I refer to the article “Oxley dispute: No basis for a select committee now as allegations have not been substantiated, says PM Lee” and “Oxley Road: Time to get back to work; abuse of power charges cleared in Parliament, says PM Lee” (Straits Times, Jul 4).
They state that “There is no basis to form a Parliamentary Select Committee or Commission of Inquiry (COI) as the allegations of abuse of power made by Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Lee Wei Ling have not been substantiated, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
After two days of debate on the matter, no evidence of abuse of power has been produced, he told Parliament on Tuesday (July 4).
“Even the opposition is not accusing the government of abuse of power. So it is not a case of oneself defend oneself. Why do we need a Select Committee or COI, and drag this out for months?” PM Lee said.
“It will be another Korean drama, full-scale serial. Should we set up select committees to investigate every unsubstantiated allegation, every wild rumour?” he added, in response to Workers’ Party chief Low Thia Khiang (Aljunied GRC) during the two-day of debate.”
In this connection, Mr Low Khia Thiang said “The problem with this whole saga is that the line between the private and the public has been blurred and crossed too many times by the Prime Minister, the Lee siblings and the Government too.
We need to restore the line, make it a bright red line, resolve the aspect of dispute that have crossed into the public domain and push the dispute back into the private domain” (“Oxley Road: Full text of speech by Workers’ Party MP Low Thia Khiang“, Straits Times, Jul 3).
So, isn’t the above – the opposition “accusing the government of abuse of power”?
As to “PM Lee did not, however, rule out the possibility of setting up such bodies to look into the matter if more evidence emerges.
“If there is evidence of wrongdoing which emerges, or alleged evidence of wrongdoing which emerges, then I and the Government will consider what further steps to take,” he said.
“We can have a Select committee, we can have a COI, or I may sue for defamation, or take some other legal action, but until then, let’s get back to more important things that we should be doing.”
Several MPs had suggested forming a Select Committee or COI to conduct an official investigation, including Mr Pritam Singh (Aljunied GRC), Nominated MP Kuik Shiao-Yin, Mr Louis Ng (Nee Soon GRC) and Mr Zaqy Mohamad (Chua Chu Kang GRC).
In response, PM Lee said there are no specifics to his siblings’ charge of abuse of power.
“What specifically did I do that was wrong? What was wrong with that, whatever that may be? Who was involved? When did it happen?” he said” – isn’t this precisely what only an independent committee of inquiry can determine?
It is like the accusee deciding that the accusers’ allegations have no merit at all, and concluding that no further examination or action is required.
With regard to “He added that MPs have the responsibility to ask for explanations and answers from the Government if they have allegations of their own to make.
“If MPs believe that something is wrong, it is MPs’ job to pursue the facts and make those allegations in their own name…If having heard the government, you are still not satisfied, then by all means demand a Select Committee or a COI, but do not just repeat allegations and attribute them to others, and ask for a Select Committee or COI because accusations are around,” he said.
“The accusers may not be in Parliament, but that should not stop MPs from talking to them to get their story, there is nothing to stop the accusers from getting in touch with MPs, including opposition MPs, to tell their story so that the MPs can raise it on their behalf in Parliament.
“That is how Parliament is supposed to work, that is the MPs’ duties. In fact that is one reason why Parliamentary Privilege exists, so that MPs that have heard troubling allegations or news can make allegations in the House even if they are not completely proven and may be defamatory, without fear of being sued for defamation,” he said.
PM Lee also reiterated that he does not wish to sue his siblings for defamation” – some of my friends said this must be the understatement of the century – the PM’s remarks “it is not a case of oneself defend oneself”.
It is arguably in a sense, akin to “ownself say no need to check ownself”, which is even worse than “ownself check ownself” – which is arguably, the ultimate “abuse of power”!
Leong Sze Hian