THE dispute over Lee Kuan Yew’s house reveals a vendetta with the aim of bringing down the prime minister, said elder Singaporean statesman Goh Chok Tong.
Speaking at Parliament on the second day of the debate over the Lee house at 38, Oxley Road, Goh said the family spat was only a “fig leaf for the deep cracks within the family” that widened over the years.
“From what Lee Hsien Yang and his wife are freely telling many others, it is clear that their goal is to bring Lee Hsien Loong down as PM, regardless of the huge collateral damage suffered by the government and Singaporeans,” he said according to a transcript of his speech that was published in the Straits Times.
“It is now no more a cynical parlour game. If the Lee siblings choose to squander the good name and legacy of Lee Kuan Yew, and tear their relationship apart, it is tragic but a private family affair. But if in the process of their self-destruction, they destroy Singapore too, that is a public affair,” said Goh, who succeeded Kuan Yew as prime minister in 1990.
He said the allegations against Hsien Loong were given weight because they were made by his younger siblings, brother Hsien Yang and sister Dr Lee Wei Ling.
“There is thus urgency to explain, restore trust and get back on track. It is our duty and responsibility to do this, to account to our voters.
“When trust in the Prime Minister disappears, his moral authority and political capital shrivel. Therefore, the constant self-policing, restraint and care of the Prime Minister in wielding the immense power at his disposal, is paramount. There is no hiding from public scrutiny. One’s entire character is laid bare and there is only total dedication to the job. This is the standard we want to uphold.”
Goh said ministers should sue if they felt allegations against them were false, but he understood Hsien Loong reluctance to pursue a family spat in the courts.
“I can well understand his dilemma. Being the eldest in the family, he must harbour hopes of reconciliation, however remote it seems now, even at a cost to his own political standing.”
He defended the conduct of the cabinet committee led by Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean that would consider options on the fate of the Lee house, saying that Singaporean minister were not “yes men”.
“Many of the other Ministers served under Lee Kuan Yew, too. And they have stood up to him. Lee Kuan Yew told them that he wanted to have his house demolished after his death. They said ‘no’.”
Goh said he was satisfied that Teo had acted independently as chairman of the committee, and that Hsien Yang’s dispute over the demolition of the house was actually between him and the government.
“It was not with Hsien Loong, as PM has no say over the fate of the house.”
Hsien Loong had earlier said he had recused himself from government deliberations on the matter, an assertion that his brother has dismissed because the ministers were still subordinate to the prime minister.
The dispute over the Lee house became public last month when the younger Lee siblings released a six-page statement on Facebook, accusing their brother of abusing his position as prime minister to prevent the house’s demolition via government action.
They allege that Hsien Loong is seeking the house for his own political gain.
Hsien Loong denied these charges, saying that apart from excluding himself from government deliberation into the matter, he had also sold his stake in the house to Hsien Yang and donated the proceeds to charity.
THE MALAYSIAN INSIGHT