My fellow Singaporeans, over the past 17 days serious allegations have been levelled against the Prime Minister by his younger siblings Mr. Lee Hsien Yang and Dr. Lee Wei Ling of abusing his power as Prime Minister and of harboring dynastic ambitions for his son to enter politics and to continue the Lee family rule. These are very troubling allegations which strike at the heart of our constitutional government and our system of law. They impugn the integrity and truthfulness of the Prime Minister, and from what I have gathered from the many online comments, they have also severely dented his standing in the eyes of many Singaporeans. The accusers in this instance, the Prime Minister’s siblings are no ordinary people but are part of the establishment themselves.
There is no need for me to repeat the allegations of the Prime Minister’s siblings. By now they are well-known to Singaporeans. By the PAP’s self- proclaimed standards, the Prime Minister must sue for defamation in order to clear his name, but he has chosen not to do so. It is a classic case of the PAP being hoisted by their own petard. Instead, the Prime Minister has chosen the safe sanctuary of Parliament to attempt to rebut the allegations on 3rd July. Instead of facing his accusers in person in open court where all relevant persons will be interrogated and cross-examined, he has chosen to defend himself in a forum where his accusers cannot be heard and are unable to refute the allegations made against them by him, his Ministers and PAP MPs, and where any false statements made are shielded from the laws of defamation because of Parliamentary Privilege. What has ensued in the aftermath after the joint statement by Mr. Lee Hsien Yang and Dr. Lee Wei Ling on the 14th of June raise even more troubling issues for our constitutional system of government and the rule of law in Singapore.
Singapore prides itself as a state established on the rule of law. The central focus of the rule of law is to constrain the abuse of official power. It conveys the idea of government not under man but under the laws. An Englishman, Dr. Thomas Fuller said in 1733 “ Be you never so high , the Law is above you “.must always be vigilant and heed the words of that great English political philosopher John Locke who said “Wherever the law ends, tyranny begins”.
I have read the many thousands of comments Singaporeans have posted on Social Media since this saga began and I am heartened to see how Singaporeans vehemently reject any notion of unbridled and unaccountable exercise of state power in an arbitrary manner. Abuse of Power is repugnant to Singaporeans. In a multi-cultural society, where there are differences of race, colour, religion and wealth, the Rule of Law is one of the greatest unifying factors for our nation, and contributes to a sense of community. It is thrilling to see how the attempts by the PAP Internet Brigade to obfuscate and divert attention from the main issues have been drowned out by the commonsensical voices of ordinary and decent Singaporeans who refuse to be distracted and to give in to fear. The voice of a people , long suppressed, has finally found utterance .
I shall explain in my subsequent video why the above principle has not been adhered to in this whole episode.
But for now, I want to add to the chorus of voices denouncing the Prime Minister for choosing Parliament to defend himself. Surveys have shown that between 94-97% of Singaporeans reject Parliament as the appropriate forum for the Prime Minister and his Ministers to clear themselves from the serious allegations which have been made against them.
Singaporeans are not stupid! We know that Parliament has no ability to be an impartial court in this matter, not when 83 out of the 89 MPs belong to the same party as the Prime Minister. By its very nature, Parliament is a highly partisan arena. The fact that various Ministers have appeared in recent days to defend the Prime Minister has further dispelled any notion that Parliament can be an impartial setting for the adjudication of such an important constitutional issue as abuse of power on this occasion. One of the most important aspects of the Rule of Law is the principle that justice must not only be done but seen to be done – the decision maker should not be tainted by bias or personal interest, he must not be a judge in his own cause. In Singaporean parlance, it equates to the much ridiculed phrase “ ownself check ownself “. How is it possible for this principle to be adhered to in Parliament at this time? It is impossible! The lifting of the Party whip is nothing more than a gimmick to lend respectability to an institution which has no legitimacy as a court.
Which should be the right forum then for this matter to be settled? I have already indicated that in order to clear his name, the Prime Minister must do so in a court of law . But he refuses to take that route. In the circumstances, the President – our elected President should intervene and convene an independent Commission of Inquiry to look into all the allegations which the Prime Minister’s siblings have made against him regarding the abuse of power. I note from the facebook post of Mr Lee Hsien Yang on 29 June that the siblings have other revelations to make in due course. An independent Commission of Inquiry where all the parties can be called as witnesses, be represented by lawyers, and where all evidence is given under oath is the only way to get at the truth. In such a setting, all witnesses are subject to cross-examination by counsel of opposing parties and also counsel appointed to assist the Commission of Inquiry.
For 17 years, I practiced law in Singapore. During that time, I handled many cases and trials in the High Court and in arbitration. I cross-examined many witnesses and I discovered for myself the truth of what an eminent American jurist Wigmore said “ Cross-examination is the greatest legal engine ever invented for the discovery of truth “. To get at the truth, all the relevant parties, accusers and accused must be subject to cross-examination by counsel and all the evidence must be before the Commission.
Parliamentary questions cannot take the place of cross-examination. I see that for the Parliamentary session on 3 July , MPs have to file their questions in advance and we already know the questions which the Worker’s Party MPs will ask. This might be alright for normal parliamentary sittings but not when the truth has to be discovered. It is like a student being given the exam papers days before the exam. There will also be limited time for follow-up questions on 3 July and none of the MPs except for maybe the Prime Minister himself will have the full facts before them to come to a proper decision.
Singaporeans must demand for this independent Commission of Inquiry and not allow this matter to rest so easily. The refusal to convene such a Commission of Inquiry will lead to a further deterioration in the public’s confidence in the integrity of our public service and our public officials including the Prime Minister and his Ministers. I note that the Public Service Department polled civil servants on the Lee family saga and when asked by the media why it did so, said it was matter that affected the integrity of the public service. In the circumstances, I do not see how the President can refuse to intervene and to convene an independent Commission of Inquiry. It is one of his 2 duties of office – to safeguard the integrity of the public service.
As for the parliamentary sitting on 3 July, Singaporeans should not recognize its legitimacy to decide on the issue of abuse of power. I would also urge the Worker’s Party to adopt a similar position and to call on the President to convene a Commission of Inquiry.