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OXLEY DEBATE

Debate shows no abuse of power: PM

No basis to convene select committee or commission of inquiry as allegations are unsubstantiated

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"We must all get back to work. Come together, tackle the challenges before us. My team and I will do our best to continue building this Singapore, keeping it safe, and making it prosper."

Singapore

THE lengthy debate over allegations that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had misused his authority regarding the fate of his family's Oxley Road home ended on Tuesday, with PM Lee stressing that the parliamentary session had sent a clear message to Singaporeans that there was no abuse of power by either him or the government.

Not a single member of parliament produced or alleged any additional facts or charges, or substantiated any of the allegations, he told the House in a speech to wrap up the debate.

PM Lee said that he and the government have "acted properly and with due process", adding that there was "no basis" to the allegations of abuse of power levelled against him by his younger siblings Lee Wei Ling and Lee Hsien Yang.

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The Lee family feud erupted into the public sphere on June 14 when the two siblings charged that their elder brother had misused his power over the handling of 38 Oxley Road.

Among other things, the siblings accused PM Lee of setting up a "secret" ministerial committee as part of efforts to prevent the house from being demolished, as the late Mr Lee had wished for.

In an emotional speech on Tuesday, PM Lee said that he hoped the two-day debate had cleared the air and would calm things down, even as he claimed that it would be "unrealistic" to expect that the matter was completely put to rest.

He admitted that he did not know if his siblings would make any further statements or allegations on the matter. If they did, and depending on the content, he would consider his options such as taking legal action or forming a Select Committee in Parliament.

For now, however, PM Lee felt there was no basis to set up such a committee or convene a Commission of Inquiry (COI), given that the allegations have gone unsubstantiated.

"Even the opposition is not accusing the government of abuse of power. So why do we need a select committee or COI, and drag this out for months? It will be another Korean drama, a full-scale serial. Should we set up select committees to investigate every unsubstantiated allegation, every wild rumour?"

The prime minister was responding to suggestions by several MPs, including from his own People's Action Party, to form a select committee or COI to conduct a formal investigation.

But given that there were "no specifics" to the headline charge of abuse of power, PM Lee felt such a move at this point was not needed. "What specifically did I do that was wrong? What was wrong with that? Who was involved? When did it happen?"

He reminded MPs that if they believe that something is wrong, it was their job to pursue the facts, make those allegations in their own names, and decide whether something seemed to be wrong.

"If you think something is wrong, even if you are not fully sure, then come into this House, confront the government firmly, and ask for explanations and answers," he said.

If they are still not satisfied at the end of it all, then they should demand a select committee or COI, but PM Lee emphasised that they should not repeat allegations and attribute them to others, and then ask for a select committee or COI on that basis.

"The accusers may not be in Parliament, but that should not stop MPs from talking to them to get their story, or the accusers from getting in touch with MPs to tell their story so that the MPs can raise it on their behalf in Parliament," said Mr Lee.

That is a key reason why Parliamentary Privilege exists, he added, so that MPs can make allegations in the House that are not completely proven and may be defamatory, without fear of being sued for defamation.

In his speech on Tuesday, PM Lee addressed some specifics about the Oxley Road discussions with his siblings, including one incident in May 2015 when he agreed to transfer the property to Dr Lee for the sum of S$1.

PM Lee said that Mr Lee Hsien Yang also wanted to be a part of that deal and to buy the share jointly with Dr Lee from him for a single dollar. In the end, the deal failed to go through and PM Lee eventually transferred the house to Mr Lee Hsien Yang at market value.

Responding on Facebook, Dr Lee wrote that when PM Lee offered to sell 38 Oxley Road to her, she had immediately asked Mr Lee Hsien Yang to be part of the deal with her.

"I have neither the time, nor the inclination to deal with the house on my own," she said.

Dr Lee also made it clear that Mr Lee Hsien Yang did not ask to join her in purchasing the house from PM Lee for S$1.

"Also, Hsien Yang had long planned to demolish the house when I no longer need it and convert it into a public garden. Neither of us were planning to profit from the deal," she said.

In his speech, PM Lee noted that having the benefit of the ministerial statements and debate meant that Singaporeans were now in a "better position" to judge the facts and see the issue in perspective.

"We can all get back to what we should be focused on, and not be distracted from our national priorities and responsibilities," he said as he called on Singapore to focus on more important issues and unite.

"We must all get back to work. Come together, tackle the challenges before us. My team and I will do our best to continue building this Singapore, keeping it safe, and making it prosper," he said.


Key points

  • PM states that no MP produced or alleged any extra facts or charges during Parliament debate
  • He doesn't expect the ongoing dispute to end yet, is unsure if siblings will make more allegations
  • Dispute aside, the government should not be distracted from national priorities and responsibilities

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