Gov’t should take matter to court and not make insinuations on social media

Gov’t should take matter to court and not make insinuations on social media
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The Government has been warning about fake news recently, urging Singaporeans to be more critical and discerning when reading things online.

Yet, presently, it is ministers themselves, including the Prime Minister, who are making unsubstantiated allegations against the Prime Minister’s siblings and in-laws, on social media channels online.

In particular, they have been questioning the “troubling” circumstances surrounding the making of Lee Kuan Yew’s Last Will in December 2013.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has raised questions about the role of Lee Suet Fern, the wife of his brother, Lee Hsien Yang, in the inclusion of certain content of the will. While he didn’t outright accuse her of fraud, the insinuation seems to be that.

Also, the Senior Minister of State (SMS) for Law, Indranee Rajah, has repeated the same inference in a post on Saturday on her Facebook page.

All this while Singaporeans await the sitting of Parliament on 3 July where PM Lee said he will deliver a ministerial statement on the saga, and ministers say they will also be speaking on the matter.

First, it is disconcerting that the Prime Minister would himself cast such aspersions on Ms Lee, without offering more concrete proof of any wrongdoing. Ditto Ms Indranee, and especially so given she is the SMS for Law. One would have thought she would know better than to offer nothing more than insinuations.

Second, it is worth remembering that the Last Will was made and signed by Lee Kuan Yew 4 years ago.

PM Lee did not raise any questions about the will then, before probate was given by the courts.

It is also worth keeping in mind that PM Lee’s personal lawyer at the time was Lucien Wong, who was later appointed Attorney General in early 2017. It is thus reasonable to say that PM Lee had the best legal advice available to him.

Now, only after 4 years, is PM Lee and his government claiming that there are dubious circumstances surrounding the Last Will’s finalisation.

While the silence by PM Lee and the Government during the 4-year time lapse is questionable, even if consideration is to be given to their concerns, it should be the courts which should be the arbitrator, and not the court of public opinion.

In other words, PM Lee & the Government should be looking to the court to settle the matter – by first asking for its permission to set aside the probate and then to re-look the validity of the will.

Only the courts, not parliament or Facebook or public opinion, can and should do this.

One would think that the Government would know this. So, why is it resorting to public insinuations and allegations disguised as concerned inquiry made in public?

If there is suspicion of fraud (or any other criminal offence) on the part of anyone involved in the making of the will, then please make a police report, and let the courts handle it. It is there that evidence should be offered to substantiate the claims. The defendant would also be allowed to submit her defence, all based on evidence which the court will consider.

Is this not how a nation based on the rule of law should operate?

Hasn’t this been the Government’s way of doing things when it comes to others it chose to sue?

And aren’t our judicial system one of the best in the world?

On a related note, Ms Indranee questioned “whether the reinsertion of the Demolition Clause was brought to Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s attention and whether he was given sufficient time to review the Will.”

This is a curious query and a serious one for several reasons.

Indranee Rajah was the stand-in MP for Lee Kuan Yew in Tanjong Pagar GRC. She took on LKY’s MP responsibilities in the last few years of his life, “assisting former minister mentor Lee Kuan Yew with his adjoining Tanjong Pagar-Tiong Bahru ward.” (Susan Long interview, ST, 2014.)

Ms Indranee would therefore know if LKY was lucid in mind and possessed all cognitive functions.

Yet, Ms Indranee, in her latest FB note, implied that LKY may not have been aware of what he signed in his Last Will.

It would seem that Ms Indranee is saying that the late Mr Lee was somehow unable to discern for himself the content of the will before signing it, although Mr Lee was also presented with the will again the next day. He therefore had another chance to look at it. Mr Lee did not seem to have raised any disagreements or concerns about the Last Will.

Also, if Mr Lee, as Ms Indranee seem to imply, was somehow incognitive and was unaware of the content of the will – which was a mere 4-page long document, with generous spacing between the lines – this would raise questions about why this was kept from the public at the time, given that Mr Lee was still in government and held the position of Member of Parliament until his death in March 2015.

If indeed Mr Lee was not of full mental capacity, why did PM Lee, as his eldest son, not take more care in making sure his father knew exactly what he was signing?

In fact, PM Lee himself said he was not so interested in the will, and did not even see it important to read the email chain pertaining to it.

In his statutory declaration, PM Lee said:

“Back in January 2014, I had not considered it necessary to read the entire email chain and did not do so. I did not feel that there was any need, and I was not anxious, to acquaint myself with my father’s wills. I felt that those were matters for him, and I left it at that.”

If Mr Lee was mentally incapacitated in any way, one would think PM Lee would be most interested in how his father’s will would be formulated, especially when he is copied in the email chain discussing it.

Given that PM Lee himself said he “was not anxious” about it, it can be assumed that Mr Lee was totally capable of knowing what was in the will.

In fact, his signature was directly below the so-called Demolition Clause, which is at the centre of the dispute here.

It is therefore puzzling that PM Lee is only now, 4 years later, raising doubts about the will, after probate has been given by the courts.

PM Lee is also not raising his concerns in the courts but through public statements and insinuations in social media by his ministers.

Singaporeans should demand that the matter be dealt with in the courts, where evidence from both sides will be presented, facts proved, arguments considered and decisions of guilt and truth made by the court.

Unfortunately, it seems that the Government will use the 3 July sitting of Parliament to repeat the allegations, without the defendant (if any) being given the opportunity to offer his or her defence.

Ministers also enjoy immunity from prosecution or legal action for remarks made in Parliament, and Parliament is filled with pro-PAP, pro-PM Lee MPs. Indeed, some PAP MPs are already defending PM Lee even before the sitting, before any concrete evidence is presented!

Parliament is clearly not the place to settle the dispute.

It is the courts which are the right place, and PM Lee should abide by the rule of law, and not by the rule of insinuations and unsubstantiated allegations.

PM Lee should settle this in front of a judge.