Lee siblings insist, correctly, the place to challenge LKY’s will is in court
“If Hsien Loong wishes to challenge the will, the correct forum was and is the courts,” say the two siblings of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in a statement on Thursday, 6 July.
The statement was in response to the two-day parliamentary sitting to debate the matter which ended on Tuesday.
In the statement, the two siblings reaffirmed their position which they have set out consistently throughout these last two and a half weeks of public squabbling.
The content of Lee Kuan Yew’s will, namely the demolition clause, is at the centre of the dispute between the three children of the late founding prime minister.
PM Lee, the eldest son in the family, has cast doubts on and raised what he called “troubling circumstances” surrounding how Lee Kuan Yew’s last will came about.
Lee Wei Ling and Lee Hsien Yang, his younger siblings, are accusing him of not respecting and abiding by their father’s will, for which probate was given in Oct 2015, some 7 months after Lee Kuan Yew’s passing.
The grant of probate makes the will final and legally binding.
Probate is a legal process by which parties prove in court that a will is a valid public document and that it is the true last testament of the deceased.
The two younger Lee siblings’ statement say:
“By granting probate, the courts have declared the will to be the full, final, and legally binding statement of Lee Kuan Yew’s wishes. If Lee Hsien Loong wanted to cast doubt on our father’s will, he had every opportunity during the probate process. We hope that he will cease attacking the will. If the government respects the separation of powers, it should treat Lee Kuan Yew’s will as the last word on the matter. The courts are the correct forum to resolve disputes about a will.”
Under Singapore’s Wills Act, any challenge to a will must be lodged within 6 months of probate being given.
In this case, that time has expired.
However, any challenge after the 6-month period is still possible, but it will be at the court’s discretion. Possible reasons to mount a challenge on the validity of a will include the emergence of a subsequent will, or suspicion of fraud involving the will.
In this case, Lee Hsien Loong has raised “troubling” circumstances on how Lee Kuan Yew’s will came about, and insinuated that Lee Hsien Yang’s wife, Lee Suet Fern, a lawyer, may have something to do with this.
If so, he suggested, this might present conflict of interests issues, given that her husband is a beneficiary in the will.
However, lawyers say that under the law there “is no absolute prohibition against a law firm using its lawyers to attest a will where a member of the firm is related to the testator.” (Straits Times.)
As for any suggestion of fraud on how the will came about, strong evidence would have to be presented. So far, though, there is only allusion or insinuation, but no concrete evidence presented by anyone of such a thing.
So, it is quite simple – as far as the validity of Lee Kuan Yew’s will is concerned: Lee Hsien Loong should challenge the validity of the will in the court if he feels there is something amiss about it. If he does not do so, then he should refrain from attributing any nefarious circumstances surrounding its creation.
It is especially disturbing that the Prime Minister of Singapore is publicly insinuating nefarious intentions on the part of his brother’s wife without providing concrete proof of this.
It would be irresponsible and potentially even in contempt of court if he continues to cast doubts on the will’s validity, without providing concrete evidence, especially when probate has already been granted by the courts more than a year ago.
If he does challenge the will’s validity in court, however, then he should bring forth concrete evidence so the courts can decide once and for all.
And to erase any doubts that he is abusing his powers by surreptitiously having his subordinates set up “secret” ministerial committees to circumvent the probate, Lee Hsien Loong should also order the Ministerial Committee to be disbanded or abolished.
The committee ostensibly is to investigate Lee Kuan Yew’s “thinking” on his house.
This is unconvincing as Lee Kuan Yew’s views on this, as his two younger children say, are “crystal clear.”
Even Lee Hsien Loong himself has said, both privately within the family and publicly in Parliament, that Lee Kuan Yew’s wish to demolish the house was “unwavering” throughout his life.
The convening of the Ministerial Committee has thrown Lee Hsien Loong’s intent into the spotlight, and there are suspicions, as indeed his siblings have expressed, that it is a committee out to subvert Lee Kuan Yew’s will for Lee Hsien Loong’s own political and personal agenda.
It is thus best for the committee to be stood down immediately to disabuse any such suspicions.
Lee Kuan Yew’s views on his house have been unwavering, clear, and consistent. He has made this so in his book in 2011, in 3 letters to the Cabinet, in public interviews, in his final will.
The bottom line is this: no one is above the law, as Lee Hsien Loong himself has said many times. This includes himself, whether as Prime Minister or as the eldest son of Lee Kuan Yew.
Thus, Lee Hsien Loong should also respect the law of the land and submit himself to it.
If he finds something amiss about Lee Kuan Yew’s will, file a case with the courts and have it heard.
Otherwise, refrain from or stop making unsubstantiated insinuations and casting doubts on the validity of the will which has been granted probate by the courts.
And disband the ministerial committee to show that there is in fact no intention to subvert the court’s grant of probate on the will.