It is a stunning accusation, coming as it does from a former Prime Minister and current Emeritus Senior Minister (ESM).
ESM Goh Chok Tong, who was Singapore’s second Prime Minister from 1990 to 2004, spoke on Tuesday in Parliament on the second day of debate on the Lee sibling dispute.
In a hardhitting speech, Mr Goh focused his criticism on the younger brother of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
Laying the context of his accusation on Lee Hsien Yang, Mr Goh said his “main concern is neither the fate of 38 Oxley Road nor the family feud.”
Instead, it is “the wilful attack on the integrity of our leaders and the insidious erosion of public faith in our institutions” that concerns him.
“The nub of the issue for us in Parliament is integrity and trust – in the Prime Minister and our system of government,” he said. “Absent these, Singapore will descend to a third world country.”
What holds Singapore together, Mr Goh said, was the “incorruptibility of our Government.”
“The prime minister is central in upholding that incorruptibility,” Mr Goh said. “He holds the key levers of state power, entrusted by the people.”
He added, “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.”
Mr Goh then came to his main point – the “agenda of PM’s accusers”, as he described it. He said he has “come to the conclusion that neither money nor the house is the real issue.”
Mr Goh asked, referring to said accusers:
“Are they whistleblowing in a noble effort to save Singapore, or waging a personal vendetta without any care for the damage done to Singapore?”
He added, ominously, bringing Lee Hsien Yang’s wife into the equation as well:
“I have kept my ears open. From what Lee Hsien Yang and his wife are freely telling many people, 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.”
It is a stunning accusation – that the younger brother of the Prime Minister has an agenda to “bring down” the Prime Minister of Singapore, and in effect, the Government and indeed the country itself.
The “agenda” of Lee Hsien Yang and his wife is so serious that the matter “is now no more a cynical parlour game”, said Mr Goh.
What Mr Goh appears to be accusing the husband and wife of is in fact sedition.
Under subsection (a) of the Sedition Act, it is stated that:
“A seditious tendency is a tendency — (a) to bring into hatred or contempt or to excite disaffection against the Government.”
Subsection (c) states:
“to bring into hatred or contempt or to excite disaffection against the administration of justice in Singapore.”
Indeed, Lee Hsien Yang has been accused of launching unsubstantiated attacks on the institutions of government, such as the ministries and the Attorney General’s Chambers, and the persons in these institutions; and accusing the Prime Minister himself of abusing his powers to circumvent court orders on the Will of the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew.
Mr Goh, unfortunately, did not provide further substantiation or evidence of his allegations against Lee Hsien Yang and his wife.
Nonetheless, what Mr Goh has charged is very serious indeed, especially when it is also made in Parliament.
An act or agenda to “bring down” the Prime Minister of Singapore, outside of any legal means, such as an election or a vote of no confidence in Parliament, is in fact an act of sedition.
We must remember that the Prime Minister is the head of a democratically elected government.
The only way to remove him and his government is through a democratic, legal process.
If as Mr Goh has charged, Lee Hsien Yang and his wife’s goal is “to bring Lee Hsien Loong down as PM”, then the matter has indeed gone beyond that of a petty family feud, and should be seriously looked into.
It is therefore puzzling that no Member of Parliament in Tuesday’s sitting had realised the seriousness of Mr Goh’s accusations and asked him for more information.
For example, what has Mr Goh heard that has given him this conviction that the couple’s goal is to bring down the Prime Minister himself?
Does Mr Goh have recorded information on this? If he does, is it not incumbent upon him to provide this to the relevant authorities? Why did he not bring forth this evidence before Parliament?
Or is Mr Goh just making allegations based on nothing more than hearsay? And if so, should Parliament not censure him for making baseless but serious allegations, especially when neither Lee Hsien Yang nor his wife were present to defend themselves against the charges?
Parliament is an august chamber, the highest lawmaking body in the land. Members are privileged Singaporeans who occupy its seats only after the people have endorsed them.
Things said in Parliament, including accusations or allegations, must be based on facts, and – as the House itself debated yesterday – MPs or ministers who make such attacks or claims must provide proof of them.
In the interest of Singapore and its people, Mr Goh should therefore provide evidence or substantiation of the allegations he has made against Lee Hsien Yang and his wife. And such evidence, if any, should be handed over to the authorities for further investigation.
An act of sedition affects all Singaporeans. It is thus of utmost importance that Mr Goh’s allegations be seriously looked into.
This is no longer simply about whether PM Lee should sue his brother.
If, however, Mr Goh does not have any evidence to prove his allegations, he should retract them and tender an apology to Lee Hsien Yang and his wife.