Singapore’s PM, Lee Hsien Loong’s battle with his younger brother, Lee Hsien Yang, has grabbed Singapore and the world by storm, and now, the whole country awaits for his Ministerial Statement when Parliament sits on July 3rd. It is the day when PM Lee has announced to Singaporeans that he has lifted the party whip and has allowed Members of Parliament to question him and the Committee which has been looking into the deceased, Lee Kuan Yew’s final will.
The final will, of which probate has been granted is suddenly deemed to not hold any legality, which is the point of contention made by Lee Hsien Yang and the cause of this whole national and international fiasco.
The specific portion of the will being debated being:
Mr Lee Kuan Yew wrote in paragraph 7 of his will: “I further declare that it is my wish, and the wish of my late wife, KWA GEOK CHOO, that our house at 38 Oxley Road, Singapore 238629 (‘the House’) be demolished immediately after my death or, if my daughter, Wei Ling, would prefer to continue living in the original house, immediately after she moves out of the House. I would ask each of my children to ensure our wishes with respect to the demolition of the House be carried out. If our children are unable to demolish the House as a result of any changes in the law, rules or regulations binding them, it is my wish that the House never be opened to others except my children, their families and descendants. My view on this has been made public before and remains unchanged. My statement of wishes in this paragraph 7 may be publicly disclosed notwithstanding that the rest of my Will is private.”
So we understand a few things from Lee Kuan Yew’s will:
- He wants the house to be demolished immediately after his death or, if Wei Ling wants to stay, to be demolished after she moves out.
- If there are changes to the law, and rules & regulations bind the 3 children, then Lee Kuan Yew doesn’t want the house to be opened to anyone else except his children, their families and descendants.
Based on the above, the main point of debate by Lee Hsien Yang is:
- Why is there a need for a special committee to discuss on this matter before Wei Ling is even dead or moves out?
- Is there plans by the special committee to change the law or to enact new rules & regulations to ensure the house cannot be demolished? (This brings into question PM Lee’s abuse of power allegations)
Now, we have many other MPs who have joined in the fray against Lee Hsien Yang mentioning a few things:
- Who drafted the final will?
- Did Lee Kuan Yew had the mental capacity to understand his final will?
- Did Lee Kuan Yew have enough time (5 mins) to fully comprehend his final will?
Above and beyond what the issue is about, I would like to bring your attention to the upcoming Parliamentary sitting on July 3rd whereby PM Lee will address questions regarding this issue, thereby possibly invoking his Parliamentary Privilege.
For most of us who are unaware of what Parliamentary Privilege is, the statutes clearly state the following (I’ve selected several important paragraphs to ponder):
—(1) It shall not be lawful —
while in attendance on Parliament or any committee, to compel such person to attend as a witness in any court or tribunal or at any commission of inquiry or committee of inquiry or before any like authority empowered to summon witnesses.
—(1) No public officer shall be required —
—(1) For any dishonourable conduct, abuse of privilege or contempt, on the part of a Member, Parliament may —
direct that he be reprimanded or admonished in his place by the Speaker.
(2) Where a Member has been found guilty of abuse of privilege in respect of anything said in Parliament by him, Parliament may, by resolution and without prejudice to its powers under subsection (1), suspend him for such period as may be specified in the resolution from the privileges and immunities conferred by sections 3, 5 and 6 in so far as they relate to liability to civil proceedings.
(3) During the period specified under subsection (2) such privileges and immunities shall cease to apply to the Member who shall be liable to civil proceedings in respect of anything said by him in, or any written statement made by him to, Parliament.
(4) For any contempt on the part of a stranger, Parliament may —
- Whatever is being discussed in Parliament, cannot be tendered in court. This thereby puts Lee Hsien Yang and Lee Wei Ling at a disadvantage.
- If PM Lee puts forth any evidence in Parliament, it cannot be used in court.
- It is going to be very difficult to find PM Lee guilty of abuse of power because if he was found guilty of abusing his power as alleged by Lee Hsien Yang, then Cabinet Minister who are sitting in the committee reviewing the Oxley Rd house may also be liable to the same offence and well, you think anyone in there gonna let that happen meh?
But the overarching question here is, and this is where I believe most Singaporeans are concerned with:
- The legality of the will – not in question.
- So, why not debate it in open court where the court can issue rulings on it when evidence is presented.
- If, this issue is debated in Parliament and nothing debated in there can be used in court, does this mean that Parliamentarians can be above the law? That exercising Parliamentary Privilege is a loophole to be above the law or to avoid actions by the court because if it can, then I don’t see how Singaporeans or the rest of the world can hold our Parliament and its Parliamentarians in high regard.