KUALA LUMPUR: Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong can be sued for what he has said in Parliament regarding the feud between him and his two siblings over their family house.
This is because Hsien Loong has waived his right to legal immunity by releasing his parliamentary statements on his website.
Hsien Loong and his siblings – sister Dr Lee Wei Ling and brother Lee Hsien Yang – are fighting over their 38 Oxley Road family house.
Hsien Yang and Wei Ling want the house to be demolished once Wei Ling ceases to live there, in accordance with their father’s will, but Hsien Loong feels Kuan Yew was prepared to consider alternatives should the government decide otherwise.
Hsien Loong had recused himself from the committee looking at the options for the building. He has said that he has played no part in its discussions.
The Straits Times (ST) reported that Hsien Loong released his speeches as statements on the Prime Minister’s Office website, along with handouts he had distributed to MPs during the sitting.
An MP cannot be sued for what he says in Parliament. This is to allow MPs to speak freely.
In a note accompanying the statements, Hsien Loong said: “As I stated I would do in my ministerial statement on July 3, 2017, I am reproducing the speech that I made in Parliament here as a statement made by me outside of Parliament, which is not covered by parliamentary privilege.”
Hsien Loong had called for the parliamentary sitting to discuss accusations by his siblings that he had abused his powers in connection with the house. He had asked for the People’s Action Party whip to be lifted and for MPs to grill him.
However, the sitting had been dismissed by Wei Ling and Hsien Yang, as they said “only his side of the story will air, with no promise of truthfulness due to parliamentary privilege”.
According to the ST, in wrapping up the debate on Tuesday, Hsien Loong said that his siblings’ accusations about his abuse of power had been rebutted. He noted that neither they nor any MP had brought up evidence to back the claims.
The ST report said the family feud spilled into public view on June 14 when the two siblings posted statements on their Facebook pages to denounce their elder brother for trying to block the demolition of their late father’s house against his wish.
At the sitting, Hsien Loong cited old correspondence to show Kuan Yew’s shift in thinking over time, the ST reported.
In one of the letters, written between Oct 27, 2010 and Dec 27, 2011, Kuan Yew tells the cabinet to respect his wish for his house to be demolished.
But in the last letter, written after a July 2011 meeting with the cabinet, he says: “Cabinet members were unanimous that 38, Oxley Road should not be demolished as I wanted. I have reflected on this and decided that if 38, Oxley Road is to be preserved, it needs to have its foundations reinforced and the whole building refurbished. It must then be let out for people to live in. An empty building will soon decline and decay.”
The ST reported that Hisien Loong also released an authorisation letter dated March 28, 2012, signed by Kuan Yew, for his house to be redeveloped.
Meanwhile a Reuters report said Hsien Yang posted a sharp rejoinder on his Facebook page on Tuesday.
“LHL (Lee Hsien Loong) has made convoluted, ultimately false claims about Lee Kuan Yew’s wishes. LHL is trying to suggest that because LKY signed some renovation plans in early 2012, he was open to preservation of the house,” Hsien Yang said in the post.
He said Kuan Yew’s desire for the house to be demolished was unwavering, and that any consideration of alternatives was only because Hsien Loong had led him to believe that the house at 38, Oxley Road, would be gazetted.
“If he changed his mind on demolition, he would have made it known in a clear and public fashion. He never did,” Hsien Yang wrote.