Members of Parliament (MPs) will ask Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong many questions on 3 July. It is also expected that PM Lee and his ministers will give a full response to queries.
The House, however, suffers from one thing: it is a one-sided Parliament made up of MPs from the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP). 83 out of the elected 89 MPs are from PM Lee’s party of which he is also the secretary-general.
It would thus be reasonable to say that MPs may not be as hardhitting as they should. PM Lee, after all, is their boss. He exhorts his MPs to “question me and my Cabinet colleagues vigorously”. One suspects, however, that the MPs will not be as enthusiastic to put their leader through the grinder.
If they were, there would really be just one question they should ask PM Lee: “Would you, Prime Minister, be willing to subject yourself to an independent inquiry on the charges leveled against you and your government?”
Compelling reasons for independent inquiry
There are many compelling reasons for PM Lee to answer “yes” to the question.
The first is that the charges are so serious that the PM Lee himself feels it is important to convene Parliament to address them.
“These allegations go beyond private and personal matters, and extend to the conduct of my office and the integrity of the Government,” PM Lee said in a statement on 19 June.
Second, the persons making these allegations are no ordinary laymen and women. They are the Prime Minister’s own sister and brother. They would have knowledge of private behaviour and conversations.
Third, Lee Wei Ling and Lee Hsien Yang accused the ministerial committee of not being forthcoming in their dealings with the siblings. Have they something to hide?
Fourth, the siblings accuse PM lee of a patronage relationship in the appointment of the Attorney General, Lucien Wong. Mr Wong had been PM Lee’s personal lawyer prior to assuming his role as the government’s chief legal adviser. The siblings also accused PM Lee of illegally obtaining the Deed of Gift from minister Lawrence Wong “which Hsien Loong then passed to his personal lawyer to advance his personal agenda.”
Fifth, the siblings accused PM Lee of using the entire government machinery for his own personal and private agenda. They feel so strongly about this that Mr Lee Hsien Yang has said he is leaving Singapore for fear of what his brother might do.
“Since the passing of Lee Kuan Yew on 23 March 2015, we have felt threatened by Hsien Loong’s misuse of his position and influence over the Singapore government and its agencies to drive his personal agenda,” the siblings said in their statement on 14 June. “We are concerned that the system has few checks and balances to prevent the abuse of government.”
And sixth, even before the 3rd of July, PAP ministers and MPs are already defending their leader, especially on social media platforms such as Facebook.
Parliament not the place to address allegations
These allegations are quite profound, coming as they do from PM Lee’s own siblings who are also the executors of Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s will.
The allegations are so disturbing that PM Lee himself said “these baseless accusations against the Government cannot be left unanswered.”
But Parliament is not the place to do so.
For one, the accusers will not be there to tell their sides of the story and to present rebuttals and evidence of their own.
Another reason is that there will be no independent, neutral party to summon evidence, or to establish guilt or innocence.
Thus, the only rightful place is in a hearing conducted by an independent Select Committee, or a Commission of Inquiry (COI), which would have full authority to investigate the accusations.
Parliamentary sitting may further erode public trust
PM Lee said he “[hopes] that this full, public airing in Parliament will dispel any doubts that have been planted and strengthen confidence in our institutions and our system of government.”
Unfortunately, the sitting may in fact do the opposite.
Already, there are whispers that the whole event is a staged one.
This does not address the confidence issue which PM Lee wants to address. It may instead further weaken the trust in our public institutions and those who run them.
It is commendable that PM Lee is prepared to deal head-on with the allegations, and to protect the integrity of our public institutions.
As such, he should not hesitate to subject himself to an independent inquiry.
He does not even have to wait for MPs to ask him to do so, to prove that no one in Singapore is above the law, not even the Prime Minister.
If he does subject himself to a COI, it would do confidence in our public institutions a tonne of good.
But which MP will ask him to do so?
Here was what Mr Lee Hsien Yang posted on his Facebook page on 29 June, expressing grave doubts about the parliamentary sitting: