Progress Singapore Party’s Leong Mun Wai took to Facebook on 20 March to raise concerns about the government’s decision to publicly name Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Mrs Lee Suet Fern as being under police investigation, while withholding the names of executives involved in the Keppel Offshore & Marine (KOM) bribery case.
Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security, Mr Teo Chee Hean disclosed the police investigation against the Lees in his reply to a written parliamentary question by MP Zhulkarnain Abdul Rahim (PAP-Chua Chu Kang) on 2 March about an e-book that was published six months ago.
The Non-constituency Member of Parliament questioned the rationale behind the discrepancy and argued that the KOM case, which he considers to hold equal or greater public interest, should be treated in the same manner as the case involving the Lees. This was also pointed out in Parliament during his parliamentary question to Minister of Home Affairs and Law, K Shanmugam, on Monday.
Mr Shanmugam explained in his oral reply that the reasons for disclosing the investigations against the Lees were broadly similar to those for disclosing the investigations against Mr Karl Liew, with the additional fact that the former two had also absconded from jurisdiction.
In his Facebook post, Mr Leong took issue with Mr Shanmugam’s characterization of the Lees as having “absconded” from Singapore, a term that implies a criminal offence.
He pointed out that the couple had not been served written orders to report to the police for investigation under the Criminal Procedure Code, as the Minister in Parliament confirmed.
Consequently, Mr Leong asserted that it is inappropriate to label the Lees as having “absconded,” and questioned whether such rhetoric imputes improper motives and a presumption of guilt on their part.
He also raised the question of whether any KOM individuals had left Singapore and not returned.
Mr Leong further criticized the government’s handling of the situation, noting that the general public would likely view the KOM case as equally, if not more, significant in public interest than the Lees’ case.
He mentioned that the KOM individuals were already named publicly in Brazilian court filings and Bloomberg news reports, questioning whether there would be any harm in naming them in Singapore.
Additionally, Mr Leong expressed concern that Parliament is being used as a platform to influence public opinion on what he perceives as a family dispute.
He argued that it should be left to the courts to decide whether the Lees have absconded and that Parliament should focus on debating policies of public interest.
Mr Leong contended that what Senior Minister Teo and Minister Shanmugam have done risks turning Parliament into a platform to colour public opinion on criminal proceedings, rather than serving as a forum for policy debate.
“Absconding is a criminal offence and it should be for the courts to decide whether Mr and Mrs Lee have done so. It is not for the Minister to pre-judge on that score.”