or penultimate will but was in the last, noted ST.
The report goes on to state how LHY revealed his intentions to run for the upcoming presidential election in an earlier phone interview with Bloomberg News.
“It’s something I would consider.” However, the ongoing investigation may affect his candidacy. “What the chances are that I will return to Singapore in the foreseeable future,” said LHY to Bloomberg.
ST, as with other mainstream media in Singapore, then went on about how several lawyers and law academics said the finding by the disciplinary tribunal and Court of Three Judges that LHY had lied under oath might affect his chances of candidacy.
Glossed over details from ST report
However, in its report, ST skips out how LHY has accused the government, under the leadership of LHL, of attacking him and his family for standing up for his father’s promise by writing, “Mr Lee repeated allegations he had previously made on the matter, including of harassment, surveillance, and smear campaigns.”
In his Facebook post, LHY wrote, “Yet another attack has just been launched, re-litigating the same issues that were raised by Lee Hsien Loong after probate of Lee Kuan Yew’s will, at the ministerial committee in 2016/2017, in Parliament in 2017, and in disciplinary proceedings in 2019/2020. I have now been condemned in Parliament and the press without due process.”
He went on to question how there could be fair and proper investigations or a fair trial in what is clearly a politically motivated prosecution.
LHY also accused LHL of misusing state resources to pursue his private agenda and called for leaders who put the country’s needs ahead of their own interests.
No reference was made to LHL in ST’s report.
LHY’s post also revealed the personal toll this dispute has taken on him and his family. He mentioned his sister Wei Ling’s serious illness and the campaign of harassment and surveillance they have faced.
“Wei Ling never married, and it fell on my shoulders to look after her after our father passed away in 2015. In 2019, she was diagnosed with a serious illness. I was so glad that just before COVID-19 in 2020, I was able to take her to Machu Picchu, a place she had always wanted to visit. She is now extremely unwell, and it pains me beyond words that I am unlikely ever to be able to see my sister face to face again,” he wrote.
LHY also revealed that he and his family had been subjected to a campaign of harassment, surveillance, and smear campaigns. He expressed his lack of confidence in the system, stating that after what he had been through, he had no faith in the Singaporean government and its system of checks and balances — a point that ST took note of at the end of its report.
SMT to be funded up to S$900 with taxpayers’ money
The Singapore government reaffirmed its decision to fund SPH Media Trust (SMT), a newly set-up not-for-profit media entity that includes media publications such as the Straits Times, The Business Times, Lianhe Zaobao, Shin Min Daily News, Berita Harian, and Tamil Murasu.
Speaking in Parliament in January this year, Mrs Josphine Teo, Minister for Communication and Information, said there is no change to the Government’s commitment to fund SMT up to S$900 million over five years.
She told the Parliament that there is a need to preserve local news in the public interest amid severe disruption in the media industry and that circulation numbers of the SMT’s publications were not a key consideration in assessing the funding required for SMT’s transformation.
Mrs Teo emphasised the importance of local news outlets as they give voice to the Singapore identity and Singaporean perspectives, and also provide information that people can trust to be accurate and objective.
It has become even more important to ensure their survival at a time when the Internet has made it exceedingly easy for all kinds of information to reach and influence domestic audiences, Mrs Teo said.
This was said by Mrs Teo in her speech responding to questions filed by Members of Parliament who were concerned over the scandal faced by SMT after Wake Up Singapore (WUSG) exposed firings and penalties imposed on staff over the misrepresentation of circulation figures on 8 January.
SPH Media, through a report by the Straits Times, acknowledged that some inconsistencies in the reporting of the data were discovered during a review of internal processes in March 2022, which looked at a period from September 2020 to March 2022 which resulted in a discrepancy of between 85,000 and 95,000 daily average copies across all titles, which represents 10 to 12 per cent of the reported daily average circulation.
This included the reporting of circulation data, lapsed contracts that continued to be counted into circulation data and also copies that were printed, counted for circulation and then destroyed, as well as the double-counting of subscriptions across multiple instances. There was also a project account which was injected with additional funding over a period of time to purchase fictitious circulation.