George Carlin’s keen observation may bring a smile, a knowing smile to our faces.
But our family is like a rock upon which we build the very foundations of our lives. It is a rock to which we turn to in times of trouble. Therefore, we should not and do not wish for another to be in serious family disagreements of any kind. Least of all, for any disagreements to spill out in the open, especially so in this social media age.
So why am I writing this piece about the spat between our (SG) First Family siblings, PM Lee & Dr Lee Wei Ling? Well, in a very ironical way, it is out of respect for Mr Lee Kuan Yew himself and his belief that a political leader’s reputation must be jealously guarded and defended. Here’s what are widely reported:-
“Let’s be real, last year’s event was so vivid, no one will forget it in one year,” she added and warned that “if the power that be wants to establish a dynasty, LKY’s daughter will not allow LKY’s name to be sullied by a dishonorable son.”
Strong words these, “abusing his power” & “establish a dynasty”, to level at the sitting Prime Minister of Singapore who, less than a year ago, found it necessary to be the first PM to ever sue an ordinary citizen for libel. In that lawsuit, not even such explicit words were the basis for PM Lee’s legal action.
Defamation/Libel Suits In Singapore’s Political Context
In a 3 Dec 1999 Asiaweek interview, here’s what then-PM Goh Chok Tong said, “But if they’ve defamed us, we have to sue them — because if we don’t, our own integrity will be suspect. We have an understanding that if a minister is defamed and he does not sue, he must leave cabinet. By defamation, I mean if somebody says the minister is on the take or is less than honest. If he does not rebut it, if he does not dare go before the court to be interrogated by the counsel for the other side, there must be some truth in it. If there is no evidence, well, why are you not suing?”
“They” refers to “political opponents”. But. as PM Lee has adequately demonstrated, the same ‘understanding’ or principle to not only rebut (he had rebutted Dr Lee, link) but to ‘dare go before the court to be interrogated’ also applies to non-political, ordinary citizens, is what PM Lee had done with Roy Ngerng less-than-explicit libellous assertions.
Your Move, Mr Prime Minister
So, there you have it. Putting it together, it is imperative on SG political leaders to demonstrate beyond doubt their integrity and, in the process, the very reputation of the Singapore system that Lee Kuan Yew has devoted his whole life to building.
Is it therefore not fair to say that the onus is now on PM Lee to begin legal proceedings against Dr Lee Wei Ling for her claims? If not for his own personal reputation, especially as Prime Minister, then at the very least in honour of his late father who devoted his own life to establishing SG’s reputation for leaders of integrity.
As a starting point, PM Lee must now seek a formal, unqualified apology from Dr Lee for her claims.
Otherwise, if no action is taken, Singaporeans will forever be wondering, ‘What does Dr Lee know that we don’t, for her to make her claims?’ ‘Why does PM Lee not dare go before the court to be interrogated, to clear his name about his abuse of power and wanting to establish a dynasty?’
Therein lies my motivation to write this article. Listen to PM Lee himself, “We can pay no greater tribute to Mr Lee (LKY) than to uphold the principles upon which he built this country.” PM Lee must now let the court decide if he has indeed ‘abuse his power’ and/or ‘want(s) to establish a dynasty’.
Either that or his father will ‘feel that something is going wrong, I will get up’ from his grave. This being the 清明/Qing Ming time of the year, the least the son can do is to honour his papa and not disturb his eternal rest needlessly.
Not doing so would be more than ironical, no?