A pyrrhic victory on 3 July?

Source: http://en.kremlin.ru/Source: http://en.kremlin.ru/

I refer to the article “38, Oxley Road saga, what’s at stake in July 3 session” (Straits Times).

It states that “The irony may be that the PM’s siblings seem to be asking for an exemption from the rule of law, acting like they wish for an upfront commitment to the demolition of 38, Oxley Road. Given its special nature, the Government has the obligation to assess what is the public interest at hand, even as it has conceded to a position that no decision is needed as long as Dr Lee lives there. This was expressed by PM Lee in his parliamentary statement on April 15, 2015.

Since the siblings’ public statement, government ministers have also assured all that there is no presumption that the property will be preserved or demolished, as the siblings had cast doubt on the objectives of their ministerial committee looking into options for the house. So, let us accept that all the questions about the house are moot till Dr Lee no longer resides in it.

So, has he tried to re-insert himself into that equation? And even if he did, would that constitute a conflict of interest or abuse of power? This is what all members of the House will have to help the public ascertain.

It may then be inevitable too, that scrutiny will fall on the motivations and actions of the PM’s siblings. We are given to understand that all three children were asked for their input, especially on the circumstances surrounding the crafting of the late Mr Lee’s final will, by the ministerial committee. The PM’s siblings were due to respond to the committee when they issued their public statement.”

As to “How citizens respond to the parliamentary debate, online as well as offline, will determine its effect on our self-image and international brand” – I would like to heed her call and give my humble opinion as an ordinary citizen.

In this regard, I shall opine particularly to “Second, notions of the “abuse of power” and “conflict of interest” are indeed important, though complex ones to grasp, as the details do matter.

This saga must help us understand them better and establish how they are applied to all sides of the story – that of PM Lee, his Cabinet colleagues and the Lee siblings as well as our civic and corporate settings – this is a national teachable moment, so to speak.””

On hindsight, the PM could have recused himself totally, and not only from the Government’s decision, by making a statutory declaration to the ministerial committee at the same time. There is arguably, no “half way” when it comes to “conflict of interest”.

The cabinet could have given more thought to the composition of the ministerial committee, to avoid “conflict of interest”.

To some extent, arguably, the Government now may also have a “conflict of interest”. It could have left it to the future government of the day, when Lee Wei Ling leaves the house.

Perhaps the Government could rise to the occasion and admit that it may have erred, and pass on the facts, evidence, opionions, etc that it has collected, to the future government of the day.

I do apologise for saying the following:-

If Lee Kuan Yew is alive – I think he would admit that he has made an honest mistake and leave it to the future government, as he was never one who was afraid to admit a mistake, of the very rare ones that he erred, in his record 60 years in government.

Otherwise, no matter what happens on 3 Jul – it may just be a pyrrhic victory to whoever is perceived as the winner on that day.

Leong Sze Hian

About the Author

Leong Sze Hian has served as president of 4 professional bodies, honorary consul of 2 countries, an alumnus of Harvard University, authored 4 books, quoted over 1500 times in the media , has been a radio talkshow host, a newspaper daily columnist, Wharton Fellow, SEACeM Fellow, columnist for theonlinecitizen and Malaysiakini, executive producer of Ilo Ilo (40 international awards), invited to speak more than 200 times in over 30 countries, CIFA advisory board member, founding advisor to the Financial Planning Associations of Indonesia and Brunei. He has 3 Masters, 2 Bachelors degrees and 13 professional  qualifications.